Every year, March is designated Women’s History Month to recognize and honor women’s contributions to history.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga will host events all month long—and even in the days leading up to March—celebrating the influence of women on culture both historically and currently.
“I think it’s very important to recognize those that came before us that helped pave the way,” said Emily Rosenquist, assistant director of advocacy and education for the Center for Women and Gender Equity. “There’s still a road to pave ahead of us, but we need to recognize the people that have laid the groundwork and have laid the road down for us to be where we are.
“On top of that, how can we use that to move forward? How can we honor and respect those people that did that work?”
Lauren Ouwerkerk, the Center for Women and Gender Equity’s associate director of programming, said, “If it was up to me, women’s history would be celebrated all year—and we do that in the Center.”
“This month is an opportunity to spotlight and really focus on the stories and the individuals,” she said.
One of the UTC Women’s History Month calendar highlights is the Women’s Leadership Academy, which takes place March 3-5 at the Ocoee (Tennessee) Retreat Center—about 45 miles east of campus. The retreat consists of two-plus days of education and engagement opportunities for the 26 students who registered.
“This is one of the most popular events we do,” Ouwerkerk said. “This was the first year we’ve moved it into March and it makes sense because it’s a women’s leadership summit.
“It’s one of my favorite programs we do and gives the students the kind of engagement you don’t often see. The students really get into, ‘What does it mean to be a woman leader? What is that experience like?’ And I think that’s really powerful.”
The student leading many of the retreat’s activities is senior Julia Stranahan, chair of the Coalition Advocating for Student Empowerment—the executive leadership board that creates and organizes programs for the Center.
“What I really enjoy about the Women’s Leadership Academy has been finding a community with like-minded women on campus who have an interest or passion for leadership—and being able to network with them and learn from their experiences,” said Stranahan, who will be graduating from UTC in May with a bachelor’s degree in English rhetoric and professional writing.
A 2019 graduate of Lebanon (Tennessee) High School, Stranahan has had numerous leadership opportunities at UTC. During her time on campus, she has been a member of the Freshman Senate, an orientation leader and the facilitator of the Feminist Action Movement. She has also served in a statewide office as Lobbying Director of the Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislature.
“When I came to college, I would say I was insecure in my leadership abilities,” she said. “Being a female interested in leadership things, you have a weird mindset about it; you feel lesser to some of your peers or other women who seem to have a stronger passion or stronger abilities in leadership.
“That’s what the Women’s Leadership Academy is all about; it’s very important to embrace all different forms of leadership. You don’t have to view yourself as an exceptional leader to come to this. You just talk about how you feel about leadership and what inspires you to make social change.”
Ouwerkerk said another UTC Women’s History Month calendar highlight is a trivia night partnership with the Center for Global Education to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8.
“We are collaborating with them on an engaging, fun and educational experience for our students in highlighting the importance of International Women’s Day,” she said, “because it’s not a holiday that we celebrate here in the U.S. as much as other countries around the world. We want to highlight the amazing accomplishments of women internationally and engage our students in a fun way with a little competitive trivia.”
Other upcoming campus events on the Women’s History Month calendar include several presented by the UTC Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies program:
- “The Dobbs Decision: What it Does and Doesn’t Do,” featuring Dr. Michelle Deardorff, the Adolph S. Ochs professor of government and department head of Political Science and Public Service. The event occurs at 12:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 28, in Metro Building Room 231.
- A panel discussion titled “Sex After Dark: What You Need to Know about a Post-Roe World” at 7 p.m. on Thursday (March 2) in the University Center Signal Mountain Room. Moderated by Assistant Professor of Sociology Natalie Blanton, scheduled panelists include Tennessee Rep. Yusuf Hakeem; Francie Hunt, executive director of Tennessee Advocates for Planned Parenthood; Chloe Akers, founder of Standing Together Tennessee Inc.; Blake Kitterman, associate director of campus organizing at It’s On Us; Father Will Levanway, Christ Episcopal Church in Chattanooga; and Mandy Cowley, executive director at A Step Ahead Chattanooga.
- A Friday, March 3, Suffragist March co-sponsored by the Delta Sigma Theta sorority. Recreating a 100-year-old suffragist march, the half-mile walk, which begins at noon, will go from the Hamilton County Courthouse (625 Georgia Ave.) to Miller Park (928 Market St.). A short program will take place.
The Center will display “March Through History” posters in its Lupton Hall location, complete with interactive QR codes. The posters range from well-known celebrity leaders of today like Dolly Parton and Megan Thee Stallion to mathematician Ada Lovelace—regarded as the first computer programmer—and founder of modern nursing Florence Nightingale.
“How frequently are these women used as crossword puzzle clues, but what do we actually know about them? How can we highlight them?” Ouwenkerk asked. “My theory with ‘March Through History’ is that any student from any program or major can walk by and say, ‘Oh, that’s someone I heard about in class,’ but not everyone knows about all these people because they’re in different programs.
“Women’s history is happening today, so we might have a poster of Ada Lovelace right next to Megan Thee Stallion. History doesn’t have to be centuries ago.”
Ouwenkerk then told the story of seamstress Policarpa Salavarrieta, known as the “Sewing Spy,” who is considered a heroine of Colombia’s independence from Spain in the early 1800s.
“She was one of the people that turned the tide in the Colombia revolution,” she said. “Stories like hers get forgotten but were so pivotal to the freedom and liberation of others.”
Added Sarah Daniels, the Center’s assistant director of programming and inclusion, “It’s important to highlight stories like this because women have continuously been pigeonholed into certain roles in society.
“We can say women have been changing the tides of war or doing things that are extraordinary since the beginning. It’s not a new wave of feminism making women different; women have always been extraordinary.”
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Check the Women’s History Month events calendar by clicking on “Center Events” on the left side of the page, then clicking the “March Events” tab. Programming will continually be added throughout March.