News & Updates: NWSA History

NWSA, A History 2007 – 28th National Conference

Tuesday, May 26, 2020  
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Cover of the 2007 conference program book

28th National Conference | "Past Debates, Present Possibilities, Future Feminisms: A Women's and Gender Studies Conference Celebrating 30 years of NWSA" | June 28-July 1 | St. Charles, Illinois

Program Highlights

The 2007 NWSA National Conference held a significant emphasis on the contributions of women of color to the field, to NWSA, and to the feminist movement. Having focused grant funding on supporting the Women of Color Leadership Project (WoCLP) and the Women of Color Caucus (WoCC), the 2007 conference had the largest cohort of participants (35) in the WoCLP to date. NWSA now regularly supports 40 participants in the WoCLP each year. The 2007 conference also paid special tribute to the Women of Color Caucus, providing a history of the Caucus in the program book, produced at the Association's WoCC retreat:

    The history of the Women of Color Caucus of the National Women's Studies Association is an inexorable and irreducible part of the history of NWSA. From the Association's first national conference in 1979 (Lawrence, Kansas)-when the Women of Color Caucus drew its first breath as the "Third World Caucus" — to the landmark 1981 Storrs Conference ("Women Respond to Racism"); to the watershed 1990 Akron Conference where over a hundred women of color and their allies walked out to protest the Association's entrenched racism; to the "healing" presidencies of Vivien Ng and Betty Harris (1994 and 1997, respectively); to the 2000 Simmons Conference developed and delivered by the Caucus's advisor! benefactor/champion/mainstay Christina Brinkley; to the 2002 Las Vegas conference where the Women of Color Caucus and the then-newly-constituted Anti White Supremacy Task Force joined forces to agitate for the inclusion of perspectives and contributions of women of color in the Association's 25th anniversary celebration; down to the present time when the Women of Color Caucus and the Women of Color Leadership Project figure prominently in the Association's multi-year Ford Foundation capacity-building grant, the Women of Color Caucus has been a driving force within the Association.

    The Caucus has benefited from the courage, persistence, and commitment of many "sturdy bridges" of all colors. Several such "bridges" are listed by name in the above highlights of Caucus history. However, there is a long succession of others, leading from the Association's inaugural conference to the present day, and stretching well into the future.

    Nupur Chaudhuri was present at the first national conference, where she recalls "many American women of color and other long time U.S. residents were 'congratulated' by their white peers for 'speaking good English' or having 'a good grasp of the Subject matter.'" Chaudhuri was elected that year as one of the Coordinating Council members of the fledgling Third World Caucus, and, in this role, she drafted guidelines for a more inclusive 1980 conference in Bloomington, as well as helped set the stage fOl the groundbreaking Storrs conference on racism in 1981. It was regarding the experience of women of color at this latter conference that Chela Sandoval would subsequently write, "To be 'Third World' meant ... first, to have been de-centered from any point of power in order to be used as the negative pole against which the dominant powers can then define themselves [and] second, to be working politically to challenge the systems that keep power moving in its current patterns, thus shifting it onto new terrains .... "

    Sandoval's assessment of the dialectic between "Third World" women's status (fide-centered") and their purpose ("shifting power...onto new terrains") captures the essence of what the Women of Color Caucus has been historically and what it strives to be today.

    The Women of Color Caucus continues to offer our Association a singular opportunity to look within our own ranks to discover ways to promote broader inclusion of historical, social, cultural, political and economical perspectives of racialized women in the United States (and abroad). We do this in a variety of ways with a variety of supporters and allies. Recent examples include our work with Program Administration and Development to create the Women of Color Leadership Project, our work with the NWSA Journal to develop a cluster of articles by emerging and established women of color scholars, our work with ABAFAZI Journal to fund a women of color student essay award (Subsequently expanded to several awards through the generous contributions of donors), our work with the Anti White Supremacy Task Force to present an annual "Stop Dreaming/Keep Working" workshop, and numerous other endeavors.

    NWSA can be proud of this history of women of color, allies, and social justice advocates who have openly challenged, critiqued, and moved the Association to live up to its mission.

The tributes did not stop there. The 2007 conference also held its first "Tribute Panel" to reflect on, and celebrate, the legacies of This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, the first anthology dedicated to the work of feminist women of color. The new panel format was "intended to honor past scholarship that has set new directions for the field." Panelists for this year's tribute included camil.williams, veronica precious bohanan, Daisy Hernandez, Barbara K. Ige, Analouise Keating, and Maria del Carmen Ochoa. The year's film series also highlighted the work and experience of women of color, as well as queer and lesbian women, women with disabilities, and old women. Below, you can find the titles, descriptions, and trailers for films from the 2007 NWSA film series.

