It’s A Conference: Women, Politics, Fun

Yes We Can (pull together a conference in less than 12 weeks.) Leah Wright Rigueur (Harvard K-School), Robon Morris (Agnes Scott College) and I are nothing if not — impulsive? Energetic? Awesome political historians ready to respond to the moment? Whatever. In any case, we thought the nomination of Hillary Rodham Clinton as the first woman candidate for President of the United States should not go without a conference. So we are throwing one. Fast. In September. We’ve already got two awesome women on board and we are looking for more. So read it, and put your submission together — it’s due on July 22! And who knows – maybe we all all write a book!

Beyond Left and Right:
What is “Women’s Politics”?
A Symposium at Agnes Scott College, Decatur, GA
September 8-9, 2016

Although numerous women have run for President of the United States, in 2016 Hillary Clinton will be the first female, and first feminist, candidate to top the ticket of a major party. Although this moment has been anticipated since 1964, when Republican Margaret Chase Smith announced her candidacy, and Clinton herself made a strong run at the nomination in 2008, November’s election will be the closest any woman has been to becoming President of the United States. We want to pause here and ask: what is the meaning of this moment in the longer history of women in American political life?

Women began to run for office, successfully and unsuccessfully, prior to passage of the 19th Amendment. Perhaps the best known is Victoria Woodhull, a candidate for President from the Equal Rights Party in 1872; while Republican Jeannette Rankin became the first woman to hold a national office when she was elected to Congress from the state of Montana in 1916. Yet, women’s politics have historically extended beyond the ticket to international, inter-party, cross-racial, and cross class collaborations. These forms of activism, political brokering and cooperation extend the meaning of politics well beyond the partisan deal-making, campaigning and lobbying that characterize the formal policy arena. One feature of this gendered perspective on national life has been a pervasive belief that women have different political styles, and even concerns, than men; and that they are more eager to work across differences to create change. Yet, as women have become more accepted as politicians and political operatives since 1970, and feminism a political identity more identified with the Democratic than the Republican Party, female candidates have also been the standard bearers for some of the greatest divides in late twentieth and early twenty-first century American political culture.

This symposium, to be held on the campus of Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia on September 8-9, 2016, will create a conversation about the political work of women since 1970. Panels will represent the diversity of women’s political stories, and be particularly concerned with moments when women bridged, or failed to bridge, differences of ideology, religion, policy and party. Too often, U.S. political history marginalizes or ignores women’s contributions: we seek to place women at the center of an increasingly partisan nation, as grassroots organizers, policy intellectuals, lobbyists, candidates, or officeholders. Furthermore, we seek instances in which women became the agents of compromise, bipartisan policy making, and nonpartisan political work. Possible topics include:

● Children
● feminism(s) and anti-feminism(s)
● racial justice
● family
● housing
● violence
● welfare policy/welfare rights
● Peace
● religion
● reproductive choice

Plenary speakers include Sherie Randolph, author of Florynce “Flo” Kennedy: The Life of a Black Feminist (University of North Carolina Press, 2015); and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, author of From #BlackLivesMatter to Black LIberation (Haymarket Books, 2016). We invite established, as well as emerging, scholars who are working historically in any discipline, and we also invite activists and politicians to tell their own stories over two days of panels. Although presenters may share work in advance to be posted on the conference website, they will be asked to come to the symposium ready to give a 15-minute informal presentation geared towards conversation with a panel and the audience, rather than a formal research presentation.

Proposals are due July 22 2016: please send a one-page proposal and a one page c.v., indicating relevant publications, research, and/or activism to In a cover letter or email, applicants without adequate institutional support should also indicate if their participation requires a travel subvention. After the symposium, we will invite scholars to develop their work for publication in a volume edited by the conference coordinators, Robin Morris, Claire Bond Potter, and Leah Wright Rigueur. We will also create a website to promote the event, record the stories told and encourage an ongoing discussion up to and beyond Election Day 2016.

This event will be free to the public. The event is sponsored through the generous support of the James T. and Ella Rather Kirk Fund at Agnes Scott College. YOu can access the conference webpage at:

Robin Morris
Assistant Professor of History
Agnes Scott College

Claire Bond Potter
Professor of History and Director of the Digital Humanities Initiative
The New School

Leah Wright Rigueur
Assistant Professor of Public Policy
Harvard University Kennedy School of Government

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