Welcome to the conversation!

Welcome to the conversation!

Harriet Beecher Stowe's (1811-1896) best-selling anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), made her the most famous American woman of the 19th century and galvanized the abolition movement before the Civil War.

The Stowe Center is a 21st-century museum and program center using Stowe's story to inspire social justice and positive change.

The Salons at Stowe programs are a forum to connect the challenging issues (race, gender and class) that impelled Stowe to write and act with the contemporary face of those same issues. The Salon format is based on a robust level of audience participation, with the explicit goal of promoting civic engagement. Recent topics included: Teaching Acceptance; Is Prison the New Slavery; Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North; Creativity and Change; Race, Gender and Politics Today; How to be an Advocate

This blog will expand the reach of these community conversations to the online audience. Add your posts and comments to keep the conversation going! Commit to action by clicking HERE to stay up to date on Salon and social justice news.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Event Recap: Parlors as Subversive Spaces

Parlors as Subversive Spaces:

Where did people gather in the 19th century to discuss problems and and develop plans to take action? In parlors
How has the parlor discussion changed over time and how do women effect social change today?

Guest speaker opening remarks:

Joan Hedrick: Professor of History, Trinity College

During the 19th century their are 2 points to consider about parlor discussions:
  • Gender
    • Traditionally, men were in the public and women remained in the private sphere. Women were to be pious, pure, domestic and submissive. 
    • Men and women gathered in parlors. In parlors, women could influence men and discuss problems such as slavery and temperance. 
    • In Uncle Tom’s Cabin Mrs. Bird influences the Senator in the parlor. A woman has a voice there.
  • Parlor encouraged women’s writing.
    • Women were letter writers. They kept the bonds of family together through letters.
    • Women’s voices reach outside the parlor because the letters were read aloud by the recipients.
    • Literary clubs also encouraged the voice of women. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s involvement in the Semi-colon Club earned her her first publication.
    • When women wrote they often wrote about pressing issues. A political voice developed.
Anna Doroghazi: Director of Public Policy and Communications, Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services
  • Today young women’s groups such as the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women’s Young Women’s Leadership Program encourage and inspire women to cultivate their skills. 
  • Groups like this provide networking opportunities with other women, a speakers bureau, and volunteer work. 
  • Women are marketed ideal images and feel that there are certain expectations they feel they need to uphold. 
  • The Young Women’s Leadership Program has started a House Party program to help women feel empowered and offer a space for discussion. 
    • In the 1960s and 70s women felt isolated and took issues very personally. When a space was opened to talk about issues it was not personal, it was systematic. 
    • Today, media outlets and social networking feel false and impersonal
    • Topics of house parties: leadership, stress, self care, body image. All of the topics come together. 
    • Women come together to express vulnerabilities and issues with balancing home and work. The parties provide a sense of relief.
Group Discussion:

What about finding a voice for colored women?
  • White woman’s voice was heard, but there was no outlet for less privledged, colored women.
  • The Voices of Women of Color (VOWC) became their outlet. 
    • The group did not allow black men, white men, and white women in the first year. Now white women come in. 
    • The organizers of the group travelled through Hartford looking for women. They wanted to focus on the women that weren’t talked about and create a safe space.
    • The group has become effective in moving from house parties to action. 
    • We’re leaving behind a whole bunch of women and need to challenge ourselves to do something. 
How do we create spaces that are comfortable for everyone?
  • This hasn’t happened yet, which shows that there are barriers to creating spaces.
  • Organizations are not doing a great job reaching out to everyone.
  • Religious communities cross certain barriers.
  • Creativity comes from engaging with communities we don’t normally engage with.
  • We NEED to take more risks and we will become more inclusive.
  • Respecting the richness of culture is critical so that one culture doesn’t dominate the other.
  • Everyone has to reach out to other groups, have a dialogue, and invite them to join you for further discussion. Make it your personal mission and set personal goals.
  • We have a fear of bringing other into our lives.  
How do we reach different groups when they are concerned with different issues?
  • Acknowledge your differences and realize what makes other people hurt.
  • There are common goals such as ethics, morals, and character. It is important to educate younger generations about these goals.
  • Families need to talk more and be distracted by technology and busy schedules less.
  • Women can reinforce the negative. Need to come together to support other women.
  • Building a community of support is key; as well as setting short term, intermediate, and long term goals.
  • Problems seem huge when you are alone, but become simple with support.
How do we reengage men the way they were involved in the discussions of the 19th century?
  • Nature of the parlor changed after civil war. It became more formal and the men were not so comfortable in fussy rooms, they went to men’s clubs.
  • Were we to recreate the heterosexual mix today it may be more subversive today than it was in 19th century.
How do we education and engage the next generation?
  • Need to educate women about what the women who came before them fought for.
  • Teaching children to respect the work of those before them because they take for granted what they have.We encourage the disrespect of the younger generation by giving in to their wants.
  • Raise boys and young men to respect women
  • In the past children were to be seen, not heard. Today the youth can have a voice.   
What opportunities are there for engagement today?
  • There are plenty of opportunities for political action.
  • Groups can come together despite class. Agendas are different, but there can be a coalition to come together. 
What is subversive today?

  • Growing your own food and taking the television out of the living room seems subversive.
  • Enriching things have now become subversive
  • Family connections are falling by the wayside.
  • Victorian parlor discussions are superior to the conversations we have today. Sitdown gatherings are deserted for cyber engagement were you pick your own environment.
Inspiration to Action
  • Host a house party
    • Get the conversation started
    • Invite people from diverse backgrounds and explore how to gather creatively
  • Acknowledge privledges to promote inclusion
  • Take the TV out of the living room and interact with each other
  • Women should support each other
  • Organize around the wage gap.
  • Educate younger women about the work women have done before them. 
    • Understand where you are and how you got there
  • Educate each other. No brother or sister should be left behind.
  • Create common spaces for discussion
  • Work together to create change around an issue of common interest
  • Reclaim the living room and live in that room
  • Raise good men
  • Take a risk

1 comment:

merkerpaul said...

There is one space where everyone can be comfortable with who they are...cyberspace. Cyberspace's greatest attribute is it's ability to allow everyone a voice equally. You're not judged because anonymity makes us all equals. Your opinions are judged not your dress, race, gender, age or religious convictions.