HERstory exhibit to acknowledge heroines

Lavette Williams , Editor-in-Chief

The University of North Alabama’s Center for Women’s Studies uses their HERstory exhibit to recognize women’s achievements and contributions for Women’s History Month.

The exhibit resides on the first floor of Collier Library, displaying submissions from students, staff and faculty on campus. 

In their submissions, the Women’s Center encouraged those interested to submit a short bio of their heroine and their impact. After this, the center worked with University photography to get their picture taken with a photo of their heroine. 

“We asked for submissions back in January and February, but we’re still open to anyone else who is interested,” said Lynne Rieff, Director of the Center for Women’s Studies. “We really want the HERstory exhibit to grow.”

Rieff said that the exhibit is a chance for everyone to reflect on women’s representation in society and to think about the many achievements they have made.

“We can’t just assume that women have always had the rights that we enjoy [today],” Rieff said. “There’s still gender inequality that we have, but it’s those women who have challenged the status quo for us to gain those rights and privileges that we enjoy that we really should recognize.”

Among some of the women being acknowledged in the HERstory exhibit is Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Mexican Painter Frida Kahlo, American Actress Lucille Ball and Political Activist Angela Davis. 

One particular woman that stood out to Rieff was Barbara Jordan, an American politician and leader during the Civil Rights Movement. Jordan was the first African American elected to the Texas Senate after Reconstruction and the first Southern African-American woman elected to the United States House of Representatives

Rieff said that she first encountered Jordan when she was 15 years old, watching the Watergate hearing. 

“[When she was giving her speech] the first thing I noticed about her was her voice,” Rieff said. “She just had a commanding, mesmerizing voice that immediately gave her a presence.”

It was through Jordan that drew Rieff into the politics and into what was happening around her.

“As I paid closer attention and read more about her, ever since high school, I’ve had a tremendous admiration of who she was and what she stood for,” Rieff said. “She was a wonderful role model. That is the type of thing that we ask of people: why is your feminist hero meaningful to you? What was it about that person that led you to admire that person?”

However, the exhibit is not exclusive to women who have made a national impact. Students and faculty have the opportunity to acknowledge local heroines as well. One student, who participated in the exhibit, chose to recognize someone close to them – their mother.

“We should [also] use this time to pause and think about [our heroine] starting with the women in our family and the sacrifice they make,” Rieff said. 

Because there are undoubtedly many women who have contributed to society, it is understandable that it may be hard to only choose one woman to acknowledge. 

Nicole Powell, Coordinator for the Center for Women’s Studies, said that she is inspired by some many women who stand up and advocate today.

“I am impressed by all the women in healthcare currently who are helping to care for others during the pandemic,” Powell said. “But if I had to pick only one, I would choose to highlight the work of Edna Adan for the HERstory Project.”

Powell first learned of Adan when she read the book, “Half the Sky” and was inspired by her work in Somaliland, a self-declared country in Horn Africa, to address fistulas in the maternal health facility she established. 

Powell said that it was through Adan’s extraordinary efforts that women in Somaliland can access lifesaving maternal healthcare.

The HERstory exhibit will remain on display throughout the month of March, and while it only takes up two cases, the Center for Women’s Studies has hope that it will continue to grow.

“I’m so hopeful that in the subsequent years that we can encourage and inspire the UNA community to participate in the project so that we can continue it and recognize the amazing contributions of women worldwide,” Powell said. 

The Women’s Center will accept submissions for next year’s Herstory Project display through the end of March. Students can submit their brief biography of their heroine to [email protected] 

If any inspiration is needed. They are encouraged to visit the HERstory display in Collier Library through the end of the month.