News & Updates: NWSA History

NWSA, A History 1994 – 15th National Conference

Wednesday, May 6, 2020  
Share |
Cover of the 1994 conference program book

15th National Conference | "Teaching Theory & Action: Women Working in a Global Context" | June 15-18, 1994 | Iowa State University | Ames, Iowa

Program Highlights

After what the outgoing NWSA President referred to as "the turmoil and hardship of the past several years," the 15th National Conference in 1994 was backed by a stronger and more responsive governing structure and "a commitment to fight racism within NWSA and in women's studies curricula." The theme – "Teaching Theory & Action: Women Working in a Global Context" – marked a significant shift in the Association's priorities, de-centering the issues specific only to white women in the U.S. and recognizing the crucial need for feminist relationships across borders. The plenaries and keynote address – which included the voices of Third World/transnational feminists Chandra Talpade Mohanty and Barbara Smith – spoke to transnational themes, experiences, and issues. Below are their titles and abstracts.

      Human Rights/Women's Rights
      In a world where what it means to participate in or violate human rights shifts almost daily, it becomes necessary to ask in what ways "rights" are culturally produced. Can "rights' ever be understood as universal, and does the concept of human rights include women's rights? This panel presents four perspectives on this issue.

      Politics of Women's Work
      Women's work takes place in diverse political contexts across the globe. In this plenary session, the speakers will examine women's work, particularly focusing on the politics of work in the household, on the global assembly line, in the fields of technology and agriculture, and in workplaces in general.

      Conceptualizing the Body: Comparative Perspectives
      The efforts of recent feminist work to redefine the body have helped us to acknowledge ways that 'the body" is theoretically, socially, and culturally conceptualized and represented. In this session, the panelists consider the multiple ways that the body is constructed as a racialized, legalized, sexualized, disabled, and violated body.

      Feminist Theories in a Global Perspective
      Feminists working to achieve a global perspective are challenged to reformulate both their theoretical discourses and the assumptions that underlie their practices. In this session, panelists will examine their own work as women teaching, theorizing, and acting in a global context.

    The 1994 conference brought back some NWSA traditions, including the Cultural Event Series. The series featured musicians, comedians, artists, and performers from different cultural and national backgrounds. One particular artist, Pam Hall, highlighted her music as a callback to her woman ancestors and their struggles through slavery and the Civil War. She said of her performance:

      "I don't sing to educate the straight world about lesbianism or feminism – I sing for the sisters. I sing for lesbians and womyn who delight in the diversity of culture; I sing for women, about women, about women loving women, about women's spirituality, and about women's abilities. I am a 'lesbian-identified' womyn's musician who willingly steps in the box labeled 'dyke."

    The rest of the cultural programming was also more extensive than it had been in recent years. The conference bill counted more than 70 film screenings, including titles like, Hopi: Songs of the Fourth World, Fighting for Our Lives —Women Confronting AIDS, Sarah's Garden—Women and Incest, and Sa-I-Gu: From Korean Women's Perspectives. It also featured another Writer's Series that showcased authors, poets, and essayists from science fiction writer Suzy McKee Charnas and the LA-based Mexican and Puerto Rican-Dominican poets Naomi Quiñónez, Sandra María Esteves, and Graciela Limón. The 1994 art exhibits hosted another thirty artists, drawn from host university Iowa State's departments of Architecture, Art and Design and Landscape Architecture, as well as other artists like Kirsty Greene and her piece, "Everyday Women: Photographs of African American Lesbians."

    And lastly, something new about the 1994 programming: The Science, Technology, and Gender Symposium. Having formed the Task Force on Science and Technology in 1987, the NWSA membership were becoming increasingly attuned to the possibilities and potentials of quickly evolving educational and research technology. The symposium hosted two days of sessions, including "Global Science, Technology, and Development," "Feminist Redefinitions of Science," "Race, Culture, and Science," and "(De)Constructlons of Scientific Knowledge."

