On March 8, 1908, 15,000 working women garment workers marched on New York City’s Lower East Side to demand better hours and pay, an act that many point to as the birth of International Women’s Day (though that particular date was not set until 1913). In 1978, Sonoma County decided to expand International Women’s Day to Women’s History Week. The idea spread and, by 1987, Congress expanded the celebration to one month, declaring March Women’s History Month. This year the library and the YWCA are collaborating to celebrate Women’s History Month with the theme “Women Around the World." Each event highlights an integral part of woman-hood/life and worldwide perspectives.
I am particularly thrilled to host Shereen El Feki for the launch of her book “Sex and the Citadel" on Tuesday, March 12 at 7 pm.
I met Dr. El Feki after one of her TED talks. She was still working on the book, but I was so impressed by her person and her straightforward, even-tempered approach to her subject that I knew I wanted to keep an eye on her future works. As the former vice-chair of the UN’s Global Commission on HIV and the Law, it is not surprising that she can see that how we behave with each other in the most intimate ways has repercussions through all aspects of life. Her heritage, raised in Canada, half Egyptian/half Welsh, and now dividing her time between Cairo and London, allows her a very unique perspective on the issues that she discusses in her book.
Dr. El Feki will be joined by Regan Hofmann, an award-winning journalist, media expert and a published author who was formerly the editor-in-chief of POZ and poz.com. Hofmann is an internationally recognized authority on HIV/AIDS, and a consultant focused on strategy and communications designed to bring positive change for global health. Regan and Shereen will have an interview style discussion which will be followed by Q&A.
Another wonderful author, Ifa Bayeza, will be joining us on March 22. An award-winning playwright, producer and conceptual artist, Bayeza has received numerous honors for her latest work as a playwright. She will be speaking about the novel that she wrote with her sister Ntozake Shange, "Some Sing. Some Cry." "A rich mix of storytelling and African-American history, it follows seven generations of black women who, largely through music, are able to survive the violence of their national and personal histories even as they find themselves too battle-scarred to mother their children with real joy." (Glover, NYT)
That seven generations of African-American women used music as one way to carry them through is not surprising. Maya Angelou wrote in "I know why the Caged Bird Sings," "A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song," and at another time she wrote, "Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances." Music is an important part of life, human expression, and so, of course, womanhood. "Key of She" will bring music to our celebration of women on March 17 at 3pm. An a capella group that has opened for Ray Charles and played on the Jane Pauley show, listeners are certain to be entranced by their dulcet tones when they sing in our Community Room. (On a side note music is a great way to celebrate St. Patrick's day as well!)
Our lunchtime lectures, Fridays at noon, are all taking place at the YWCA's Bramwell House. This week we continue our series with Professor Win Win Kyi presenting about Nobel Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi. Recognized worldwide for her steadfastedness, one of her most famous quotes is, "It is not power that corrupts, but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it."
Standing up for what is right is often not easy. In two of the films that we are showing, "Veronica Guerin" (March 18, 7 pm) and "Oranges and Sunshine" (March 29, 7 pm), we learn the stories of women who did what they felt was right, when it needed to be done because no one else was willing to help. Veronica Guerin, an Irish journalist who researched and 'went after' the major Irish drug lords and crime syndicates, paid the ultimate price for her efforts. The national discussions after her murder were interesting. While many lauded her determination and hard work, an equal (or perhaps more vocal) number spoke against her saying that as a mother she had no right to put herself in such danger. Are there lines we should draw? Do mother's have more responsibilities to their children than fathers? Let's discuss these ideas after the film.
Our final lecture at Bramwell House on Friday, March 22 at noon will be led by Professor Elsie McKee of Princeton Theological Seminary. She has done work with Femme Berceau de l’Abondance (FEBA). Their mission is "to empower women and girls in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in their fight against violence and poverty through education, counseling, medical and support services, and economic independence."
The full schedule of Women’s History Month events can be found here, I hope you can join us.
1. Glover, Kaimia L., NYT Book Review 21 September 2012 http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/26/books/review/Glover-t.html?_r=0