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Thursday January 21st

Oral historian brings feminism discussion to Chapel Hill community

<p>Rachel Seidman holding her book, <em>Speaking of Feminism</em>.&nbsp;</p>
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Rachel Seidman holding her book, Speaking of Feminism

On Sept. 27, 2019, the oral historian Rachel Seidman will be hosting a discussion about feminism alongside Carolina Public Humanities, The Center for the Study of the American South and the UNC General Alumni Association.

The conversation will center around the release of Seidman’s new book "Speaking of Feminism: Today's Activists on the Past, Present, and Future of the U.S. Women's Movement" at Flyleaf Books off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The event is free to students and the public.

Seidman, a Yale University Ph.D. graduate, is the director of UNC's Southern Oral History Program and has researched U.S. history in the 20th and 21st centuries with a focus on oral history methodology, women’s activism, social movements and the health humanities. She has contributed to and written books and publications on the topic of feminism. 

Her book, "Speaking of Feminism" explores the work and activism of 25 women between the ages of 20 and 50 through oral interviews conducted by Seidman. 

“I was really interested in how women who have come of age during the years of backlash, during a time where we are told we don’t need feminism anymore, how they thought about the movement, how did they end up as feminist, what motivated them and how did they arrived at their work, and I was really interested to see how things changed in recent years,” Seidman said.

Seidman said her book dives into the contrast of women paving their way in the 1980s to the evolution of current feminist activism.

Seidman's book includes the individual stories of activists that work behind the common stereotypes of marches and rallies for feminist movements and how feminism is perceived.

“People come out of (the book) feeling a sense of really amazing individuals, whose individual stories are deeply compelling, inspiring and profound, and when you take all of these (individuals) together, you get to look at a movement, and what does it mean to be a movement," Seidman said. "What kinds of work happens within?”

Highlighted in "Speaking of Feminism" is UNC-Chapel Hill alumna, Ivanna Gonzalez, who will also speak alongside Seidman as she discusses her role in the book, as well how her activism has impacted her life. 

“(Seidman) asked me to do an oral history of my organizing as a feminist and how I came into that identity when I was a student” said Gonzalez, who worked on a project during her undergraduate career as a student of Seidman that investigated who needs feminism.

Gonzalez works for Blueprint NC as deputy director of policy alignment. Blueprint NC coordinates more than 40 progressive organizations that focus on civic engagement and issue advocacy work.

 “The book is important because it gives women, people and feminists an opportunity to talk about their development as feminists and how they came into that identity," Gonzalez said. "I think it is powerful for folks to take a look at all these different stories."

Carolina Public Humanities is a network to help bring the scholarship of UNC off campus and into the community.

“I think it is important to have a public event about (the book) because it focuses on the activism of the past, present and going into the future,” said Rachel Schaevitz, the associate director for state outreach and strategic partnerships at Carolina Public Humanities. Schaevitz is also the business partner and friend of Seidman.

“The event is a celebration of the book and the product of a lot of hard work on both the part of Dr. Seidman’s research and on the part of those activists profiled within the book,” Schaevitz said.

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