Women’s history at Washburn

An event was held Wednesday, March 25, in Mabee Library, in honor of National Women’s History Month. The event lasted from 1:30-3:30p.m. and highlighted women’s history in Kansas and on Washburn’s campus as well as the work women continue to do today.

Anne Hawkins, a local historian and historical performer, gave the first presentation of the event and discussed women’s influence on early Kansas history from 1840s-1880s, including their work to settle Kansas Territory and establish it as a free state.

Then Theresa Young, of University Archives, and Kerry Wynn, a professor of history at Washburn, shared a slideshow of photos from University Archives that depicted women throughout Washburn’s history. The slideshow included photos of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) science courses and all other divisions of study, as faculty and staff, and contributing to the life and community of campus through student organizations. Young and Wynn also mentioned household names such as Pamela Hollie and Frances Storrs Johnston who went on to make great strides in their respective fields. Hollie, who graduated with her bachelor of arts in 1970, began her career as a financial reporter for the Wall Street Journal, then as a foreign correspondent in Asia for The New York Times, and later as a professor at Columbia University and Ohio State University. Frances Storrs Johnston, who graduated with her bachelor of science in 1892, became a physician in Scotland and is credited for writing the words to Washburn’s Alma Mater.

The event then recognized women’s continued influence in the world and the work there still is to do.

Danae Nelson, senior social work major; Danica De La Torre, sophomore political science and Spanish major and Megan Smith, junior political science major, spoke about their recent trip to the United Nations in New York with Sharon Sullivan to observe the United Nations 59th Commission on the Status of Women. They also mentioned that they are in the beginning stages of planning a new organization on campus to forum discussion of reproductive rights.

“I started to focus on reproductive rights and justice as well and I spoke to a lot of women concerning that and I kind of wanted to start a forum here at Washburn and then overall get people involved in it as well. So us three have started a forum basically to address and influence legislation involving reproductive rights because Kansas has some of the harshest legislation against women’s bodies,” De La Torre said.

Mary Akerstrom, of the Kansas National Organization for Women, spoke of opportunities for people to get involved such as panels of discussion and events in the area.

“All women’s issues are human issues,” Akerstrom said.

In honor of National Women’s History Month, women across Washburn’s campus are encouraged to share selfies of themselves doing campus life with the hashtag #wuwomen150.

Because as Akerstrom said, “One of the things that makes Kansas a free state is that women were pioneers here…and we’re not finished.”