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NWSA, A History 1989 – 11th National Conference

Friday, May 1, 2020  
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Cover of the 1989 conference program book

11h National Conference | "Feminist Transformations" | June 14-18, 1989 | Towson State University | Towson, Maryland

Program Highlights

The 11th NWSA National Conference in 1989 closed out NWSA's first decade of national conferences. Over the next few years, NWSA goes through a significant era of self-reflection, even foregoing a national conference in 1991. Appropriately themed as "Feminist Transformations," much of the 1989 conference programming spoke to experiences of coming into feminism and how very myriad those experiences are across lines of difference. Participants dug into their own histories – lesbian histories, Chicana histories, working class histories – not only to contextualize their present but to share those histories to better understand each other, to commemorate those who have paved the ways for others, and to glean insight from the past and for the future.

The conference plenaries set the tone for these reflections. In "Critical Questions: Two Decades of Feminist Scholarship," "Journeys in our Lives: Learning Feminism," and "Engendering Knowledge: Feminist Transformation of the Curriculum," speakers – including Patricia Hill Collins and Beverly Guy-Sheftall – reflected on the last two decades of Women's Studies — its growth and transformation, its political and intellectual impacts, its integration of race- and class-based issues, and its relationship to activism and social justice work. To get an idea of how the rest of the sessions approached ideas of feminist transformation, here is another round of reverse-engineered subthemes, along with a few examples of sessions.

Feminist Curricula
Feminist Education in Recreational Settings
Teaching the History of Women in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Middle East
Teaching from the Heart: Toward a Feminist Anti-Racism Teaching Model

Politics of Poetry and Authorship
On Gender, Authority, and Becoming a Writer
Lyrical Campaigns: An Evening of Poetry and Politics, Readings by June Jordan and Hattie Gossett
International Voices: Literature

Feminist Legacies and Generations
Generating Memories: Remembering Generations
The Seeds That We Sow — The Harvest We Seek: A Celebration Legacies of African Womanhood
Jewish Women's History

Transgressing Borders
Building Alliances Between North American and Central American Women
Indigenous Population and Patriarchal Colonization: Cases ofUnited States, Guam, and Canada
The Role of Palestinian Women in the Intifada
Transforming Ourselves, Transforming Our World: A Global Walk for a Livable World

Story-telling as Feminist Method
The Invention, Discovery, and Preservation of Women's Material Culture
Documenting our Communities: Third World Lesbian Documentation Projects
Subversive Voices: Rediscovering Women's Writings
Lesbian Parenting: Hearing One's Stories - Personal and Political Transformations

Politics of Policy
Women, the Family, and State Policy
Suppressing Women's Rights: Issues in Literacy and Reproductive Freedom
Laws Against Women: Health, Migration, and Prostitution
Public Housing Organizing Issues

Women's Centers/Women's Studies Program Administration
Institutionalizing Feminist Values and Diversity: Transforming the Governance of One Women's Studies Program
Fundraising for Feminist Projects and Services: Successful Strategies
Creating a Women's Center: Starting from Scratch and Attaining Institutional Security

Race, Gender, and Media
Media Environments and Multiple Worlds: An Analysis of the Construction and Reconstruction of Gender and Race
Contemporary Images of African-American Women: Search for Redefinition
Feminist Media Strategies

Feminist Sciences and Technologies
Eco-Feminists: Manifestations in the Agricultural Sciences
Women's Bodies and the Politics of Technology
Transforming the Discourse of Reproductive Medicine: Creating a Women-Centered Analysis of (In)Fertility
Gender Issues in Psychotherapy and the Mental Health System

List of 1989 program committee members

See the full program here

From the National Coordinator

Dear NWSA Conference Participant:

"They just don't get it," said one feminist in frustration and wonder at the level of resistance to a feminist vision of how things ought to be in the world. "They think we mean reformation, when we say transformation."

NWSA welcomes you to our eleventh national conference, "Feminist Transformations," where the difference between the two is quite clear. For the next five days, we will be exploring the range, varieties, and consequences of transformation. What does it mean in our personal lives? How do we intend to restructure our institutions? How can education be a catalyst for transformation? How has Women's Studies transformed knowledge? What keeps us from risking transformation?

The fact that feminist educators have indeed succeeded at some important level in transforming education can be measured by the intensity of the current conservative backlash. They do not like what we have done and are determined to keep us from doing more. But unlike our opponents, feminist educators believe that social change is at the root of what we do. That habits of the mind or heart can be altered by knowledge. That knowledge can liberate. That liberation is not something to be feared. And that social institutions can be altered, in both minuscule and mighty ways.

NWSA invites you to join with us as we connect lives, colors, countries, and continents to transform our worlds, not simply reform them.

In sisterhood,
Caryn McTighe Musil
National Director

From the Conference Planning Committee


Welcome to the Eleventh Annual Conference of the National Women's Studies Association, Feminist Transformations. Rather than suggest what you may expect over the next five days, we invite you to read through this Program Book. We have been continually impressed by the breadth and diversity of the presentations; by the extent of participation of women across the country and around the world; and by the creativity and good humor of the hundreds of persons we have talked with throughout the year. We are proud to have been a part of all this, and we are delighted to finally say, 'here it is.' [sic]

We particularly want to acknowledge the support of Towson State University and its Women's Studies Program. The many people who have worked throughout the year are reflected in the following committees, but we would like to specifically express our appreciation to Hoke L. Smith, President of Towson State University; to Robert Caret, Provost of Towson State University; to Annette Chappell, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts; and to Ted Johns, Assistant Director of Events and Conference Services.

We also want to thank the Towson and Baltimore communities for lending their support and energies to this year's conference, and extend our appreciation to the women at Baltimore's 31st Street Bookstore who have worked on the Book Exhibit throughout the year.

We also want to acknowledge the guidance and assistance of Sally Gordon, past National Conference Director; Caryn McTighe Musil, NWSA's National Director; and Marlene Longenecker, Chair of NWSA's Steering Committee-all of whom deserve at least a full page here and all of whom have convincingly taught the value of keeping things short. We also greatly appreciate the contributions and long hours of everyone in NWSA's National Office – Carol Combs, Sharon Neufeld, Astrida Levensteins, Ellen Dublin Levy, and Joann Speer.

Finally, we wish there were a gracious way to thank each other. Each of us feels an immense sense of accomplishment and good will toward each other, and we are truly glad to have had the opportunity to work together. We hope you will be challenged throughout the next five days, and we certainly hope you will have a good time.

Margaret Blanchard
Sara Coulter
Elaine Hedges
Joyce Dennison
Beth Hewitt
Suzanne Hyers

NWSA Coordinating Council

Before there was a Governing Council, NWSA was led by the Coordinating Council. Below are the first council members, as well as the NWSA staff team. You can see the current Governing Council members, conference co-chairs, and staff members here.

1989 Coordinating Council Members
1989 Coordinating Council Members
1989 Coordinating Council Members

See the rest of the history project here

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About the Writer

Victoria Agunod is the office assistant at the National Women's Studies Association, as well as an adjunct faculty member in the Peace, Justice, and Conflict Studies Program at DePaul University. Victoria received their BA and MA in Women's and Gender Studies at DePaul. They first attended NWSA in 2018 and presented their research on university students organizing for racial justice against the new alt-right galvanized by the 2016 U.S. presidential election. They joined the NWSA team the following year. Their teaching emphases are on women of color feminisms, racial justice movements and organizing, and neoliberal rhetorical and cultural influences.

Please note: The information compiled in this project comes from the archived conference programs at the University of Maryland, College Park.