NMU celebrates women

Heather McDaniel

Women have been ignored so long that they’ve fought to have their own month in history. For the past 20 years, NMU has celebrated Women’s History Month to highlight women’s significant contributions and accomplishments, said Shirley Brozzo, associate director of the Multicultural Education and Resource Center.

Women’s History Month was an unknown topic in the K-12 curriculum or in general public consciousness in the 1970s, according to the National Women’s History Project. re-Libby Rowe

The Education Task Force of the Sonoma County, Calif. Commission on the Status of Women addressed the situation. A 1978 celebration of Women’s History Week was initiated. Congress declared March as Women’s History Month in 1987.

The Elect Her conference kicked off the celebration of Women’s History Month Saturday, March 14. The workshop encouraged college women to run for student government.

Artist Libby Rowe’s “Pink” presentation, the second event scheduled, continued the celebration Monday, March 16. Rowe started off her presentation by stating that her work is called “Pink” because the whole body of work is about being female. The presentation was a compilation of different media and ideas.

Rowe’s artwork ranges from anatomy lessons to the discussion of what it is to be a woman. One of the first pieces she showed in her presentation was a female masturbation collage of 26 11- inch x 14-inch images that referenced the American Sign Language alphabet.

When creating this piece she thought of what was most daunting to her, something that was interesting but taboo.

It only took 26 women to answer yes to if they masturbate. She decided to stick with a grid of 26, which is the number of letters in the alphabet.

“The point of the piece was to get people to think about their own taboos and understanding of femininity,” Rowe said. “Most of my work are direct references to male-female relationships.”

Another piece she showed was an adolescent crush artwork. Pink globs of chewed bubble gum were stuck at the ends of strands of hair that dangled from the ceiling. In the background, there was pink text that read, “I must have a crush on you.” You would have to crawl under the gum to read the text.

Rowe said the piece was inspired by a thought from childhood. On the playground, you’d see that boy you were crushing on. You’d push him down. If he liked you, he’d push you down and stick gum in your hair.

“It was like adolescence crush and love that makes you do detriment things instead of being lovey,” Rowe said.

Rowe then showed an interactive piece, which allowed people to participate in the artwork. One of these works involved cutting pink and red Valentine hearts. They contained messages like “I love you very much” and “I won’t let you leave me.” After being balled up and put in water glue, they are thrown at the wall.  As they form a heart shape, they splatter, drip and ooze all the love down the wall. Rowe wants people to see the messages and know she took the time to write them. Then they get demolished. This references a relationship.

“In a relationship you do things to nurture it but actually destroy it,” Rowe said. “It’s an interesting way to think about how you relate to people around you.”

Overall, Rowe’s presentation conveyed what it is to be a woman physically, socially and psychologically.

In the 1960s, women’s history emerged as a subfield, history professor Rebecca Mead said. During this time, different racial and ethnic groups and working class groups fought for political rights. They also challenged assumptions that they weren’t important politically, socially or economically. Other groups claimed they never contributed anything to society. As history was examined, many people who challenged difficult or dangerous conditions and situations in the past were uncovered and became role models. Activists “placed themselves in the broad historical context as part of continuing struggles for justice and respect,” Mead said.

Women’s History Month is a recognition of the achievements of women, Mead said. The university continues to teach and dedicate the month of March to show how much has changed through the determined human action, both in defining issues and seeking solutions.

However, Mead emphasized that the work for equality wasn’t over yet.

“There is still more work for us to do in the present and in the future,” Mead said.

NMU students can continue celebrating Women’s History Month by attending any of the remaining three events.

At 5 p.m. Monday, March 23 in Room 1322 of Jamrich Hall, NMU faculty members will discuss their recent experiences of juggling graduate school and life. The organization Women, Leadership Inquiry, Action hopes to empower women to successfully pursue advanced degrees.

From 6 to 8 p.m. on Monday, March 30 in the Whitman Hall Commons, there will be a storytelling session of Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants.” At 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 31 in Room 1100 of Jamrich Hall, Kimmerer will present “The Honorable Harvest Indigenous Knowledge and Conservation,” blending indigenous knowledge, sustainability and conservation stories in the lecture.

Brozzo said the month celebrates women for their important role in history, the present and the future.

“Students, faculty, staff and community members can learn just how much women have contributed to society,” Brozzo said. “Women’s History Month reminds people that we are here, we matter and we are important.”