Conference Film Series

Maquilapolis (City of Factories) (2006)

In Maquilapolis, we meet Carmen a $6 per day worker in one of Tijuana's maquiladoras, the multinationally-owned factories that came to Mexico for its cheap labor. Carmen and her friend Lourdes confront labor violations, environmental devastation and urban chaos, reaching beyond their daily struggle for survival to organize for change, taking on both the Mexican and U.S. governments and a major television manufacturer. The women also use video cameras to document their lives, their city and their hopes for the future. The Maquila Project, 2006, 68 min.

Mohawk Girls (Year)

Tracking issues of identity, culture, and family, Mohawk Girls follows three outspoken and exuberant Mohawk teenagers on their journey to adulthood. Deeply emotional yet unsentimental, this film provides an intimate look into what it means to grow up Native at the beginning of the 21st century. Women Make Movies, 2005, 63min.

The Grace Lee Project (2005)

When award-winning filmmaker Grace Lee was growing up in Missouri, she was the only Grace Lee she knew. In New York and California, however, everyone she meets seems to know "another Grace Lee." But why did they assume that all Grace Lee's are reserved, dutiful, piano-playinq bookworms? Pursuing the moving target of Asian-American female identity, the filmmaker plunges into a clever, highly unscientific investigation into all those Grace Lees who break the mold – from a fiery social activist to a rebel who tried to burn down her school. Women Make Movies, 2005, 68 min.

Shape of Water (2006)

The Shape of Water interweaves the intimate stories of six women living in Senegal, Brazil, India, and Jerusalem. The women abandon female genital mutilation, tap for rubber to protect the rainforest, protect the biodiversity of the planet and oppose military occupations. This film offers a unique view of the complex realities of the women and their passions to create a more just world. Kum-Kum Bhavnani, 2006, 70 min.

Tomboys! Feisty Girls and Spirited Women (2004)

Are tomboys "tamed" once they reach adolescence? This lively and inspiring documentary explodes that archaic myth with the stories of proud tomboys of all ages. Exploring the myriad ways gender identity is constructed from a very young age, Tomboys makes the connections between rebel girl and spirited women gloriously clear. Women Make Movies, 2004, 28 min.

Troop 1500: Girl Scouts Beyond Bars (2005)

This unique Girl Scout Troop brings daughters together with their inmate mothers. Intimately involved with the troop for several years, the directors took their cameras far beyond meetings to explore the painful context of broken families. Powerful insight comes from interviews shot by the girls themselves, which reveal their conflicted feelings of anger and joy, abandonment and intimacy – as well as the deep influence their mothers still have on them. Women Make Movies, 2005, 68 min.

Beyond Disability (2004)

The empowered FeFes (slang for female), a group of young women with disabilities, hit the streets of Chicago on a quest to discover the difference between how they see themselves and how others see them. Their revelations are humorous, thought provoking and surprising. As the young women grapple with issues as diverse as access, education, employment, sexuality, and growing up with disabilities, they address their audience with a sense of urgency, as if to say, "I need to tell you so you'll see me differently." Beyondmedia Education, 2004, 26 min.

Look Us in the Eye: The Old Women's Project (2006)

In this video about ageism and activism from a feminist perspective, San Diegans Cynthia Rich, Manni Garza and Janice Keaffaber take the stereotypes of an ageist culture and turn them on their heads. Wearing brilliant t-shirts that declare "Old Women are Your Future" and carrying their giant multi-ethnic old woman puppet, POWER (Pissed Old Woman Engaged in Revolution), The Old Women's Project refuses invisibility and proclaims that old women are part of every social justice issue. Profile Productions, 2006, 26 min.

Mom's Apple Pie: The Heart of the Lesbian Mothers' Custody Movement (2006)

While the LGBT Civil Rights movement was gaining momentum, the 1970s witnessed horrific custody battles for lesbian mothers. Founders of the Lesbian Rights Project (now the National Center for Lesbian Rights) and the Lesbian Mothers' National Defense Fund recount the founding of their organizations in response to the bevy of court rulings granting custody to grandparents, fathers and distant relatives based on the belief that lesbians would be unfit parents. This film revisits the early tumultuous years of the lesbian custody movement through the stories of five lesbian mothers and their four children. Frameline, 2006, 60 min

No Umbrella: Election Day in the City (2005)

No Umbrella is an unblinking look at the 2004 US Election Day failures in one of Ohio's poorest neighborhoods. In the most hotly contested state in the country, gridlock at inner city polls ignites tempers and sets off charges of conspiracy. We are squarely dropped into the chaos as we watch the irascible octogenarian councilwoman (Ms. Fannie Lewis) take on polling place breakdowns, and unresponsive bureaucracy and an increasingly agitated electorate. Bullfrog Films, 2005, 26 min.

