In the Coalition Archives: The Feminisms and Rhetorics Collection

I am pleased to share this post on behalf of Alexis Ramsey-Tobienne, Coalition Archivist and Historian.  -Wendy


If you, like me, are missing the community of our C’s Wednesday night SIGs or are pining for the quick hallway conversations between sessions at Fem/Rhet, I invite you into the CFSHRC archive where we have a collection devoted to the Fem/Rhet conferences. From the program for the inaugural conference at Oregon State University in August of 1997 to the student-created archive for the latest conference at James Madison, the Coalition archives has some great materials to browse. 

To access the archives, please visit the finding aid on the archives page of the Coalition website. The finding aid is regularly updated with processed materials from the collection. If you are interested in any materials, please contact Alexis Ramsey-Tobienne, the current archivist and historian for the Coalition to access the holdings (ramseyae@eckerd.edu). 

In addition to programs from nearly every year, the collection also features planning documents and FAQ for institutions considering hosting Feminisms and Rhetorics Conferences, conference hosting proposals, emails among liaison committee members, book exhibit information, and photographs and videos from various conferences. 

The collection takes us through the evolution of the conference and the Coalition, as we see in the variation of themes: 

  • From Boundaries to Borderland (Oregon State University, 1997) with plenaries including Jacqueline Jones Royster on “Borderlands and Common Spaces: Care and Maintenance in our Neutral Zone” and Nancy Tuana “Fleshing Rhetoric: Speaking Bodies/ Reconfiguring Sex/Gender.” 
  • Cross-Disciplinary Sites of Feminist Discourse (Univeristy of Minnesota, Minneapolis, 1999) with exhibits from a variety of feminist art collectives, bookstores, and non profits  in Minneapolis.  The conference featured Voices of Women Writers, a series of readings by novelists and non-fiction writers Judith Katz, Barrie Jean Borrich, Sandra Benitez, Aurora Levins Morales, and the Tight Spaces Collective. 
  • Millikin University, 2001.There was no stated theme for this conference. Featured Keynote speakers at this conference included Krista Ratcliffe “Silence and Listening: Rhetorical Arts for “Resisting Disciplines,” Elizabeth Birmingham “Marion Mahony and Milliken Place: Gender, Erasure, and Architectural Attribution,” Lisa Ede and Andrea Lunsford “Feminism(s) and the Politics of Style” (read by Nancy DeJoy), Elizabeth Flynn “What’s in a Name?: Reconfiguring Feminist Traditions,” Joyce Irene Middleton “The Rhetorical World of Black Women Filmmakers: Camille Billops, Julie Dash, and Cheryl Dunye,” Nan Johnson “A Feminist Writes the History of Rhetoric: What does THAT Mean,” and Susan Applegate Krouse “Transforming Images: American Indian Women’s Narratives in Academia” and Jacqueline Jones Royster and Ann Marie Mann Simpkins “Marking Trails: Race, Gender, and Culture in the History of Rhetoric.” 
  • Intersections: Critical Locations of Feminist Rhetorical Practice (Ohio State University, 2003), where the introductory note highlighted participants from “46 states and 10 nations.” Featured panels included Feminist Historiography with Patricia Bizzell, Cheryl Glenn, Laura Gurak, Winifred Bryan Horner, Jan Swearingen, Kathleen Welch; “Feminist Pedagogy” with Nancy DeJoy, Lisa Ede, Hildy Miller, and Krista Ratcliffe; “Clearing the Clouds, Learning to Speak, and I Got Thunder” with Jacqueline Jones Royster, Shirley Wilson Logan, and Joyce Irene Middleton; and plenary addresses from Andrea Lunsford “All Available Means of Persuasion for Feminists,” Marcia Farr “Speech Play and Verbal Art: New Perspectives on Feminist Rhetorics” and Susan Jarrett “A Sustaining Meloncholy: Feminist Theories and Public Rhetorics.” 
  • Affirming Diversity (Michigan Tech, 2005) with Keynotes including Min-Zahn Lu “Class Matters: Gender, Critical Literacy, and the Global Restructuring of Capitalist;” Donna Harraway “We Have Never Been Human: Companion Species in Naturecultures;” Jacqueline Jones Royster “Gender, Race, and Nation;” Andrea Lunsford “Women Against War;” and Helena Maria Viramontes reading from selected works. 
  • Civic Discourse (University of Arkansas–Little Rock, 2007) where the proposal called for presentations beyond the read-aloud academic essays to more interactive and alternative formats and included a note for graduate students on how to approach the conference. Featured panels included those from outside of academia:  “The Women of Central High” and another “When Worlds Collide: Feminist Art vs. Images of Empire;” Wendy Kline “Bodies of Evidence: Activists, Patients, and the FDA Regulation of Depo Provera; Dr. M. Joycelyn Elders, former US Surgeon General, and a panel on Civil Rights/Civic Discourse. Keynotes included:  Malea Powell “Making NDN Culture: American Indian Women Civic Materialities;” a welcome address from Krista Ratcliffe “Unwilling to Listen: How do you Engage in Civic Dialogue When Each Side Isn’t Civil?” a moderated panel with each of the past conference chairs; Carol Mattingly “A Habit of Civic Engagement: Nineteenth-Century Nuns Dispelling Prejudice; Jessica Rayman “Copyright, Feminism, and Digital Discourse; Hui Wu “Whose Feminism is It? The Rhetoric of Post-Mao Chinese Women Writers;  Shirley Wilson Logan “Daisy Bates and Ida Wells: Talking Across Gender.” Another highlight was a reception and tour at the Clinton Presidential Archives. 
  • Enabling Complexities: Community/Writing/Rhetoric (Michigan State University, 2009). Featured speakers included Gwendolyn D. Pough “On Prince Charming and the Strong Black Woman: Race, Representation, Rhetoric and Romance;” Ceclia Rodriquez Milenas “My English is Not Very Good Looking–Accents and Identities;” Rochelle L. Harris “From Zombies to Writing Groups and Motorcycle Rallies to Memoir: My Search for the Fifth Trope of Rhetoric;” Resa Crane Bistro “Diagnosing Intergenerational Post Traumatic Disorder: Or, a Fat Old Indian Woman Fistfights the American Psychiatric Association in East Lansing;” Terese Guinsatao Monberg “Pinay Peminists: Listening for New Locations and Re/visions of Rhetorical Theory;” and Dora Ramirez-Dhoore “Racial and Scientific Rhetoric in Eco-Political Matters: Third World Women Workers in Helena Maria Viramontes Under the Feet of Jesus and Alicia Gaspar de Alba’s Desert Blood.” This conference also opened with a community event “A Legacy of Conflict and Possibility: an Examination of Racism Between Women of Color and White Women” hosted by M. Carmen Lane from the Lane-Leota Group. 
  • Feminist Challenges or Feminist Rhetorics?: Locations, Scholarship, and Discourse (Minnesota State Mankato, 2011). Keynote speakers included Gayle Salamon, AlisonPiepmeier, as well as a number of keynote roundtables from Kate Ronald, Eileen Schell and Rebecca Dingo who discussed who feminist methodologies and practices. Mumbi Mwangi and Kyoko Kishimoto discussed Women of Color Feminisms, and Sondra Perl and Betsey Sargent revisited the intersections between felt sense, the body and feminism in pedagogy. A lunch time keynote roundtable included Jenn Melby, owner of Mankato’s Coffee Hag, and a cohort of local feminist and LGBTQI business owners. 
  • Networks and Connections: Feminisms, Rhetoric, and Local/Global Communities (Stanford University, 2013). The conference program is not currently in the archives, but it is available here. 
  • Women’s Ways of Making (Arizona State University, 2015). Currently the archive does not have the conference program in its processed holdings, but it is available here. This folder holds a variety of materials related to securing publisher tables. 
  • Rhetorics, Rights, (R)evolutions (Dayton University, 2017). Currently the archive does not have the conference program in its processed holdings, but the program is available here. 
  • Redefining Feminist Activism (James Madison University, 2019). Currently the archive does not have the conference program in its processed holdings, but the program is available here.

