March 7, 2002

Grad Student Panel Discusses Female Roles

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A panel of four Cornell University doctoral candidates presented projects pertaining to various female roles in American history in honor of Women’s History Month yesterday afternoon in Libe Cafe at Olin Library. The panel of graduate students offered a wide range of female-oriented historical insight. Their talk coincided with the celebration of the “Women in the Literary Marketplace 1800-1900” exhibit sponsored by the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections.

The event, co-sponsored by the Cornell University Library and the Feminist Gender & Sexuality Studies Program, the event was dedicated to Prof. Dorothy Mermin, english, for her leadership in women’s literary studies.

Moderated by Prof. Mary Beth Norton, M.D. Alger Professor of American History, Lisa Brooks grad, Kate Haulman grad, Alyssa Mt. Pleasant grad and Sarah Heidt grad, addressed historical topics ranging from the female role in colonial Native American communities to Native American and female roles in 18th century Philadelphia society before an audience of about 50 members.

“It was extremely exciting to have our own graduate students present [projects],” said Norton, whose presence yesterday was significant since she was the first female faculty member of Cornell’s department of history in 1971.

“She was much involved in the realization and development of the Women’s Studies programs at Cornell,” said Tom Hickerson, associate University librarian.

While the Cornell University library annually co-sponsors similar events commemorating women’s history, speakers are often well-known scholars visiting the Cornell community. This year, however, sponsors chose to showcase new research projects being conducted on campus.

“[We chose to] showcase the cutting edge of new talent at Cornell,” said Norton.

The presentation equally pleased many graduate student presenters who enjoyed the opportunity to share their work with fellow students and faculty members.

“It’s nice to have these forums to showcase young Cornell talent,” said Haulman, who delivered a presentation entitled, “Assembling Philadelphia’s Fashionable: Anglo and Mohawk Performances on the Eve of the Seven Years War.” The presentation explored the influence of Native American culture and gender relations on 18th century political discourse.

“[I appreciate the opportunity] to interact with audience members from the Cornell community,” said Mt. Pleasant, who presented her project, “Searching for Her Rightful Place: Jigonsaseh’s Legacy amongst the Haudenosaunee,” which revealed the peace-making role of a Native American female between New York tribal communities.

Following the presentations, panelists and audience members convened in Kroch Library to celebrate the opening of the “Women in the Literary Marketplace 1800-1900” exhibit. The collection features many first editions and original manuscripts from both renown female authors such as Jane Austen and Elizabeth Barrett Browning as well as lesser known writers of the time.

“It includes a lot of women who were not famous but made their living writing,” said Hickerson. “[The exhibit] includes those people who were practitioners [as well as those who] made their living as popular novelists.”

The exhibit will remain in Kroch Library through the end of May.

Archived article by Shannon Brescher