College of the Liberal Arts to spend year remembering 1920 as 'moment of change'

Kirsten Schlorff
November 05, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — For the second time, the Penn State College of the Liberal Arts has chosen a theme around which it will plan courses, lectures, presentations and events, starting spring semester 2020. “Moments of Change: A Century of Women’s Activism” follows on the heels of the well-received “Moments of Change: Remembering 1968.”

"'A Century of Women’s Activism' was inspired by the centennial of the adoption of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote,” said Richard Page, associate dean for undergraduate studies in the College of the Liberal Arts and associate professor of German and linguistics.

“The women’s suffrage movement worked for decades toward equality for women and the right to vote,” he said. “Their activism led to the ratification of the 19th Amendment on Aug. 18, 1920, which constitutionally guaranteed women could not be denied the right to vote based on sex.”

“The college-wide theme provides an opportunity not only to reflect on the transformative role that women’s activism has had in changing their status, and society more generally,” added Clarence Lang, Susan Welch Dean of the College of the Liberal Arts. “It also encourages us to take critical stock of the contemporary challenges of building gender equity — particularly when we understand that ‘women’s issues’ are multiple, simultaneous and diverse.”

“Women's activism in the United States has not operated in isolation,” said Judith Sierra-Rivera, assistant professor of Spanish and Latina/o studies, noting that women’s activism did not stop in 1920 and is not limited to the United States. “It has always been connected to other initiatives around the world, both by learning from other contexts or by influencing them. The liberal arts can show us — quantitatively and qualitatively — how women's activism in different parts of the world has evolved throughout a century and is manifesting today.”

Nearly a century after women first gained the right to vote in America, five women are running as presidential candidates, and a record-breaking 126 women — 101 U.S. Representatives and 25 U.S. Senators — serve in Congress.

“It is striking that just in the past few years we've seen several firsts, including the first woman to be nominated by a major party as their candidate for president — Hillary Clinton in 2016 — and the first Native American women elected to Congress — Sharice Davids, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation and U.S. Representative from Kansas, and Deb Haaland, a U.S. Representative from New Mexico from the Laguna Pueblo tribe,” said Cathleen Cahill, associate professor of history.

Cahill also explained that women’s experiences continue to be shaped by race and class as they were in 1920. Beginning spring semester 2020, the college plans to host events that examine moments throughout the last century involving women’s activism across numerous ethnicities, races, genders and sexual orientations. Those events will be added to the college’s events calendar.

One of the highlights of the yearlong theme will be a talk by Carol Anderson, the Charles Howard Candler Professor of African American Studies at Emory University and author of the bestselling book “One Person, No Vote,” who will speak at 4 p.m. on April 23, 2020. Anderson is a leading scholar on voter suppression among African Americans in the years since the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Her visit is being sponsored by the McCourtney Institute for Democracy, along with the Africana Research Center, the Humanities Institute, and the Richards Civil War Era Center.

The “Moments of Change: A Century of Women’s Activism” theme will highlight courses and events on campus, providing students with opportunities to study women’s efforts during the last 100 years that have helped to make the world a better place. Students interested in the theme are encouraged to enroll in a spring 2020 course that highlights expertise related to women’s activism, most of which are featured on this flyer.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated September 03, 2020