The programs and accompanying materials from the collection also highlight the importance of community engagement to the conference–with exhibits featuring local non-profits (such as at University of Minnesota–Minneapolis) or with community leaders offering plenaries (such as at University of Dayton) or with a roundtable with local feminist business owners (such as at the University of Minnesota Mankato). The welcome message from the 2009 Michigan State  conference directors Malea Powell and Sue Webb and conference assistant co-directors Kendall Lion and Jennifer Sano makes this connection explicit: “we have created a conference that both examines the knowledge work we already do as scholars and community activists and that creates more space for the complicated, difficult work that must follow if we want to adequately reflect the deep structure of connections/intersections/overlaps that are critical to our shared future.” They then continue by encouraging participants to “reach across the category” they identify with to forge new connections and new possibilities. 

The idea of blurring binaries was again present at the ASU conference in 2015 where organizers expressly worked to “collapse several impoverished binaries: mind/body, producer/consumer, passive recipients/active consumers, public/private, male/female, and craft/art.” The conference featured artists, weavers, knitters, and other artisans and crafters who presented alongside the more traditional conference format to showcase different ways of making.  That said, throughout all the conference programs, you see the conference encouraging broad understanding of what it means to participate in the conference–from locals housing grad students, to online reading rooms, to performing in plays. The blurring of practice and theory was also evident during the Dayton Conference where attendees helped to raise funds for Puerto Rico following the devastation of Hurricane Maria. 

