UMass Boston

Women’s History Month Continues Despite Coronavirus

03/25/2020| Elis Mullins

UMass Boston’s Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality (WGS) Studies Department dedicated this Women’s History Month to promoting feminism and activism; however, due to the coronavirus, students and faculty have been working and learning from home since mid-March, halfway through the celebratory month. Still, Christina Bobel, professor and chair of WGS, and Brittany Downey, department manager of WGS, believe wholeheartedly that UMass Boston can observe Women’s History Month from off-campus.

J. Shoshanna Ehrlich, Chris Bobel, and Brittany Downey (far right) all took part in a celebration of the department's published authors in March 2019.
Image By: Colleen Locke

“ Find your allies. Do your research. Be curious. Ask for help. Stay strong. ”

One of the things Bobel and Downey recommend is for women to reach out to some of the organizations supplying internships and volunteer opportunities to UMass Boston students, such as the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy, the Harry Potter Alliance, Partners in Sex Education, Wômpanâak Language Reclamation Project, Strong Girls, Strong Women, and the Sudanese Education Fund. In this difficult time, learning about and getting involved in intersectional activism can be empowering. 

“Our partnerships give students access to a wider array of educational experiences, and expose them to cultures, ideas, and traditions that they may never have otherwise encountered,” said Bobel and Downey. “This gives them a greater understanding of the world as a whole, and helps prepare them to work with a diverse audience.” 

This is also an opportunity to learn about the new and important work that has come out of the WGS department. There will be a new sexuality studies minor in the fall. J. Shoshanna Ehrlich, a professor in WGS, recently submitted an expert declaration in Garza v. Hargan and provided expert testimony in the Roe Act legislative hearings. Finally, Amy Den Ouden, assistant professor in WGS, received an Andrew W. Mellon Native American Initiative-Digital Knowledge Sharing Fellowship by the American Philosophical Society. 

Great things have happened in WGS before the coronavirus hit campus, and they will continue to accumulate after it’s gone. There's a long history of excellence, as shown in this 1982 photo when Mary Helen Washington, now a Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, taught a women's history course at Columbia Point.

Mary Helen Washington teaching a women's studies course in 1998

The department celebrated its 25th anniversary in 1998.

Celebration event of 25 years of women's, gender, and sexuality studies

Regardless of how the women of UMass Boston choose to honor Women’s History Month, Bobel has an important message: “One way we can keep Women’s History Month in mind at the same time we are all preoccupied with the pandemic, is to think and act based on the purpose of Women’s History Month, which is to be mindful of the historically marginalized and resist oppression.” 

She added, “Working for gender justice is complicated and tiring, but it is work worth doing. Find your allies. Do your research. Be curious. Ask for help. Stay strong.”