Silver City, N.M. – The Women’s Voices: Past and Present event was held at the Western New Mexico University Miller Library this past Thursday evening. Here, women’s literature, poetry, and speech were acknowledged, demonstrating the struggles and success they’ve had in recent and past years.
The event began with Mary Leen, an English professor at WNMU, who presented the work of Joy Harjo. The two poems, “Death is a Women” and “Songline of Dawn,” have mystical themes which focus on both the natural and the transcendental world. The reason why her writing is not just based on nature is because it is “just physical”; she wanted her work to have a more spiritual feel. Harjo was born in 1951 in Tulsa, Oklahoma and is part Native American, which influences and impacts her writing.
Roberta Brown, who teaches English Composition, followed next. She started her speech off with a news story that revolved around a male professional athlete who visited an elementary school, saying that girls should be silent. Brown states in her speech, “It is indeed the concept of voice that connects us as women, with those that have preceded and those that will succeed us.” Brown later goes on to share the works of a few WNMU women students who are thankful for the college as it lets them express their own feelings about the world and their role within it. A couple quotes are “[This] college has made me confident in writing in groups”, “[This] college has allowed me to be open”, and “No one will judge me here.” “Western Women Break the Silence” was the name of Brown’s speech.
Following next was Jodi Edens-Crocker, Director of University Foundation who pointed out the struggles of motherhood. Her speech was called “What’s a Mother to Do? Navigating Role-Modeling for Today’s Daughter”. With the experience of having a daughter, Edens-Crocker says that it is a challenge because they must think for themselves and learn to make the right choices. Girls are now under more pressure than ever since there is an “expectation to do more, but with more options.” Edens-Crocker ended her speech by saying, “I struggle with my own expectation…I am trying to be enough.”
The Alternating Group of Order 4 presented their “Women in Mathematics, A Celebratory Poem” speech. The group consisted of Thomas Grushca, Shanon Musehlhausen, Tanya Rivers, and Mary Camarena-Hittle; all are educated in mathematics. The theme of the play focused on a mathematician named Maryam Mirzakhani who won the Fields Medal in 2014. The reason why this is important is because she was the first women to earn the medal. It is “an international prize, awarded for outstanding discoveries in mathematics. Some call it the Nobel Prize for mathematics…”
Next was Kate Oubre, English Professor at WNMU, who displayed the works of four Tucson, Arizona natives: Janice Emily Bowers, Barbara Kingsolver, Ann Woodin, and Ofelia Zepeda. All are authors of books and they can be described as “self-conscience pioneering”. Dr. Heller, coordinator of the event, said that they “capture everybody who we’ve been talking about. It’s a rubric for all of these people.”
Lydia Huerta, Assistant Professor of Culture Studies and Spanish, spoke next and began with a poem called “[Explicit] Flowers.” The poem is about how woman are like flowers; however, the author goes on to say she wants to be an “earthquake” and a “tornado”. It ends by saying, “I want to blossom into what the world fears the most…A disaster disguised beauty.” Dr. Huerta finishes with a poem called “Home” by Warsan Shire which is about women surviving.
The last speaker was Emma Bailey, Professor of Sociology, and she read three poems by lesbian authors. After reading Audre Lorde’s “Recreation”, Bailey moved onto “Some like Indian Endure” by Puala Gunn Allen. The poem compares lesbians to Indians; “Like Indians, dykes have fewer and fewer some places else to go”. The final reading was from a song by Alix Olson called “Gender Game” as one quote goes, “We are making revolution a gender evolution.”
Throughout history, women have been through adversity while at the same time earning prosperity. However, despite the success, today’s world presents new challenges for women and uniting is a must in order to thrive. To be heard, literature, poetry, and speech is one action that assists women in times like these.