Students host lectures on impactful women in history

April 16, 2018

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — “History is full of men. I’m quite ready to hear about the other half of our populace and their contributions to the world.”

These are the words of Sam Dion-Gottfried, a senior sustainable and renewable energy systems major and treasurer of the Platteville History Club at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, which recently honored Women’s History Month by hosting “Badass Women in History,” a series of lectures that highlighted three remarkable women who made significant contributions to history.

Winnie Redfearn, a senior history and political science major at UW-Platteville and president of the Platteville History Club, agreed with Dion-Gottfried, adding, “This lecture series was important because the Platteville History Club was able to shed light onto three of the many significant women in world history, along with their vital contributions in their own societies and the world as a whole.”

In the March 7 lecture, “Amazons, Alliances, and Inciting Rebellion: The Life of Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, 1122-1204,” Dr. Nancy Turner, professor of history at UW-Platteville, discussed the long and influential reign of the 12th-century queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. Turner described how Eleanor became queen of France while still a teenager, but soon decided to divorce the king of France and marry the king of England instead. Upon the death of the English king, Eleanor then served as the major adviser and occasional regent for her two sons, who became kings of England themselves.

“Eleanor’s energy and confidence was really amazing,” said Turner. “She held her own against her two powerful husbands and often out-strategized them when her plans for the kingdom conflicted with theirs. I loved talking about such a strong and dynamic woman.”

The power of one dynamic Mohawk woman formed the March 14 lecture, “‘One word from her goes farther with them than a thousand from any white man’: Koñwatsi'tsiaiéñni (Molly Brant) and the American Revolution.” Dr. Eugene Tesdahl, assistant professor of history at UW-Platteville, discussed the ways in which prominent Mohawk woman Koñwatsi'tsiaiéñni (Molly Brant) negotiated trade and diplomacy in upstate New York during the American Revolution.

“The strength of the ‘Badass Women in History’ lecture series embodies the dedication and talent in the Platteville History Club,” said Tesdahl. “These lectures welcomed many into complex conversations about the vital contributions women make to humanity, past and present.”

In the March 21 lecture, “Nanny of the Maroons: Jamaican Hero and Freedom Fighter” Dr. Shan Sappleton, assistant professor of political science at UW-Platteville, discussed Nanny’s role as a freedom fighter against British colonialism and injustices of the time, such as slavery and the broader plantation based political economy.

“Nanny of the Maroons is an important character of history via which to understand the scope of the role that women played in the struggle (and literal fight) for freedom, independence and social justice in the Caribbean and Latin American region during the 17th and 18th centuries,” said Sappleton. “She was responsible for liberating over 1,000 illicitly enslaved people in the 1700s, organizing slave revolts and defeating the British military in the First Maroon War (1720-1739) via her military leadership and prowess. She also secured the autonomy and over 2,500 acres of land for the Maroons on the islands. Her courage, work and contributions were officially recognized by the Jamaican Government in 1982 when she was conferred the Order of the National Hero.”

The Platteville History Club members said the lecture series was an excellent way to shed light on, and honor, the contributions of the three women.

“The Badass Women in History lecture series was important because it recognized and honored three strong women and their impactful role in history that many students otherwise would have never had the privilege of knowing,” said Kathryn Bartels, a senior criminal justice and history major at UW-Platteville, and vice president of the Platteville History Club.

“The lectures were important for not only highlighting the contributions of these remarkable women but also for giving us a greater insight into the role women played in the larger context of world history,” added Garrison Ledbury, a junior history and professional writing major and secretary of the Platteville History Club. “Their stories provide us a window into the times and worlds these women influenced.”

Zach Sherman, a senior social sciences secondary education major and public relations representative for the Platteville History Club, agreed. “It was wonderful to hear the history of women because history often skims over these courageous women. These women are truly role models for everyone.”

The Platteville History Club’s executive board includes Redfearn, a native of Hazel Green, Wisconsin; Bartels, of Franklin, Wisconsin; Ledbury, of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin; Dion-Gottfried, of Portage, Wisconsin; and Sherman, of Fennimore, Wisconsin. The club currently has 20 members and continues to grow.

Written by: Laurie A. Hamer, University Relations Specialist, College of Liberal Arts and Education, 608-342-6191, hamerl@uwplatt.edu

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