Why would a feminist organization be holding an event in North Carolina? Good question. Here’s why.
Several years ago VFA decided to place its archives at the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture, part of the Rubenstein Library at Duke University. Duke was chosen because it has an outstanding women's collection of all kinds of papers and hundreds of tapes of oral history from women. We had never viewed the archives, so more than a year ago VFA decided to hold an event in North Carolina so we could finally view our archives.
At the same time, we have been working closely with a young historian, Katherine Turk. She has taken a major interest in researching, writing and teaching about the Second Wave women’s movement, especially the employment issue. Her newly released book is Equality on Trial: Gender and Rights in the Modern American Workplace. She is now working on a book about NOW. While Katie is from Chicago, coincidentally she is now teaching at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Katie is VFA’s lead historian for this conference and is the one identifying and inviting other young historians to participate.
Additionally, VFA has never honored Southern feminists, and time to do so is growing short.
So everything came together so beautifully to hold an event in North Carolina - or so we thought. We signed a contract with the hotel.
And then HB 2 came along. Clearly we would have moved our event to another state if we could have, but we are committed to Duke and UNC, so another state didn't make any sense. We struggled with what to do. We talked with local LGBTQ activists, and they urged us to proceed with the event. They felt it was important to bring the message of equality to the state. We wrote to the former governor to express our concern.
North Carolina is a purple state, and a changing state. While the most recent effort to overturn HB2 did not succeed, progressive forces in the state are pushing for its repeal and are applying a great deal of pressure. And the new governor desperately wants the bill repealed.
It is VFA’s intention to be visible in North Carolina during the event and make it clear that we are there in spite of HB2 and not because of it.