    List of 1994 program committee members

    See the full program here

    From the NWSA President

    Dear Members and Friends of NWSA,

    It is very exciting to be back on campus again and to be able to make our annual conference affordable and accessible to many people. Kris Anderson, her colleagues at Iowa State University and the NWSA program and plenary committees have worked hard to put this conference together; they deserve our thanks and congratulations.

    Long-time members will be pleased to know that NWSA has emerged from the turmoil and hardship of the past several years a much stronger organization. The new governance structure, designed to make NWSA leadership more responsive to the needs and interests of members, has had one year to test itself; on the whole, although there is room (and the need) for improvement we find that the structure is basically sound. With the election of a new set of officers, including Marjorie Pryse as president-elect, we are ready to meet new and different challenges.

    It has been a privilege for me to serve as president of NWSA during this critical moment in our history. I hope that I have demonstrated in words and deed our commitment to fight racism within NWSA and in women's studies curricula. Although my term ends with this conference. I will remain actively involved in NWSA work. I look forward to chairing the Strategic Planning Committee for the next two years and to the challenge of helping to identify and define the mission of NWSA in the 21st century.

    To new members and especially our international friends. I extend our warmest welcome. This year's conference theme and plenary topics signal our renewed commitment to integrate global perspectives in our work; this will not be a one-year phenomenon. Next year's conference in Wyoming, scheduled just three months from the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China. will build on the global linkages that we make in 1994.

    Again, welcome to our 15th annual meeting. I look forward to working with you for many more years to come.

    In sisterhood,

    Vivien Ng
    President, NWSA

    From the Conference Planning Committee

    Dear Friends:

    On behalf of the NWSA '94 Conference Committee, we'd like to welcome you to the ISU campus and the 15th annual NWSA conference: "Teaching, Theory, and Action: Women Working in a Global Context." We're very excited about the program that we've put together, which includes nearly 250 Concurrent Sessions, a continuous FilmSeries, a Writers Series, a Cultural Events Series, and, for the first time in NWSA's history, a special embedded symposium, Science, Technology, and Gender.

    We would like to thank Iowa State University for its generous support of this conference. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences provided us with seed money, office space, and equipment. The Provost and Deans of the other Colleges provided funding for the Science Symposium, and various departments and offices helped to fund the Writers Series, the Cultural Events Series, as well as the receptions.

    Loretta Younger, the NWSA National Office Manager, has-with unfailing competence, good humor, and grace-handled registration and a myriad of questions and problems, and to her we are, as always, tremendously grateful.

    This conference would not have been possible without the time and energy of the many volunteers from the ISU community and from the national women's studies community. To cut costs and strengthen NWSA, we have gone without the full-time paid conference organizer and support staff we have had in years past. With the lone exception of Loretta, this conference has been entirely planned and organized by volunteers, volunteers with full-time jobs and families and many other conflicting demands on their time. Inevitably, we have made some mistakes and have overlooked some of your needs, but we hope that you will respond to our efforts with the same generosity of spirit with which they were given. We look forward to your suggestions for improving future NWSA conferences, but we also hope that you will take the opportunity to thank our conference committee and volunteers for the fine work they have done.

    Enjoy the conference and your stay here in Ames. If there is anything we can do to help make your experience more pleasant, please stop by the Conference Information Tables in either the Scheman Center or the Memorial Union and let us know.

    Kris Anderson & Wendy Kolmar
    NWSA Conference Co-Chairs

    NWSA Coordinating Council

    Below are the 1994 council members, as well as the NWSA staff team. You can see the current Governing Council members, conference co-chairs, and staff members here.

    1994 Coordinating Council Members

    See the rest of the history project here

    Have any pictures, stories, or fun facts from past conferences? Let us know! Email us at

    If you'd like to help us keep making NWSA history, consider donating!


    NWSA Program Archives

    banner image of

    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.