A long-standing feature of the conference that we can observe evolving through the conferences are the shared meals. From the early conferences where nearly all the meals were shared, to the more recent iterations of the conference with fewer shared meals and more emphasis on shared experiences. These experiences include the archival collection highlighted at the 2019 JMU Conference featuring exhibits on the ERA and women’s activism on campus, to the opening cocktail and hors d’oeuvres celebration at the 2017 Dayton Conference featuring a rare book collection, that included first editions of noted feminist texts, to the performance of the award-winning Scottsdale Chorus at the 2015 ASU Conference, to the catered dinner in the Rodin Sculpture Garden at the 2013 Stanford Conference, to the visit to the Clinton Presidential Library during the 2007 ULAR Conference. For me, first as a master’s student and now as a professor, these moments beyond the presentation rooms where I got to metaphorically (and sometimes literally) play with fellow conference attendees is where the magic of feminisms and rhetorics happen. 

The Feminisms and Rhetorics Collection is a reminder that the hard work of feminist rhetorical theory, practice, teaching, and learning can be extended and enriched when we gather to ask critical questions of ourselves and each other in a spirit of inclusivity and encouragement

-Alexis Ramsey-Tobienne, CFSHRC Archivist and Historian

Exciting Feminisms and Rhetorics News!

I am pleased to share news that the Advisory Board of the Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition recently passed the following motion regarding the 2023 Feminisms and Rhetorics Conference:

That the Coalition delay of the re- release of the call for 2023 Feminisms and Rhetorics site hosts until the spring of 2021 and require within this call that potential site hosts front themes of anti-racist activism and center the work of feminists of color.

I also want to make you aware that several members of the Advisory Board and the broader Coalition have started work in two task forces: one that seeks to “fill the gap” left by the cancellation of the 2021 FemRhet Conference, and one that aims to investigate and propose potential structural and procedural changes to the FemRhet Conference.

In the remainder of this post, you will find background information about the timing of the call for FemRhet 2023 site hosts and the decision to front anti-racist activism and the work of feminists of color at that conference. In addition, you will learn more about the task forces. As you read and consider these items, please know that your input is strongly encouraged and most welcome. Please contact me (mailto:president@cfshrc.org) or the coordinators of the task forces (their contact information is below) with any ideas, recommendations, or feedback. Members of the Executive Board are also happy to talk through ideas with you if you are already thinking about submitting a site proposal for the 2023 conference. Please direct communications about possibly hosting the FemRhet 2023 to me or to Tarez Graban, Immediate Past President, at tarez.graban.gmail.com.

Background and Task Forces Details

During its virtual annual business meeting in March 2020, the Coalition Advisory Board voted not to co-host a Feminisms and Rhetorics conference in 2021. At that same meeting, the Board also decided to temporarily suspend site-host proposals for the 2023 Feminisms and Rhetorics conference. These decisions were made in response to ongoing conversations about the workflows, formats, and processes associated with the conference and in light of COVID-related uncertainty regarding the possibility of planning for and holding a large gathering in the near future.

With these decisions and situations in mind, the Coalition established two task forces:

  1. An “Alternative Interactions” (AI) task force that is investigating ways to enable conversations, education, mentoring, and other activities that would have occurred at our CCCC 2020 Wednesday evening action hour and during the FemRhet 2021 conference. Lisa Shaver (lisa_shaver@baylor.edu) is coordinating this task force.
  2. A “Workflow, Process, and Format” (WPF) task force that is reviewing past practices and future possibilities related to these aspects of the Feminisms and Rhetorics conference and building on the work of the Coalition’s FemRhet Policies Task Force from last year. Jessica Enoch (jenoch1@umd.edu) is coordinating this task force.

To ensure that our WPF task force members have time to complete their work and that we can, as desired, incorporate changes that they might recommend, and to allow more time for clarity with regard to how institutions and communities will resume life and business in the wake of the pandemic, it seemed advisable for a revised call for site-hosts for FemRhet 2023 to be released in the spring of 2021.

We also felt that the second part of the motion is an essential part of larger Coalition efforts to amplify voices of scholars of color, interrogate white privilege, and promote anti-racist organizational change. While many members and supporters of the Coalition have critiqued white supremacy and engaged in racial justice work in the past, current events and the enduring, centuries-long oppressions and injustices that inform them make it undeniably clear that this anti-racist emphasis for the next FemRhet gathering is not just reactive but is necessary to promote the Coalition’s mission. There are many ways to accomplish this focus in a conference gathering, and members of the Executive Board, as noted above, are glad to make themselves available to discuss ideas in advance of the re-issued call for site-host proposals.

