Southeast Celebrates March as Women’s History Month



Feb. 16 , 2011 – To honor and celebrate the accomplishments of women throughout the ages, Southeast Missouri State University will host several events and presentations through March, Women’s History Month, and the beginning of April.

The series of events, “Many Places, Many Voices:  Women Across the Globe,” was planned by the Women’s History Month Committee from the Southeast Department of History and kicks off at noon on March 2 with an Athenaeum Series presentation in Kent Library.  Dr. Kathryne Beebe will present a multimedia concert, “An Imagined Pilgrimage,” which recreates the 15th-century Dominican Friar Felix Fabri’s two pilgrimages to Jerusalem.  Nuns of Medingen and Medlingen, confined to their convents, used his written accounts, “Sionpilger,” with added prayers and hymns to create their own virtual pilgrimage through their imaginations in 1492 and 1495.  In 2009, Beebe, along with Jonathan Williams, an award-winning conductor and founder of the all-female vocal ensemble, Consort Iridiana, combined images, selections of Fabri’s text, and contemporary medieval music mentioned in the Sionpilger to create a visual journey similar to that of the nuns for a modern audience.

Beebe, assistant professor of history at Southeast, began working at the University in August after being the VH Galbraith Teaching and Research Fellow at St. Hilda’s College, University of Oxford.  Having studied at Pembroke College, Oxford, and being a Junior Research Fellow in history at Balliol College, Oxford, Beebe’s research interests include medieval pilgrimage, the history of the book, women’s history and the cultural history of spirituality.  Her doctoral research centered on the readership and reception of the four Holy Land pilgrimage narratives written by Fabri.

The next event will be a film screening of “Lemon Tree” at 7 p.m. on March 10 in Room 102 of Carnahan Hall.  “Lemon Tree” was released in 2008 in Israel and follows the life of Salma Zidane, a Palestinian widow, who supports herself by farming her family’s grove of lemon trees in the West Bank’s occupied territory.  When the Israeli defense minister and his wife move next door, the Israeli Secret Service orders the trees to be uprooted for security purposes.  Zidane must now fight to preserve her livelihood and her property. 

Southeast professor Roshni Rustomji-Kerns will discuss another notable woman in history in her Athenaeum Series Presentation at noon on March 23 in Kent Library.  Her presentation, “Mirrha-Catarina de San Juan, 1612-1688:  Slave Visionary-La China Poblana,” explores the origins and narratives surrounding Mirrha-Catarina de San Juan, one of the most important visionaries of 17th century New Spain.  Mirrha-Catarina de San Juan was born in India and later kidnapped by the Portuguese and brought to New Spain as a slave.  There she was baptized as Catarina de San Juan in Cochin.  She is the possible origin of the China Poblanas of Puebla, the traditional dress of women in the Mexican Republic.

The following day, March 24, Rustomji-Kerns will examine the narratives and images of five Asian women, as connected through time and space, in her work, “Existing at the Center.”  Her presentation will take place at 6:30 p.m. in the Program Lounge of the University Center and will include examples of collaborative, interwoven narratives for remembering women’s lives within and beyond historical and geographical borders as they work towards changing rigid hierarchical structures in their lives and societies.

Rustomji-Kerns, born in Mumbai, India, has lived, studied and worked in India, Pakistan, Lebanon, the United States and Mexico.  She received a bachelor of arts degree in English literature from the American University of Beirut, Lebanon, a master of arts degree in English and American literature from Duke University and a doctoral degree in comparative literature from the University of California-Berkeley.  She has researched the areas of South Asian studies, women’s studies and Latin American studies, published numerous articles in scholarly journals, edited several scholarly and literary works, and published her own fiction works.

The series concludes with a screening of “Iron-Jawed Angels” at 7 p.m. April 6 in the Cape River Heritage Room.  The movie recounts the struggle of Alice Paul (Hilary Swank) and Lucy Burns (Frances O’Connor), two suffragists who fought for the passage of the 19th Amendment.  Paul and Burns broke from the mainstream women’s-rights movements and created a more radical wing, daring to push the boundaries of political protest to secure women’s voting rights in 1920.  The screening, sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Southeast Missouri, is free and open to the public.  Refreshments will also be served.