Liberal Arts to host launch event for yearlong theme on women's activism

February 21, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — For the second time, Penn State's College of the Liberal Arts has chosen a theme around which it will plan courses, lectures, presentations and events. Starting this spring semester, the college’s theme for the next year is Moments of Change: A Century of Women’s Activism and is examining the impact of women’s activism since the 19th Amendment’s ratification in 1920 gave women the right to vote.

“This year's theme is an opportunity to reflect on the transformative role that women's activism has played not only in advancing gender equity, but also in expanding the meanings of democracy more generally,” said Clarence Lang, Susan Welch Dean of the College of the Liberal Arts. “This is also an opportunity to reflect on how issues of continuing concern to women involve multiple and simultaneous identities like class, ability, race, sexuality, and religious expression, as well as gender.”

On the afternoon of Tuesday, March 3, the College of the Liberal Arts will host a launch event for students, faculty, staff and community members to learn more about the theme and various perspectives related to women’s activism. A Special Collections exhibit featuring materials related to women’s activism will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. in the Mann Assembly Room of Paterno Library. From 3 to 4 p.m. guests will be invited into Foster Auditorium, 102 Paterno Library, to hear a series of short presentations by faculty, staff and students that will examine moments throughout the last century involving women’s activism across numerous ethnicities, races, genders and sexual orientations. Each presenter will pose a question related to their research, and the audience will have time to ask their own follow-up questions and converse with the presenters afterward. The presentations will be moderated by Shirley Moody-Turner, associate professor of English and African American studies, and Cathleen Cahill, associate professor of history. 

Presentation topics and speakers are listed below.

"African American Women’s Activism," by Amira Rose Davis, assistant professor of history and African American studies

"Diversity in the Suffrage Movement," by Cathleen Cahill, associate professor of history 

"Lesbian Activism," by Lily Murray, history and women’s studies undergraduate student

"The #MeToo Movement," by Courtney Murray, English graduate student

"Women in Sport," by Jamie Schultz, associate professor of kinesiology

"Women’s Immigration in Literature," by Stephanie Scott, College of the Liberal Arts alumna

“The focus of our college theme is inherently interdisciplinary,” said Richard Page, associate dean for Undergraduate Studies. “Women’s activism has led to changes across the globe and in all areas of life. The library exhibit and presentations by faculty, staff and students at this event capture some of the diverse perspectives on women’s activism over the last hundred years.”

Attendees at the launch event will also have the opportunity to register to vote. Members of Penn State’s new chapter of the League of Women Voters will be in Mann Assembly Room to assist with voter registration.

“While this year’s theme was prompted by the centennial of the passage of the 19th Amendment, the March 3 launch event will highlight the long history of women’s activism and the transformative impact it has had on society,” said Moody-Turner. “The launch event is important because it sets the tone for the yearlong series of events, related-courses, and presentations. While the presentations will introduce the range, breadth, and diversity of women’s activism, encouraging the audience to consider how women’s activism has been central, not only in the battle for the vote, but also how women’s activism has impacted all facets of society.

"From education, to sexual assault, to immigration and sports — the presenters at the launch event will encourage audiences to think broadly about what constitutes women’s activism, its long histories, and critical impacts on societies. It will give us a chance to think together about how the struggles in the past resonate with our challenges today and how we might connect with and learn from over a century of women’s activism.”

Presenter Lily Murray said it is incredibly important for students to engage with these issues.

“While we're remembering the passage of the 19th Amendment a century ago, we are also trying to tease out what voting and activism means in our current social and political climate,” she said. “The 19th Amendment did not solve all voting issues, and we still see that today. Engaging with these issues allows us to gain context for our current situation, enabling us, as students and citizens, to understand and think more critically and therefore more effectively enact change.”

To learn more about the theme, to see future events, and to find courses that are part of the theme, visit

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated April 15, 2021