How do we tell our story?
It is already 3 months ago that I had spent a few days at the Global Berkshire Conference of Women Historians in Toront
o. I got invited to show a compilation of interviews made for the film ‘Living History’ [Working Title] at the Opening ceremony of the conference which celebrated Gerda Lerner as one of the most important pioneers and founders of the field of women’s history. It was a powerful worldwide gathering of 2000 women and men. The University Campus was thriving with people having meetings, film showings, workshops, one-to-one conversations – it was a hub of creativity, a 3-day think-tank of women (and men) who are all working towards telling the story of women – and men, in different ways. After I showed the 38 min compilation of interviews and after a panel discussion together with Dr. Darlene Clark Hine, Dr Kathryn Kish Sklar, Kate Bollick, Franca Jacovetta and Nancy MacLean – there was a ceremonial get together afterwards. I was surprised how many younger women came up to me and thanked me for the draft film showing. They all were excited about the innovative ways that women’s history can be told. It is not just about writing papers, it is about living the fact that women DO have a history – and how do we tell the story? How do we behave as women – what do we DO as women, what does it mean to be self-authorised? Have we internalised the fact that our history is different than the one that mainstream history has told, it is about the women who self-organised, who came together in grass-root activities, who went against the established patriarchal rules and risked their lives as they were forging more freedom and humanity. Can we value the struggles and big heart it took and develop so much independent thinking in ourselves. Can we wake up and make autonomous decisions, tap into our self-authorised creativity – together – and find out what we need to do next to actively engage in and shape culture?
Those were the thoughts I came away with End of May. They resurfaced again, as I am working on the trailer for the film. Thinking in new ways takes time and needs a period of maturation. And so is the story of this film maturing in its own time…
PS.: The film clips were also shown at Sarah Lawrence College a few weeks later as part of the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the first graduating class in Women’s History (Gerda’s program). Dr Rona Holub (director of the Women’s History program) organized a presentation honoring Gerda’s work at Sarah Lawrence and featured the film compilation. Some of the women there had studied with Gerda and shared moving stories.