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The Little Berks: Day 1

April 25, 2009, 12:53 pm

This year The Berkshire Conference of Women Historians, the group that plans the triennial Berkshire Conference, is not meeting in its normal bucolic setting, but in the Big City — Philadelphia, to be precise, home to the University of Pennsylvania and our fabulous new President, Kathleen Brown.

We are all shacked up in the Inn at Penn, along with a zillion or so track and field athletes from all over the world who are here to compete at the Penn Relays. This means that somehow — and no one is quite clear how — we middle-aged historians got bumped to rooms with one King bed, as opposed to the two double bed rooms we had signed up for. This caused some fuss, resulting in free breakfast coupons for the entire group, which my roommate and I plan to go spend. “All you can eat!” said one of us in excitement yesterday.

But of course, the real business of this organization is business. Last night, after drinks and dinner at the McNeill Center, we all settled down to a terrific panel on Women and the Economy with Tracey Deutsch (Minnesota), Felicia Kornbluh (Vermont) and Lisa Levenstein (UNC-Greensboro), in which questions of how we are positioned as feminist academics — expertise, potential for activism, and pedagogy — in relation to the current crisis was debated. Kornbluh also introduced a number of us in the room to WEAVE (Women’s Equality Adds Value to the Economy), a coalition of feminists and activists. WEAVE describes itself in the following way:

We are a community of feminist scholars and writers with expertise in history, economics, sociology, anthropology, women’s and gender studies, and social work. We also have many years of experience in journalism and advocacy, writing on issues of women, gender, and public policy. Building upon our collective base of knowledge, we have been in discussions since late 2008 on the implications of the arrival of the Obama administration for women. We have been particularly engaged in the emerging details of the administration’s plans for economic recovery, considered from the perspectives of women, and especially of working-class and poor women.

We want now, in the aftermath of congressional passage of the stimulus package and the administration’s formulaton of its first budget, to reflect on the principles that we believe should inform any approach to economic policy that genuinely seeks to enhance the wellbeing of women in the United States.

Cool, eh? I’m now on the mailing list, and if you want to be too, get in touch with Kornbluh.

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