Recap of Women’s History at the 2016 AASLH/MMA Annual Meeting

by Page Harrington, Executive Director, National Women's Party at Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument on

Van Hoosen Farm, September 2016 visit. Photo by Susan Ferentinos.

Van Hoosen Farm, September 2016 visit. Photo by Susan Ferentinos.

Our women’s history offerings at the joint meeting of the Michigan Museums Association and the AASLH annual meeting in Detroit were a big hit!

The Women’s History Affinity Group (WHAG) offered three popular sessions this year: a moderated discussion, “More Than Just Friends? The Do’s and Dont’s of Interpreting Female Friendship” (listen to it for free here); our Inaugural WHAG luncheon; and an in-depth tour and breakout session at the Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm.

The discussion and Q&A session “More Than Just Friends?” was moderated by Rebecca Price, President/CEO of Chick History, Inc., and featured Dr. Susan Ferentinos, author of Interpreting LGBT History at Museums and Historic Sites, and Lori Osborne, Director of the Evanston Women’s History Project. The speakers gave the attendees better insight into female friendships by using the lens of LGBT history, and offered practical examples of bringing the public into the dialogue as a way to further enrich everyone’s knowledge and understanding of the complexities of relationships. If you missed it, or would like to listen again, this session was recorded and is available for download.


Van Hoosen Farm, September 2016 visit. Photo by Susan Ferentinos.

Van Hoosen Farm, September 2016 visit. Photo by Susan Ferentinos.

The inaugural WHAG luncheon brought together women’s history scholars, practitioners, and friends for the keynote address by Dr. Caitlyn Perry Dial, Interim Director of the Michigan Women’s Historical Center and Hall of Fame. Dr. Perry Dial shared the rich heritage of the women of Michigan. Her presentation, “It’s Everybody’s Fight: Detroit Women in the Civil Rights Movement” featured stories of women such as Grace Lee Boggs and Viola Liuzzo. While the stories of these women are lesser known than civil rights icon Rosa Parks, their names and experiences are equally important to know and share to better inform our understanding of the civil rights struggle.

At Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm, Museum Program Coordinator Michelle Dunham first led the group on a tour of the site, the National Women’s Part at Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument, former home of medical pioneer Dr. Bertha Van Hoosen, followed by an in-depth breakout session. The onsite discussion allowed attendees to dive deeper into the nuances of female friendships that played out on this working farm over several generations. As history practitioners, we know that navigating the intricacies of private relationships in private spaces—spaces that are now open to public—can be extremely complex, and the afternoon of dialogue brought value to both the participants, as well as the museum staff.

With the 2016 annual meeting in Detroit behind us, the Women’s History Affinity Group is excited to begin thinking about next year in Austin. Let us know what topics and content are important to you, and please join the online discussion. Thank you!

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