NO! The Rape Documentary (2006)

No! provides a comprehensive lens to examine the impact of sexual violence on Black women and girls - calling to task in particular the behaviors and attitudes of Black men in reinforcing a pervasive cultural assault. This film includes insightful analysis from leading Black feminists, interviews with national violence prevention leaders and testimonials from sexual assault survivors who defy victimization. California Newsreel., 2006, 94 min.

List of 2007 program committee members

See the full program here

From the Executive Director

Dear Colleague,

I am delighted to welcome you to the National Women's Studies Association 28th annual meeting.

Our conference theme, "Past Debates, Present Possibilities, Future Feminisms: A Women's and Gender Studies Conference Celebrating 30 Years of NWSA" offers an expansive platform for examining current scholarship, pedagogy, and activism underway in the field.

The conference will include some new features this year. A Tribute Panel celebrates important texts that have set new directions for the field, and we are pleased to inaugurate this session with a tribute to This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. Our Engaging Scholarship speakers will discuss how their work articulates, engages with, and theorizes key issues in the field of women's and gender studies and in today's world. Session participants will then explore the various themes and issues raised by the remarks in more detail.

The conference program will also include a series of scheduled networking events for various constituencies within NWSA; check the program book to find scheduled meetings of interest. Finally, the exhibit area will include performances and poster session presentations. These features are all intended to create an intellectually engaging conference experience for attendees, offering many opportunities for participants to expand their professional networks and push their thinking in new directions.

When the conference concludes I will look forward to hearing your thoughts on these offerings, and your ideas for future conferences. I am also eager to share in conversations that will emerge here about the state of our field. In today's political climate, feminist voices, ideas, and action offer needed correctives, re-framing public debates that frequently turn on gender myths and assumptions.

Once again, welcome to St. Charles, and join us in celebrating 30 years of NWSA!

Best wishes,

Allison Kimmich
Executive Director

From the NWSA President

Dear Colleague:

Welcome to the 30th anniversary conference of the National Women's Studies Association! This year's conference, with the theme of "Past Debates, Present Possibilities, Future Feminisms: A Women's and Gender Studies Conference Celebrating 30 Years of NWSA," promises to be even larger and more varied than in previous years. We are pleased to welcome Sandra Cisneros as our featured conference speaker. Other innovations this year are the 30th anniversary student pre-conference, organized by and for students; an all-conference tribute to This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color; individual mentoring sessions for those seeking career advice; the largest ever number of participants in the Women of Color Leadership Project, which now includes the Women's Centers Committee; and a wide range of activities for those interested in girls' studies. Please join me in thanking the National Conference Committee, the LocalOrganizing Committee, the proposal reviewers, and the national office staff for all their hard work to make this possible.

You are joining us at a transformative time in the history of this organization. Not only is this our 30th conference, but it comes at the end of a very exciting year, made possible by generous financial support from the Ford Foundation. Now, almost one year into the three-year grant and with some additional Ford funding, we have held retreats for the Women of Color Leadership Project and Women of Color Caucus. The strategic planning process included a meeting with the Governing Council in January and committee meetings both in Washington, D.C., and via teleconference, plus much work on the part of our executive director, Allison Kimmich. We presented the plan to the Governing Council at this year's meeting and will be working in the months ahead to implement it. At the end, we hope to have an even more stable organization and an organization ready to meet the challenges of the years ahead.

To do this, we will need all your assistance. If you are new to NWSA or to our conference, please make yourself known to us. If this is not your first meeting, please make an extra effort to reach out to new members and make them feel welcome. Take the time to learn about our many task forces, interest groups, and caucuses and to attend the regional meetings to see how you can become more involved in NWSA. Come to the Membership Assembly meeting on Friday evening and make sure the members of the Delegate Assembly hear your views.

We must grow NWSA to continue to be successful and to be financially stable when the Ford Foundation funding ends. Please invite your colleagues and friends to join us and please support us as your resources permit. At this conference, we have a very special raffle underway as a fund-raiser and also want to thank those NWSA life members, past presidents, Governing Council members, and others who have made financial contributions to mark this milestone anniversary.

Most importantly, we hope you will enjoy this conference. Meet new friends, attend invigorating sessions, and partake of the numerous recreation opportunities here at Pheasant Run and the entertainment and traditional dance that are part of the conference. Then, when you join us again next year in Cincinnati, please bring your friends with you. We're glad to see you here and want to see you back for many years to come.


Barb Howe
NWSA President, 2006-2008

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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.