News & Updates: NWSA History

NWSA, A History 1993 – 14th National Conference

Tuesday, May 5, 2020  
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Cover of the 1993 conference program book

14th National Conference | "Reweaving Women's Colors: Scholarship, Curriculum, and Our Lives" | June 16-20, 1993 | Washington, D.C.

Program Highlights

As always, in 1993 the 14th NWSA National Conference was marked by themes that reflected the era in which the conference was organized and also reflected the major debates about women's liberation within the field. Taking place not long after the inauguration of U.S. President Bill Clinton and his race against President George H.W. Bush, members were writing, researching, and organizing in a time of heightened hostilities from the Right and a resurgence of "tough on crime" politics that united electoral officials across the political aisle. While there was scant direct mention of crime, incarceration, and policing throughout the panel titles and abstracts of the 1993 conference, there is much to be gleaned about feminist conceptualizations of, and relationships to state power.

When it comes to these conceptualizations, some presenters were looking to find methods of empowerment within existing state structures and economic ideologies to legitimize and integrate women and feminism.

    Black Women's World War II Military Experiences
    Through a narrated slide presentation and panel discussion, this session highlights women who have been Ignored in written histories of World War II, celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the Women's Army Corps, and documents the contributions of African-American women to the war effort.

    Internship Experiences in Making Policy in Women's Interests: Integration of Theory and Practice
    The panelists, all of whom worked in 1993 as interns in major Washington-based feminist organizations, will discuss the relationship between feminist theory and practice in the internship experiences.

    Integrating Older Women into the Academy and the National Agenda
    Papers: Putting Midlife and Older Women on the National Agenda; Integrating Long-Living Women into the Curriculum

    Differences Among Women: Clinton's Quest for Attorney General–A Case Study
    This presentation focuses on what women can and must learn from the experience of the attempts to nominate women to positions in the Clinton Administration. The divisions among women which emerged from this process are located In real differences; those divisions encouraged by the media, and those divisions located in the unique experience of individual biography.

    Combining Our Money with Our Politics: Increasing Our Feminist Power
    This workshop on socially responsible investing and money management will suggest methods by which feminists can make their money work in consonance with their principles and will propose plans for increasing the clout of feminist money.

    Women Shaping Corporate, National, and International Tools for the Elimination of Child Prostitution
    Papers: Western Sexual Appropriation of Eastern Child's Body: Feminist Theory and Corporate Strategy as Combating Tools; Developing Gender and Justice: A Study in Asian Child Prostitution and corporate Combating Strategies; Where Ethics is Not a Luxury: Aiding HIV+ Children

Others positioned feminism in opposition to the state and its power.

    Feminist Justice: Punishment, Peacekeeping, and Pedagogy
    Papers: Prison pedagogy: An Issue of Trust and Feminism; Fertility on Trial: Contraception as a Penalty; Feminist/Peace-Making Approach to Academic Criminology; Pedagogy for Justice: Activist Classrooms

    Born in Flames.
    This feminist cult classic is a futuristic tale of the turmoil that is still afoot after a "peaceful" social revolution. Thwarted by a system which rejects its minorities, a group of women band together in an effort to gain control of the state owned media. With humor and style, this film combines many aspects of the women's movement — militant, moderate, black rap, punk cool — to suggest the possibility of a unified voice. By Lizzie Borden, 90 minutes. Distributed by First Run Icarus Films.

    Imperialism, Colonialism, and The Traffic in Women
    Papers: Colonialism as Metaphor for Women's OppressIon; "Comfort Women": Militarism and Trafficking in Women; Korean "Military Comfort Women": Victims of Military Imperialism, Colonialism and Class

    A Sense of Place.
    The stereotype of the polite, docile, exotic Asian woman is shattered In this documentary in which a dozen women speak out about their experiences as part of the "model minority," By Rosanna Yamagiwa Alfaro and Leita Hagemann, 1992. Distributed by Women Make Movies.

    Keep Your Laws Off My Body.
    This beautiful and provocative short video juxtaposes Intimate images of a lesbian couple at home with footage of police descending in force on a New York City Hall demonstration held up ACT UP. By Catherine Saaifield and Zoe Leonard, 1990. Distributed by Women Make Movies.

    Access Denied.
    This video addresses cutbacks in women's reproductive freedom and civil rights against the backdrop of Operation Rescue's religious anti-abortion fervor. Representing three years of documenting reproductive rights direct action as well as attacks by the anti-choice movement, this tape documents growing community activism around AiDS, reproductive rights and racism. By ReproVision, 1991. Distributed by Women Make Movies.

While NWSA was still bouncing back from the last few years, there was still some extracurricular activities, including concerts by Anne Feeney, Saffire and the Uppity Blues Women, and Reel World String Band and a set from DJ Jaime Foks. In addition to the roughly 150 sessions, there were also four plenaries – "Putting Women on the National Agenda; " "Breaking/Making Paradigms: Feminism and Knowing;" "Women's Lives; Women's Stories;" and "Intellectual Foundations of Women's Studies: Beyond Political Correctness" – and 40 film screenings. The constituency groups that met this year were the Aging and Ageism, Community College, Jewish Women, Lesbian, Student, Women's Centers, and Women of Color Caucuses, as well as the Task Forces on Academic Discrimination, Anti-Apartheid, Ecofeminism, Peace, Science and Technology, Women's Health, and Women and Crime.

See the full program here

From the Steering Committee

Dear Members and Friends of NWSA,

This has been an exciting year, full of growth, anxiety, change and hope. This June, we celebrate the National Women's Studies Association's sixteenth year of existence, its fourteenth annual conference and its new constitution.

As we meet in the nation's political capitol, we reaffirm (through the conference title and its program) both the value of women's diversities and the importance of combining good scholarship, feminist teaching and effective activism. With our new constitution, we confront the challenge of integrating efficiency, democracy and protection for minority interests into a single political structure. In the face of a hostile backlash elicited by the increasing influence of women's studies, we remain committed to creating the widest breadth of vision, action and community at all levels and in all places of education.

We accept that our goal will not be easily accomplished — in this conference or the world. Transforming sexist, racist, elitist and homophobic structures which have endured for millennia is not accomplished in a decade or two — or even in a life time. It is our hope, however, that the energy, commitment, intelligence and insight gathered together at this conference will contribute to improving educational structures and the lives of all women and men.

We welcome all of you to this conference on "Reweaving Women's Colors: Scholarship, Curriculum and Our Lives." It represents the fruit of many individuals' dreams and efforts.

The Last NWSA Steering Committee
Kris Anderson
Berenice Carroll
Maria Gonzalez
Wendy Kolmar
Sue Mansfield
Dottie Painter

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.

1993 Coordinating Council Members

See the rest of the history project here

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NWSA Program Archives

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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.