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Richards Center Scholars Present Research at Berkshire Conference

Richards Center Scholars Present Research at Berkshire Conference

Amira Rose Davis, one of the Richards Center scholars who presented research at the Berkshire Conference

Five Richards Center-affiliated scholars presented their scholarship at the Seventeenth Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, Genders, and Sexualities, which was held on the campus of Hofstra University June 1-4. The triennial conference is the largest academic gathering of its kind in the world and the premier conference for women’s history and gender history. Penn State Assistant Professor of History and African American Studies Amira Rose Davis, who was the Richards Center's 2016-17 postdoctoral fellow, took part in a panel on the topic of Black Women and Global Capitalism in the Post War Era. Dr. Davis presented the paper, “From Goodwill Girls to Flo Jo Barbie: Global Games and the Commodification of Black Women’s Athletic Bodies,” which was drawn from her dissertation research on twentieth century black women athletes’ uncompensated labor. Past Richards Center postdoctoral fellows Sasha Turner (2013-14) and Cynthia Greenlee (2014-15) also presented at the conference.

Joining Davis, Greenlee, and Turner at the conference were PhD candidate Emily Seitz and Penn State graduate Rachel Moran (PhD, ’13), now an Assistant Professor of History at the University of North Texas. Seitz organized the panel on which they both appeared, which focused on the history of attempts to extend definitions of legal personhood to the fetus. Seitz’s paper, “What About the Mother?: Managing Infant and Maternal Mortality in Early 20th-Century Philadelphia,” examined conflicts over this issue at the turn of the twentieth century, while Dr. Moran’s paper, “The Uses of Personhood: Negotiating Social Welfare and Definitions of Dependence,” explored legal fights over fetal personhood immediately prior to, and following, the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.

The Berkshire Conference was founded in 1930 as a venue where women historians could meet, share research, and further their professional development. The conference performed an important role at a time when women were excluded from many informal gatherings of academic historians. The conference took its name from the site of its annual meetings in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, in the Berkshire Mountains. As the conference grew in popularity, in 1973 organizers inaugurated the "Big Berks" conference, first held biennially and subsequently triennially, to complement the smaller annual Berks gathering. The Berks conferences are the primary means by which the organization realizes its official vision of "fostering friendship, and the exchange of ideas, among a global network of feminist historians."