By Lianna Pisani
Monday, Oct. 15, through Thursday, Oct. 18, will feature a concert, various lectures and a keynote speaker in celebration of Laurentian’s 18th annual Women’s History Week.
Dr. Linda Ambrose, a professor within the Department of History, hopes that Women’s History Week will “draw attention to the fact that history has really changed,” and eliminate the stereotypes about history as a discipline that encompasses merely memory-work and politics.
“There’s a whole world of social history, and the place of women in that history is what we are trying to emphasize. It’s also a celebration of sorts,” says Ambrose. The month of October is especially significant, as women were first declared persons in October, 1929, which is not very far in the past.
Organizers of the event choose a keynote speaker who is doing significant work in women’s history. This year, the keynote speaker is Dr. Karen Balcom, the author of The Traffic in Babies: Cross-Border Adoption and Baby-Selling between the United States and Canada 1930-1972, and a professor from McMaster University.
“I know Balcom from the conference circuit, and her recent book has been capturing a lot of attention in the Canadian historical community,” explains Ambrose.
The Department of History Chair, Dr. Leeson, is a graduate of McMaster, and also suggested requesting the attendance of Balcom. In order to promote the book and the event, Ambrose has been wearing a t-shirt around campus with Balcom’s book cover printed on the front, the words, “The Traffic in Babies,” clearly visible.
The trafficking of babies is a relevant topic suitable for discussion during the week. “It’s a really provocative topic, but it’s timely. Her book spans these decades from the 30s to the 70s, but unfortunately, trafficking children hasn’t stopped. Children are still being sold into the sex trade, and other forms of slavery,” says Ambrose.
It is difficult for many people to realize that the trafficking of children has occurred between the USA and Canada, especially when adoption is no longer really considered to be taboo.
“The whole topic of the history of adoption is really capturing the attention of social historians, and social attitudes toward adoption have changed a lot over the last few decades,” Ambrose says. “People didn’t talk about adoption. You didn’t reveal that you were adopted.”
Ambrose discusses the changing attitudes (by the 1970s) toward single-mothers. Bearing children outside of wedlock, and deciding to raise them without a husband became more acceptable, and women began to receive some government support.
Although not all of the lectures will be related to baby-selling, they are all in exploration of an aspect of women’s social history.
Event organizers asked professors this past summer to participate, and, subsequently, schedule their course lectures around Women’s History Week. “We have people from Sociology, Geography, History, Women’s Studies, Law and Justice, Classics– there are lots of different departments where professors are doing things that touch on this,” says Ambrose. Those professors have opened their classrooms to the public.
Women’s History Week is an expression of how the discipline has changed over time, according to Ambrose, and women’s history is a prime example of this evolution.