May 2016 Little Berks
The Berkshire Conference of Women Historians held its last annual business meeting, better known as the Little Berks, from Friday-Sunday, May 20-22, 2016. This is a comparatively small gathering of 30-50 people rather than the 1500-2000 who attend our triennial Conference on the History of Women (the Big Berks). Attendees must be members of the Berkshire Conference.
This smaller meeting included a panel on Friday and Saturday that showcases new work on women’s, gender or sexualities’ history and a business meeting. Meals and free time offered opportunities to gather informally with other scholars, to share ideas for future Big Berks, and to discuss issues related to the place of women in the profession. We extended a special invitation to graduate students, contingent faculty and independent scholars who are looking for a professional home. We welcome those who wish to innovate and be more active in the organization.
This meeting was held at the Gideon Putnam Resort and Spa in Saratoga Springs, NY. The Gideon Putnam, www.gideonputnam.com is approximately three hours north of New York City and Saratoga Springs is served by the Albany International Airport and Amtrak.
May 2015 Little Berks
from Jennifer Morgan, Vice-President of the Berkshire Conference
We had a rather spectacular meeting of the Little Berks at the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, Mass over a beautiful late-May weekend this past Spring. We welcomed new members, we connected with old friends. Fifty-seven people attended and perhaps a third were attending the Little Berks for the first time.
On Friday night, Cynthia Greenlee, the winner of the Gender and History Prize for best paper presented at the Berkshire Conference of Women’s History* (“‘An Impulse of Outrage Due to Her Tender Age’: African-Americans, Child Rape, and Legal Vernaculars in South Carolina, 1885-1920”) presented her work on African American abortion providers. Greenlee’s work combines her training as an historian and her activism; she has recently accepted a position at the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, a non-profit that litigates on behalf of reproductive justice.
For some of us, Saturday morning was spent on walks, conversations on the porch, and other informal gatherings to share work and ideas. Others spent their morning in the Program Committee meeting for the Big Berks (about which you will hear more in a moment).
On Saturday afternoon, we convened to discuss the issue of trans-inclusivity in the Little Berks. Anticipating that we might need a little help in navigating the conversation, we’d asked Seth Marin, the Associate Director of Legal Affairs at the Anti Defamation League, to facilitate. Our opening questions were; What does it mean to be trans-inclusive? What does it mean to address gender oppression? and What is the relationship between trans-justice and feminism? Using recent statements on trans student enrollment from Mt. Holyoke, Smith, and other historically women’s college as a guide, we had a wide-ranging conversation about the relationship between our deep roots as a feminist organization committed to promoting the interest of women historians, and a the recognition that we needed to critically consider 21st century feminism, gender, and our role as a professional organization. We considered what it meant to change from a “woman’s” organization to one that fully welcomed trans persons. Our membership policy is not exclusionary, but we recognized the need to extend what Marin calls an “affirmative welcome.” This conversation will continue during the 2016 Little Berks meeting.
Dinner on Saturday night included a birthday cake as we were celebrating the 80th anniversary of the meeting. The evening devolved into brutal scrabble re-matches and general good cheer, and the next morning we convened for the business meeting. There the 2014 Book and Article prizewinners were announced:
2014 Book Prize Winners
- Susanah Shaw Romney. New Netherland Connections: Intimate Networks and Atlantic Ties in Seventeenth-Century America. Chapel Hill: Published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture by the University of North Carolina Press, 2014.
- Tatiana Seijas, Asian Slaves in Colonial Mexico: from Chinos to Indians. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
2014 Berkshire Conference Article Prize Winners
- Katherine Paugh, “Yaws, Syphilis, Sexuality, and the Circulation of Medical Knowledge in the British Caribbean and the Atlantic World,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine, Volume 88, Number 2, Summer 2014, pp. 225-252.
- Carina Ray, “Decrying White Peril: Interracial Sex and the Rise of Anticolonial Nationalism in the Gold Coast,” appearing in the American Historical Review, February 2014
- Julia Phillips Cohen, “Oriental by Design: Ottoman Jews, Imperial Style, and the Performance of Heritage” in American Historical Review, April 2014.
I hope that most of you will have seen that the CFP for the Big Berks, 2017 is OUT! The Program Committee met at the Little Berks and has put together an innovative and generative conference presentation structure. Please, check it out, encourage your students and your colleagues to propose papers and let’s all find each other in Hempstead, NY in June, 2017.