Susan B. Anthony Center for Women’s Leadership: Conversation–Mothers as Leaders: Challenges and Contradictions

susan_b_anthony_1Last Thursday and Friday, I was in Rochester, New York at the Susan B. Anthony Center at University of Rochester.  I had been invited to participate in a Conversation with Judith S. Warner, author of Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety as well as a column in the New York Times, Domestic Disturbances and Elrena Evans, co author of Mama PHD.

Judith gave a wonderful, inspiring keynote address about the continued difficulty of being a mother with all of its attendant responsibilities and continuing to do the work one needs to do.  The Conversation afterward was amazing!  Elrena spoke about the Academic world and the tenure system’s lack of acknowledgement that half of their potential Professors are in their prime childbearing years and how this impacts women in the Educational field.  Across the board, from Education to Writing, to Film, the percentage of women who “make it” hovers around 20.  How maddening this low figure is, after hundred and forty plus years of agitation for “womens’ rights.”  What is the problem?  Women  vote, earn PhDs, get top jobs…these ARE big changes.  What has not changed is that someone still has to have and raise children–a vitally important yet unpaid job that rests with the mothers.

So, what do we do about this?  The work world says to women, “come on in, do your thing, we know you have talent and capability.  Children?  Well, you better find someone else to look after them.”  The world still operates on the assumption that SOMEONE is home taking care of those children.

Solutions?  I have often dreamed about what would happen if women around the world, stopped their household and child care work for a few days.  If they went on strike….I think this would be the only way that this unpaid labor would begin to be taken seriously.

Nora Bredes, Head of the Susan B. Anthony Center was a marvelous Host.  Not only did we participate in this conversation, but we visited Susan B. Anthony’s house in Rochester.  It was inspiring to see this Giant in the Women’s movement’s home.  What I loved was that her work took place in the center of her family life.  She initially did her writing in a spare bedroom of the home she shared with her sister, then moved up to the attic.

Thanks for the opportunity to meet with other inspiring women, thanks to the very fine audience and thanks to Nora and to the Susan B. Anthony Center for holding this Event.

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2 Responses to “Susan B. Anthony Center for Women’s Leadership: Conversation–Mothers as Leaders: Challenges and Contradictions”

  1. Hi Everyone!

    I have made the proposal to wdstsi, that we have a central meeting place online because this film and its potential to create community is so immediate. Don’t you feel that?
    Well, my life won’t wait anymore for consensus to find its rhythm!
    So, I have decided that I am just going to put myself out here, because I am in need of fairly intimate feedback now. So, here we go:

    I am applying to grad school to pursue my MFA. Acting on this choice comes at a time in my life that is late after letting go of making art work, when as a full-time, single mom for twenty-one years, the high school years for my child on the heels of earning my BA, were too demanding to continue to just keep doing everything all the time on my own.
    The result is, all that life has required of me to finally be at this moment has left me in need of the academy as sanctuary.
    My initial goals in an MFA program are to continue exploring the handling of my materials to the extent that I refine what I have always been doing as a creator, while simultaneously speaking to series work that has been waiting to be born for a long time. Series work that raises considerations that only seem to be more relevant BECAUSE I, like perhaps many other creative women (for the sake of this inquiry), am/are NOT producing their/my OWN work_ as I know I am to use my life to produce!

    My question is this: if the academy that you have applied to, was holding up your application because your portfolio work is mostly dated by five years and slightly more than the time parameters allowed for application, and your whole drive to be in a grad program is to build a financed sanctuary needed around your life, in order to get yourself into a setting that will allow you to focus again, thus getting life back on track with your soul’s work, to produce that work and then go from there. After the demanding undergrad years had failed you as a student in art, (I had to opt for cultural research), how would you go forward?
    How would you go forward if in the meantime, your every day is filled with office occupation classes and job search and the need to rest your body and mind, by making room for nourishing meals at the end of each day in order to keep going? (I am still way too socially solo in life!)
    How would you go forward with a hold up in the application process, if you feel the work does best represent your visual voice right now?

    I know this sounds messy and maybe even overwhelming; it FEELS that way too!

    Feedback everyone (who is willing)?!

  2. Hi!. Thanks for the info. I’ve been digging around looking some info up for shool, but i think i’m getting lost!. Google lead me here – good for you i guess! Keep up the great information. I will be coming back in a couple of days to see if there is any more info.

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