The current generation of students doesn’t remember what the world was like for women in employment, sports, academia, and all facets of life as late as the 1970s. Women’s Studies programs help them conceptualize theories of race and gender now, just as the early days of the women’s movement provided a conceptual revolution for women in the 60s and 70s.
Several hundred current and former members of the Plymouth State University community recently celebrated those achievements and contemplated work still to be done, in recognition of the 15th anniversary of the Women’s Studies program at PSU. The event was sponsored by the Women’s Studies Council, omen’s services and Gender Resources, the Offices of the President and Provost, the President’s Commission on Diversity and the President’s Commission on the Status of Women.
Winners were announced for the Boland Essay Prize, the Powerful Outstanding Women Award (POWA) and the Theodora J. Kalikow Award. The keynote address was presented by Dr. Kalikow, who served as dean and them interim president of Plymouth State College from 1987-1993. During her tenure she heightened the college community’s sensitivity to women’s issues. She is now president of the University of Maine at Farmington.
“At Plymouth, when I got here in 1987, I was kind of surprised that we did not already have a formal Women’s Studies program. So one of my jobs was to find the right people and the right time to get it to happen.
… In fact, by the late 1980s our language and usages, behaviors and concerns had changed to reflect the new political realities that the women’s movement had brought about. Gender issues were now consciously seen; behaviors had been scrutinized for their unintended consequences on women and men; the rhetoric had moved beyond victimization to empowerment, and positive social change.
And this is the final thing I want us to all remember about Women’s Studies, at Plymouth and everywhere — it has helped us to change the way we behave because we see the world anew. Every academic discipline does this, but women’s studies, because it is rooted in realities that touch us every day, has markedly changed behaviors and attitudes at work, at school, in business, politics, and so on, within my lifetime and yours. The world as we knew it in 1965 or 1975 or 1985 or 1995 or even 2005 has ended. It is gone. A new world is constantly under construction. This is the real legacy of Women’s Studies, that it helps generation after generation, now, of students, faculty and staff, and indeed everyone, to see, to investigate, to act for social justice based on established theory, and to collaborate in building the world we dream about,” Kalikow said.
Award presentations followed the Keynote address as follows:
Rebecca Noel, assistant professor of history, received the 2007 Kalikow Award in recognition of her work securing more childcare for working parents in the local area. Finding difficulty securing child care in late summer and during school vacations, Noel began to ask others what solutions they had found. She was inundated with responses, mostly looking for solutions as she was. The result was creation of vacation day camps in association with Plymouth Parks and Recreation and Plymouth Elementary School.
“Many parents at PSU and through this region struggle with childcare problems on an individual basis, and worrying about one’s own precious children and tricky workday often feels like personal small potatoes. But childcare is a big potato, with political, societal, economic and historical dimensions, and it deserves a solution of commensurate seriousness and scope. I hope we can stay vocal and active in creating social solutions for this problem, as for others, until no one experiences this painful dilemma anymore,” Noel said.
The 2007 POWA was presented to Leah Rearick, a senior English major from Farmington. The POWA recognizes students who bring women’s issues to the forefront, while demonstrating genuine concern for the advancement of women, and dedication to enhancing the status of women through continuous involvement in and advocacy of women’s issues.
The Sally Boland Scholarly Essay Prize went to Caitlin Stevens a senior anthropology/sociology major from Manchester, for her essay, “The Importance of Being Crafty.” Hilary Scheer, a senior English major from Island Heights, N.J., was runner up for her essay, “Breaking Biological Boundaries.”
Honorable mention recognition was awarded to senior English majors Erin Brearly of Deerfield, Meghan Plumpton of Manchester, Riane Herlihy of Hingham, Mass. and Brittany Brockner of Farmington.
Sally Boland taught at Plymouth State for 28 years. During her time at Plymouth she served as English department chair, head of Writing Across the Curriculum, and department coordinator for Interdisciplinary Studies. She was dean of the college in 1992-93. Instrumental to the founding of the Women’s Studies minor, Boland served as chair of the Women’s Studies Council and in 1997 she received the Kalikow Award to recognize her outstanding contribution to women’s issues on campus.
Boland died from breast cancer in 1999.