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About the Conference

In March 2016 the first Hoosier Women at Work conference brought together students and scholars of women's history for a one-day event which featured papers, presentations, a keynote speaker, a panel discussion, and a lot of great ideas.  The general consensus was that the conference was a much needed launching pad for those interested in growing the field of women's history. In response, the supporting partners and attending scholars have made this an annual meeting. In 2017, the conference focused on Indiana women making history in the fields of science, technology, and medicine. In 2018, the third annual conference will focus on the history of Indiana women in the arts. You can learn more about the 2018 Hoosier Women at Work in the Arts Conference below. We hope you join us!


The Need for Indiana Women's History

Why Indiana Women’s History?

. . . because, with few exceptions, women have been consistently left out of the story of the Hoosier state.

On paper historians agree that including the histories of women and other marginalized groups provides a more complete understanding of the events that shape our communities, state, and world.  However, in practice, very few historians are researching, publishing, or posting on women’s history.  Having identified a dearth of resources on Indiana women’s history, organizers from various institutions, both public and private, came together to create this annual conference.  Hoosier Women at Work aims to energize the discussion of Indiana women’s history and make the papers, presentations, and other resources resulting from the conference available to all Hoosiers.

How pervasive is the lack of resources on Indiana Women’s History?

. . . let’s start by pointing the finger at ourselves, the sponsors and partners of the Hoosier Women at Work conference.

Even the organizations leading the conference initiative, i.e. the people who recognize and care about the problem, are often following established practices of treating the history of government and business and military as the “real” history, the “significant” history. However, these are areas where women have been categorically denied entrance or discriminated against directly or through lack of education or opportunities.  Focusing on these areas excludes women of color, poor women, and native women even more disproportionately than white women of means.   For example…

•Indiana Historical Bureau
One of the main sponsors and organizers (and host of this web platform) is the Indiana Historical Bureau which manages the state’s historical marker program. Of approximately 600 markers, thirty-nine are dedicated to women’s history.  Several are simply wives or mothers of influential male notable Hoosiers, several include women tangentially, and only ten include native women or women of color.

•Indiana State Library
The Indiana State Library hosts the conference and provides staffing and conference board members.  Searching the catalog for the Indiana State Library for history books or monographs published since 2000 with “women” or “woman” in the title retrieves eight search results.

•Indiana Magazine of History
The Indiana Magazine of History took the much needed step of dedicating the entire December 2016 issue to papers written for the Hoosier Women at Work conference. How much was this needed? Since Nancy Gabin’s 2000 article "Fallow Yet Fertile: The Field of Indiana Women's History,"  which decried "there exists no body of literature clearly identifiable as the history of women in Indiana," only seven more articles on Indiana women’s history have appeared in the Indiana Magazine of History before this most recent issue.

•The Indiana Department of Natural Resources - Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology
DHPA has a variety of program areas in their office.  None are solely related to Indiana women’s history, but the theme or topic of Indiana women’s history is integrated into many of the program areas.  Unfortunately though, women are not represented as well as they could be.  In the National Register of Historic Places listings, less than 10% deal with women in Indiana; the Jewish heritage initiative has women researched, but the topic is less than 25% of those researched.  And, the Underground Railroad Initiative, which studies Hoosiers involvement in the Underground Railroad in Indiana has less than 5% of women in their investigated individuals.  

•The Indiana Women’s History Association
The IWHA has the mission to encourage others to research, interpret and persevere the history of women in Indiana.  Funding is sought from members to help establish historic markers through the Indiana Historical Bureau, scholarships are given to students doing research on women’s history at the National History Day contest, and conferences (like Hoosier Women at Work) is sponsored.  By we know more needs to be done to connect with women’s organizations to save their archival papers, individuals needs to be researched to assure their archival footprint is saved, and we need to encourage more Hoosiers to learn about women’s history.

•Indiana University - Purdue University, Indianapolis
IUPUI graduate students have completed nineteen theses on Indiana women out of 155 theses.

How do we fix this?

It is essential that we do the work -- the digging through newspapers, letters, photographs, and interviews; the comparing, analyzing, interpreting, writing, posting, and publishing; and the pushing back, organizing, and speaking up – to tell these stories at the local level.  These are the stories that in turn inform the national narrative of who we are as Americans and world citizens.  Half the story is missing! Write an article, make a podcast, start a blog, edit a Wikipedia page, and join us for the Hoosier Women at Work Conference to hear speakers on a myriad of women’s topics and get inspired to start adding to the Hoosier story.