With gratitude and hope,

Wendy Sharer, President CFSHRC

Feminisms & Rhetorics Conference 2021 and 2023 Updates

Dear Friends of the Coalition,

In light of the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and the time at which larger gatherings may again be possible, and in respect for already ongoing conversations regarding future directions for the Feminisms and Rhetorics conference, the CFSHRC Advisory Board, at our meeting late last month, made the decision not to hold a Feminisms and Rhetorics conference in 2021. At the same meeting, the Board agreed to form a task force to explore ways that we might support Coalition members and friends via alternative interactions to help fill in the “conference gap.” Please stay tuned for future engagement opportunities!

As you may be aware, the Coalition sponsors two awards—the Nan Johnson Outstanding Graduate Student Travel Award and the Shirley Wilson Logan Diversity Scholarship Award—that support attendees and presenters at the Feminisms and Rhetorics conference. We are looking into alternative possibilities for implementing these awards for the 2021 cycle.

In addition, we encourage Coalition members to apply for two awards that we would have announced at the 2021 FemRhet conference: the Presidents Dissertation Award and the Lisa Ede Mentoring Award. Winners of these awards for 2021 will be announced via alternative channels. More details about each of these awards, along with information about how to apply, can be found here: https://cfshrc.org/awards/.

Lastly, the Advisory Board decided to temporarily suspend the submission process for site host applications for the Feminisms and Rhetorics 2023 conference. Although the unknowns with regard to meeting regulations, travel, and the like are still many, we hope to reopen the call for hosts by no later than September 15, 2020. In the meantime, if you have questions regarding conference hosting, either in advance of submitting a proposal or otherwise, please reach out to Wendy Sharer, CFSHRC President, at president@cfshrc.org. You are also welcome to view our recently updated conference-hosting FAQs at https://cfshrc.org/femrhet-conference-call-for-hosts/.

Be safe and stay well,

Wendy Sharer, President

Announcing the Shirley Wilson Logan Diversity Scholarship

We are pleased to announce a new award in honor of one Dr. Shirley Wilson Logan, a mentor to us all from whom we continue to learn.

The purpose of the Shirley Wilson Logan Diversity Scholarship award is to encourage feminist scholarship (particularly historical in nature) by graduate scholars from diverse and historically un or underrepresented groups. The award will be given to first-time presenters at the Feminisms and Rhetorics conference. The award includes both a monetary award ($500 each for up to 6 awardees) and participation in a specially designated session at the Feminisms and Rhetorics conference.  Applicants should have an already-accepted presentation for the conference.  

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2019 Coalition Awards

We are pleased to recognize the following feminist scholars for their outstanding work. We thank these scholars for the care, honestly, and commitment they show to feminists in history and present of our fields and professions. Thank you to the many many people who served on awards committees, and to Lisa Mastrangelo for leading the expanding and important awards committees. The following awards announcements were composed by Lisa Mastrangelo:

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Call for FemRhet Archives!

Dear Coalition Friends,

As we prepare for the upcoming Feminisms and Rhetorics Conferences, I would like to put out a call for some images and videos you have reflecting key moments in the history of the organization (such as documents from the Wednesday night SIGs, Coalition member meet-ups) and the Feminisms and Rhetorics Conference.

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Post FemRhet musings

Greetings all,

Now that we’ve had a few days at home to recover from yet another fabulous Feminisms and Rhetorics, I wanted to write to you as the President to address some comments and concerns that came up before the conference started, including the registration cost.  Many of you commented that you are concerned with the registration cost and wondered where your money might really been going. Read more

#FemRhet2017 Recap: Day 4

Last Day of FemRhet 2017!

By Karrieann Soto Vega and Patricia Fancher

The close knit community that the Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Writing is stronger than ever. Throughout the day you could see people collaborating in dynamic and interactive panels, which contributed to building new relationships and strengthening old ones. Conference goers were able to learn about Publishing an Edited Collection as a Process Approach, and Approaches to Feminist Research in Technical Communication, for example. They also had opportunities to work through the complexity of asking for a Consent to Discomfort, and engage in critical conversations about asking students to acknowledge and question their own privilege. This last day, most folks seemed to be full of appreciation for a job well-done by the organizers and staff at the University of Dayton. Read more

#FemRhet2017 Recap: Day 3

By Jennifer Burgess

#Day 3 of #FemRhet2017 started off with another fantastic session of #FemRhetYoga.

At 8 am, morning meetings and a workshop kicked off, offering attendees ample opportunity to engage with the conference theme of rhetorics rights(r)evolutions. Brenda Brueggeman, Jane Detweiler and Patti Wojahn led the Feminist Leadership Workshop (8 am – 11:15 am), while many others led engaging morning meetings around the topic of “Organizing for Activism.” The “Organizing for Activism” were “devoted to envisioning, strategizing, and planning activism that bridges feminist academic work to activist work outside the academy.

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