New Call for Panels for the 2011 Berkshire Conference on the History of Women (06/11, Amherst)

2011 Berkshire Conference on the History of Women (Web)

Time: June 9-12 2011
Place: University of Massachusetts in Amherst

Call for Panels

  • Panel: Race, Sexuality, Entertainment; DL: –
  • Panel: Health and Medicine; DL: 01.02.2010
  • Panel: Female Husbands; DL –
  • Workshop: ‚Leaving Illnesses Unspoken‘: Women’s Privatizing of the Body’s Problems; DL: –

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  • Panel: Race, Sexuality, Entertainment

Hello, I am looking for interested participants for a panel on race, sexuality, and erformance/entertainment/music. My paper is on the sexual fluidity and ambiguity of blues singers in the 1920s, such as Bessie Smith and Gertrude „Ma“ Rainey. I examine the personal relationships of the blues women, their songs and performances, and the queer milieu of African American entertainment in the 1920s.

I welcome panelists doing work related in any way they see fit. Please get in touch off-list as soon as possible:

Thank you,
Cookie Woolner
History/ Women’s Studies joint Ph.D. program
University of Michigan

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Panel: Health and Medicine

Hello all, I am interested in organizing a panel for the 2011 Berkshire Conference to be submitted under the theme of „Health and Medicine.“ I am seeking panelists whose work explores the female patient experience.

I hope to present on women’s ideas about their ovaries in the late nineteenth-early twentieth centuries and how they discussed health concerns they tied to their ovaries – such as sexuality, reproduction, menstruation, and menopause – with their doctors.

Please contact me off-list at or no later than February 1 if interested in contributing to such a panel.


All best,
Sarah Rodriguez, fellow,
Medical Humanities
Northwestern University

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  • Panel: Female Husbands

I am hoping to put together a panel for the Berks about „Female Husbands.“ My work is on the late 18th/early 19th c US and will consider the meaning/circulation of this category in the popular press and what it does and doesn’t tell us about intimate relationships between women and gender transgression. I’ll also examine the function and enforcement of anti-cross dressing laws. Most scholarship on women’s cross-dressing offers utilitarian interpretations – economics, escape from oppression, etc. – but this panel will engage the growing body of literature in transgender history/studies in hopes of „generating“ a more nuanced and complex view of these women’s lives and attempts to regulate them.

Please send me a brief blurb about who you are and what kind of paper you might like to do for this panel. PREFERENCE FOR PAPERS ON PRE-20TH C PERIODS – any places!


Dr. Jennifer Manion
Assistant Professor, History
Director, LGBTQ Resource Center
Connecticut College
270 Mohegan Avenue
New London, CT 06320
center: 860-439-2238
office: 860-439-2823

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  • Workshop: „‚Leaving Illnesses Unspoken‘: Women’s Privatizing of the Body’s Problems“

Dear H-Women Members, I am organizing a proposal for a workshop with precirculated papers for the 2011 Berks conference on the topic „‚Leaving Illnesses Unspoken‘: Women’s Privatizing of the Body’s Problems.“ Papers can be from any area or time period. Depending on the nature of the completed workshop, I will submit it to one of the following three Berks conference subcommittees for consideration: „Youth and Aging,“ „Beauty and the Body,“ or „Health and Medicine.“

Below is the workshop proposal plus my own abstract for my pre-circulated paper. Please contact me soon at if you would like to join this panel.

Workshop Proposal Abstract: At a basic level, writing biography means following a person’s life from birth through death; it also means confronting the significance of illness and aging in a life story. Although health and illness rarely openly define the public lives of either prominent or less well-known individuals, they are often unseen, unacknowledged influences on an individual’s life, philosophies or personality. Historian Mary Felstiner challenges scholars to carefully interrogate the way pain and illness is often hidden; she asks us to think, especially, about “the way trouble is privatized.”

Drawing on the example of her own struggle with rheumatoid arthritis, Felstiner suggests that “harm is done, over time, by leaving illnesses unspoken and that good might come of knowing the ingenuity it takes to deal with them.” Using disability studies as a theoretical framework to make sense of the personal costs associated with remaining silent about illness, this panel brings together historians who are writing biographies or other studies of women who privatized their bodies’ problems. Workshop participants will explore the question of whether women privatize pain and illness differently or more often than men and why.

My Paper Topic: Alison Parker focuses on how and why Mary Church Terrell, president of the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) and a co-founder of the NAACP, kept her recurring, painful health problems hidden. Adhering to the idea that “the body’s problems ought to stay private,” Terrell strove for an elegant public image that belied the health and financial problems she regularly experienced. Her diaries and correspondence reveal that she suffered from a series of painful illnesses and ailments throughout her adult life. Using disability studies as a guide, Parker incorporates Terrell’s health problems into her biography
and takes these problems seriously, arguing that health played an important role in Terrell’s physical, financial, and psychological well being.

Beginning with her first pregnancy in 1892, for instance, she gave birth to three babies in five years, each of whom died within a few days of birth. Terrell’s promotion of a strong maternalist program, such as the founding of kindergartens and day nurseries for black children, clearly had a tragic personal dimension. Later, in her early fifties, Terrell experienced a health crisis which necessitated a long and expensive hospital stay. Her immediate family agreed to help her hide this fact since traveling on the public speaking circuit had become her main source of income. Terrell was desperate to maintain her public image as a beautiful woman who was the “picture of health.” Terrell’s health problems are relatively unknown and under-acknowledged by historians but help to demonstrate that Terrell’s life is not a simple story of a woman of privilege.

My Best,

Alison M. Parker
Associate Professor and Chair
Department of History
350 New Campus Dr
The College at Brockport, SUNY
Brockport, NY 14420-2914
(585) 395-5694
FAX: (585) 395-2620

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