Where in the world is Historiann on this summer’s random public history tour? Well, here’s a clue on the left–some of us dwell in possibility, wherever we go. I had never visited before, and neither had my subset of the attendees of the Little Berks conference this year, at Mt. Holyoke College. The Big Berks–otherwise known as the Fifteenth Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, will be at the University of Massachusetts next June. (Check out that new website!) The program committee meets tomorrow–so keep your fingers crossed if you submitted a proposal last winter.
So many interesting people are here–the elusive Clio Bluestockingshowed up, and seated herself near me at dinner last night. (I’ve had a lot of people tell me they’re reading this blog–only compliments so far, but the conference is only half over!) After dinner last night, Mary Beth Norton and Judith Zinsser spoke about the history of the Berkshire Conference, and the “ladies” who founded it (including the tradition of trillium-spotting and bourbon-drinking. Unfortunately, threatening thunderstorms and hail had us looking for more indoor-oriented activities today.) Norton noted that the official name of the organization is the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians, not the Berkshire Conference of Women’s Historians, and she lamented that there are very few non-women’s historians who attend any more since the Big Berks conference on women’s history effectively “took over” the identity of the organization.
Is there value in an organization for women historians who are not-necessarily-women’s-historians, or is it perfectly fine that women’s history now dominates the organizational identity of both the Big and the Little Berks? (One audience member, Leisa Meyer of the College of William and Mary, spoke of how “embattled” women’s history has been for the past decade or so, ever since it stopped being the next latest thing, and spoke up on behalf of an organization that is explicitly tied to women’s history rather than to women historians.) I can see merit in both points of view. On the one hand, we’re a small organization, so who are we to turn away a potential member? On the other hand, the Big Berks has been a Big Success, so what’s wrong with a haven for women’s historians? I don’t see too many other organizations stepping up to either plate. In fact, I see none whatsoever, with the exception 0f the American Historical Association’s standing Committee on Women Historians.
What do you think?