Women in Print 2012: A Review By Kara Wilson

Women In Print 2012

Nearly 60 people attended the ninth annual Women in Print, held at the Worcester Public Library on March 7, 2012. The event was organized by the Worcester Women’s History Project’s Events Committee, chaired by Dianne Bruce. Ms. Bruce began the evening by talking a bit about WWHP and announcing many events taking place later in the spring. She then introduced each of the three authors in alphabetical order, starting with Thea Aschkenase.

Thea Aschkenase is a holocaust survivor and a Worcester State University graduate who has recently written her memoirs. Part of Ms. Aschkenase’s story is told through her oral history, collected for the book Voices of Worcester Women, but we were able to hear more of her story at WOMEN IN PRINT. Ms. Aschkenase was born in Munich in the 1920s and had an ideal childhood, but life quickly changed with the Third Reich. After this point, she and her brother were shunned for being Jewish by the other children in their neighborhood. In 1938, her family were told they must leave Germany or be sent to a concentration camp. They tried to obtain visas to several countries and finally Italy let them in, “The only country in the world who cared.” However, the next year Italy formed an alliance with Germany and Ms. Aschkenase’s family were sent to an Italian concentration camp. They were treated well at this camp, but a few years later were sent to Auschwitz. Upon arriving at Auschwitz, Ms. Aschkenase was to be put into a separate group from the rest of her family but grabbed her mother at the last minute to stay with her. This action wound up saving her mother’s life, as she was one of only two family members from the older generation who survived the war. Her mother went on to live with Ms. Aschkenase, her husband, and children for 30 years.

More than 60 years after surviving Auschwitz, Ms. Aschkenase decided to go back to school. She went to Worcester State, where she met Dr. Maureen Power, Director of Urban Studies. Ms. Aschkenase became involved in volunteer work, including a project on food stamps and a program for public school students to receive universal free breakfast, regardless of income. Ms. Aschkenase received her Bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies in 2007, alongside seven other senior citizens. She closed her remarks by saying, “It took us a long time to achieve our goal, but we did it!”

The second author of the evening was Dr. Kristin B. Waters, Professor of Philosophy at Worcester State University. She began by thanking WWHP and saying, “I feel honored to be here; it’s like a family.” Dr. Waters recalled organizing a panel on Black Women’s Activism at WOMEN 2000. She also thanked the other two authors and her co-editor, Carol Conaway. Dr. Waters mentioned that she feels fortunate to have grown up during the second wave of feminism, “…to make sure previously obscure women wouldn’t fade into obscurity.” She also became interested in Black activism. Her first book was called Black Women’s Intellectual Traditions, for which she and Carol Conaway won an award in 2007.

She then showed a PowerPoint presentation about this book and the African American women included. Dr. Waters called these women “19th Century Theorists.” These women were writers and activists who, sadly, most people are not familiar with. One woman highlighted in the PowerPoint was Maria W. Stewart, who lived in Boston and was involved in the African Meeting House, which just reopened in January 2012 and is home to the Museum of African American History. Maria W. Stewart was the first woman to speak out in public in the United States. She delivered a speech at the African Meeting House in 1831 on the topic of the hypocrisy of White Americans and how the hypocrisy of White Christianity was being used to shore up a slave society. Dr. Waters also mentioned that she is currently working on a second book, which is about women abolitionists.

The third author to speak was Dr. Kristen P. Williams, Professor of Political Science at Clark University. She began by mentioning that International Relations is her specialty. Her first book, co-authored with Joyce Kaufman, is titled Women, the State, and War, which looks at case studies of war’s effects on women, marriage, and citizenship. However, after the first book, Dr. Williams still had questions about women’s activism during times of conflict, particularly since women historically haven’t had a voice in the political process. This led Dr. Williams to co-author a second book with Joyce Kaufman, entitled Women and War. This book was the subject of her talk at WOMEN IN PRINT. The central question of the book is: “What happened to the women during conflict?” According to Dr. Williams, women are always involved in war, regardless of whether they have a voice in the political process. They both support and oppose war in the role of mothers, by fighting in wars, by being involved in the peace process, and coming across the lines to help women living in a war zone. Women can be “both agents and victims of war.” Dr. Williams is currently working on a third book, entitled Challenging Gender Norms, due to be published in 2013. She also contributed to an edited volume:  Beyond Great Powers.

Following Dr. Williams’ talk, Dianne Bruce returned to the podium to invite the audience to ask questions. At this time, I was reflecting upon the fact that all three authors are committed through their writing to giving a voice to the marginalized: European Jewish people during the holocaust, African American women, and women during war. Ms. Bruce closed by thanking the three authors by giving each one a WWHP membership and a copy of Voices of Worcester Women. The evening finished with an opportunity to enjoy refreshments provided by the Events Committee and to talk with the three authors. As always, WOMEN IN PRINT proved to be enjoyable and informative.

Published Date: 
September 19, 2012