An exciting VFA event — “Sharing Our Stories:  The Second Wave Feminist Movement” – – took place in Durham, North Carolina, on Friday, March 31.

Noted historian Dr. Nancy MacLean kicked off the day with a keynote speech introducing the wide range of women’s activism. MacLean is the William H. Chafe Professor of History, Public Policy and Women’s Studies at Duke University.

The remainder of the program for the day was an intergenerational conversation between Second Wave activists and young historians who are researching, writing and teaching about the women’s movement of the 1960s and ‘70s.

This unique format was suggested by young historians when VFA inquired as to how feminist activists could get their stories told. The scholars’ response was to create a format with an intergenerational dialogue in order to share these stories directly.

Second Wave activists and historians were grouped to interact in panels on common issues.  This produced a conversation that was both in the current moment and suggestive of a planning session from 40 years ago. The conversations provided an opportunity for Second Wave activists to interact with those who will be writing our history – and help to actually shape that history.

Participants on the three panels represented all regions of the country.

Panel one:  Grassroots Organizing

  • Feminist Activists:  Heather Booth, Kathy Bonk, Mandy Carter
  • Historians:  Melissa Estes Blair, Robin Morris, Jessica Wilkerson

Panel two:  Law and Government

  • Feminist activists:  Roxanne Conlin, Holly Knox, Mary Anne Sedey
  • Historians:  Amanda Hughett, Leandra Zarnow, Mary Ziegler

Panel three:  Employment Activism

  • Feminist Activists: Noreen Connell, Lois Herr, Anne Ladky, Kathy Patrick
    •   Historians:  Joey Fink, Nancy MacLean, Marcia Walker-McWilliams

That evening, VFA honored 47 Southern feminists for the first time at a VFA reception and awards dinner.

Durham was also the home of NOW founder Rev. Pauli Murray. The day after the VFA event, the Pauli Murray Family Home was named a National Historic Landmark with a celebration of its designation.

In 2008, VFA made the decision to store VFA’s archives at the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture at Duke University. The Center has grown to be the third largest repository for women’s archives in the U.S. VFA’s archives were on display at a reception sponsored by the Sallie Bingham Center the day before the VFA event.

Along with the chair of VFA’s events committee, Sheila Tobias, the Durham event was executed by VFA Board members Mary Jean Collins, Mary-Ann Lupa and Kathy Rand.

Following are some comments on the event from those who attended:

From speakers….

Warmest best wishes to all of you and thank you, so much, for including me in that energizing and inspiring gathering!

Thanks again for a wonderful event over the weekend. I had a fantastic time and heard important, wonderful stories all day on Saturday!

Thank you for organizing such a wonderful conference–and for preserving our history and passing it on. It was a wonderful event.

From participants…

Something magical happened at last week’s ‘Sharing our Stories’ event in Durham NC.  Combining the longtime feminist activists with the young historians somehow made the whole more than the sum of its parts, and those southern stories came as a revelation to this northern chauvinist.  Reconnecting with women I hadn’t seen in forty years plus making exciting new connections was a very special experience for me.

I was very impressed!  Also, proud of my medal. Thanks to all of you.

Thank you and all of those who put on such an excellent VFA conference on Friday. It was well worth the 450 miles we drove to be a part of it.

Thank you so much for your work on the VFA event. I was gobsmacked by the pioneers in the room.

From VFA Board members…

What a breakthrough to work with historians! We should have done it before and should do it again. Thanks so much. You sure do a great job.

Terrific job all around!  Thanks for all your hard work, planning and thinking.   

Three cheers for the Events Committee.

You did a superb job in organizing the Durham conference. Congratulations and deepest thanks from all of us!

I want to congratulate you again, and thank you again, for a truly wonderful conference experience. Every detail was clearly well thought out and perfect!!