Southeastern to celebrate Women's History Month

Tuesday, March 3, 2015
by: Tonya Lowentritt

HAMMOND – The College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at Southeastern Louisiana University will host Women's History Month during March with a free lecture series.

"As always, we in the Department of History and Political Science are happy to join with our colleagues in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences in sponsoring the 2015 Women's History Month series," said Bill Robison, head of the department. "We have a diverse and interesting list of presentations this year that are offered at a variety of times. We encourage everyone to join us in celebrating Women's History."

All Women's History Month lectures will take place in the Student Union Theatre and includes the following:

▪ March 11, 12:30 p.m. – Margaret Gonzalez Perez (History and Political Science Department): "The Magdalen Girls." Institutions for the disposition of unwed mothers and their children were common throughout the 19th and 20th centuries in England, Ireland, France, Australia, and even the US. These "asylums," as they were often called, housed girls and women who were perceived as bringing shame on their families' honor by becoming pregnant. Most of the women had no access to birth control methods, even in the 20th century, and many had become pregnant through rape or incest, but the penalty was the same. They were labeled as inmates and used as forced labor in private institutions, punished for the crime of bearing illegitimate children. The children were typically removed from their mothers and given up for adoption, often overseas and often against the wishes of the mother. The women were detained and many were held for life, although they had never been charged, tried, or appeared before a court. In Ireland, the state often forced unwed mothers into laundry workhouses run by the Catholic Church, where they were imprisoned as a threat to the moral fiber of society. The men who had impregnated these women were subject to no penalties. These "Magdalen laundries," as they were called, operated in Ireland until 1996. Their closing was due, in part, to the media scandal that occurred when one such laundry in Dublin sold a portion of its property and the remains of 155 inmates, buried in unmarked graves, were exhumed and relocated in a mass grave. The subsequent inquiry into government and Church records of these facilities, and the women detained within their confines, sparked further interest in how secular and religious institutions collaborated to deny women not only their civil liberties and freedom, but their children, in secrecy and without benefit of due process.

▪ March 18, 12:30 p.m. – Carole Madere (Department of Languages and Communication) and Debbie Johnson (Family and Consumer Sciences Department): "American Fashion and the Women Who Made it Fashionable." Before Oscar de la Renta and Anne Klein became household names, there was an innovative female publicist named Eleanor Lambert, who recognized during World War II an opportunity to put them and the entire American fashion industry center stage. The lecture will highlight the career of the first fashion publicist and describe fashion's trends as they reflected the Zeitgeist of the decades.

▪ March 25, 12:30 p.m. – Tara Mann (Sociology and Criminal Justice Department): "Violence and Silence: Misogyny, #yesallwomen, and Anita Sarkeesian." Which people are permitted to speak about their experiences? Who has the power to silence them? And what do these questions have to do with feminism? The presentation will explore issues of gender-based power dynamics, misogyny, and discourse control in the #yesallwomen and "Gamergate" phenomena. It will involve frank discussion of graphic, abusive, and threatening communications made online to Anita Sarkeesian and others. Attendee discretion is strongly advised.

▪ April 1, 11 a.m. – Natasha Whitton (English Department): "Shades of Gray in Fifty Shades of Grey: Erotic, Literature, or Fiction?" Originally published on the internet as a fan fiction response to the Twilight series, "Fifty Shades of Grey" gained notoriety as the best-seller that was frequently hidden behind other reading material in carpool lines, condemned for its inappropriate content and parodied by comedians and late-night talk show hosts. What is behind that popularity? Is another movie franchise in the making? This presentation will steer a PG-rated course through the controversy surrounding this work, its reception, and the inevitable backlash.

For additional information about Southeastern's Women's History Month, contact Robison at 985-549-2413 or

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