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Ethnic, Gender Studies Talks focus on female history

Ethnic, Gender Studies Talks focus on female history

Jennifer Pendarvis

Susan Kendrick, associate professor of English and chair of interdisciplinary studies, explains the meaning of the phoenix emblem in a portrait of Queen Elizabeth I. Kendrick’s talk featured multiple images of the queen as she analyzed their hidden messages.

Ethnic and Gender Studies Talks, or EGS talks examined a few different angles of history from a female perspective this semester. The talks began this semester and were organized by Heidi Hamilton, associate professor of communication and theater, and Ellen Hansen, professor of geography and chair of the Social Sciences Department.

“It’s designed as a lecture series, essentially, like ‘Ted Talks,’ to highlight faculty who are doing research in areas of Ethnic and Gender Studies that might be of interest to students,” Hamilton said.

A goal of these talks is to connect students with faculty members. Each talk highlighted a different concept about female perspectives.

“We often, each year, bring in outside speakers, and that is just sort of an invited guest lecture. The EGS Talks series is designed more to highlight, ‘Look, we have stuff going on, on our campus as well.’ Your faculty are doing some interesting stuff. You may not realize that when you’re sitting in your 101 class or 111 class, but there’s some interesting stuff going on off-campus,” Hamilton said.

There were three different talks this semester, with subjects like the life of Puritan women and the portraits of Queen Elizabeth. One example would be history professor Karen Smith’s subject: “Household Advice for Downton Abbey, 150 years of the Marvelous Mrs. Beeton.”

“The thing about Mrs. Beeton is that she is a publishing phenomenon, because she died at the age of 28. But her publishers kept her name alive, and kept alive the fiction that she was still alive and was writing a whole variety of domestic advice manuals well into the early 20th century,” Smith said.

In the future, the subjects of these talks will not only be localized to women’s history, but will contain many other topics as well.

“We had talked about having somebody give a talk about Native American issues of some sort, somebody else (might) give a talk about women’s history again, we don’t only have to do that in March,” Hansen said. “We do have people who are doing research or who teach about ethnic issues.”

Ethnic and Gender Studies allows students to study issues that are important, but that sometimes students never think about, such as why there are more female nurses than male nurses.

“It gives students the opportunity to really explore issues that are relevant and close to them. The people who are in the Ethnic and Gender Studies program are interested in these issues of socially-defined difference. Gender is completely defined by social context, because in different social context, people have different gender roles.”

Hansens said the best thing about the talks is that it gives both the professors and the students the opportunity to explore these sorts of issues.

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