Report of Berks Conference by NCIS-supported presenters

The 17th Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, Genders, and Sexualities  (Hofstra University,NY, June 1-4, 2017) was attended by Dr Yvonne Groseil and Dr Susan Breitzer, both of whom were supported by NCIS grants. The theme was “Difficult Conversations: Thinking and talking about Women, Genders, & Sexualities Inside and Outside the Academy,”  and over the three-year preparation period no one could have anticipated the current attacks on the rights of women and the expression of gender identification as well as efforts to deny the downgrade the academic community and especially to deny the relevance of historical study. With an attendance of almost 1500 participants and a schedule of 250 concurrent panels, plus plenaries and social events, the Conference reaffirmed the existence and the strength of the community of scholars in the United States and abroad. 

Dr Susan Breitzer's paper on the gendered history of NCIS was accepted, but at the eleventh hour her session was transformed into a roundtable on alternative careers in history. After some consultation, she received approval from the NCIS board to talk about independent scholarship and its relationship to careers in history outside of academia, with the intention to promote NCIS. Although promoting alternative careers was somewhat awkward, as Dr. Breitzer had just recently begun a new teaching job, the promotion of NCIS and discussion of the challenges of scholarship outside of the tenure track resonated with the panel and the audience, and she gave away every copy of the brochure she had been provided. Dr. Breitzer would like to thank the NCIS Board for working with her around circumstances beyond her control.      

Dr Yvonne Groseil’s paper, “Living History: The National Society of Colonial Dames in New York State” examined the work of this women’s heritage society in preserving the Van Cortlandt Home in The Bronx as a Historic Home.  New York Society, founded in 1893, was the first organization to establish a private-public preservation effort when they obtained permission in 1896 from New York State to administer the Van Cortlandt Home in cooperation with the City of New York. This was only the fourth historic home established in the United States and it set an example for the efforts to save historical sites. Dr. Groseil’s paper described the ongoing interest of the Dames in maintaining the Home, from the early days in which members loaned antiques and period furnishings from their own family possessions to their current cooperation with the Director in maintaining  the Museum, which has been recognized as a National Historic Landmark.  

NCIS has been glad to support this scholarship, and would like to thank Dr Breitzer (a former Board member) and Dr Groseil (current Board member and Membership Officer) for their sterling work in successfully promoting NCIS at this important conference.

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