Just Back from the Berks

Hi all! I flew in to Boston's Logan airport at 12:10 this morning, after long delays in the Chicago O'Hare airport on my way home from the 14th Annual Berkshire Conference on the History of Women. The conference was at the University of Minnesota (U of M to the locals although to this Michigander that abbreviation only means one thing). It was a beautiful weekend and the campus--which spans the Mississippi River in the twin cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul--was a stunning location, particularly coming as many of us did from the first sweltering heat wave of the East Coast summer. The building on the left is the Weisman Art Museum, designed by (who would have guessed?) architect Frank Gehry, and perched on the high Eastern bank of the river.

I attended a number of awesome roundtable discussions and seminars, including one on the history of childhood and youth ("Childhood as a Useful Category of Historical Analysis"), one on 1970s popular culture and gender, and one on the history of lesbian and gay families in the 20th century. I also got a chance to catch up with my undergraduate adviser, and enjoyed dinner in Dinkytown with my current program adviser. I even managed to wedge in a visit to the campus bookstore!

The conference gave me some good ideas about possible directions in which to take my thesis research--whichever body of primary sources I end up using, I will certainly be focusing on ideas of experimental education and educational theory (pedagogy) in the mid-twentieth century (1960s and 70s). I am interested in the relationship between new educational practices and political movements such as feminism, environmentalism, peace activism, and radicalism on both the left and the right. Home education is, of course, one form of this experimental education. There are some others--including early women's studies programs and the Oregon Extension program I attended as an undergraduate--that might also provide fruitful material to explore.

As much as I am resistant to formal academic environments, I can't deny that it is encouraging and exciting to be around such incredible group of (largely women) scholars who are all researching thought-provoking topics in women's and gender history. I was honored to have the opportunity to absorb their conversations and look forward to a time when I might more actively participate in the same.

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