The committees in charge of bringing to life the 40th aniversary celebration of the University of Idaho Women’s Center are dreaming big and determined to make the series of events empowering for everyone.
Women’s Center Program Coordinator Lysa Salsbury said planning the events to commemorate the anniversary celebration has taken nearly two months.
“(We have) so many people wanting to offer ideas,” Salsbury said. “Everyone has such great ideas and there are so many things we could do … the biggest challenge is narrowing it down.”
Over the course of four months, from August. to November., the Women’s Center will be hosting a poetry slam, interactive and educational fair, fundraising luncheon and many more events to celebrate the center’s 40-year anniversary on campus.
With more than 300 volunteers, the Women’s Center has tasks that can apply to varying levels of involvement. From making buttons and stuffing envelopes to educating others, there are ample opportunities to get involved, regardless of one’s gender.
“The idea is to tell everybody about the programs we do, the reasons why we do them, and invite everyone to participate,” Salsbury said. “It’s a big misconception that the Women’s Center is just for women.”
Two upcoming events, Women’s Equality Day and the Feminist Fair, are events that support the inclusive and supportive message the center advocates. Women’s Equality Day is observed nationally on August 26, commemorating the day women were given the right to vote 92 years ago.
The UI Women’s Center will celebrate the movement toward gender equality with a feminist fair called FEMfest from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. August 24th in the Idaho Commons Plaza.
“We’re going to have a band, live music, refreshments and we’re going to invite a bunch of organizations — both on campus and in the local community, that work on women’s issues to host fun and interactive booths,” Salsbury said. “The idea is that it is going to be a fun outdoor event to kick off our 40th anniversary celebrations.”
FEMfest will feature booths by UI’s LGBTQA office, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, Alternatives to Violence of the Palouse, Moscow Women’s Giving Circle and the Women’s Center.
Gloria Steinem, a journalist, social and political activist and revolutionary feminist, will be giving a keynote speech on “Women’s Legacies, Inspiring Our Future,” at 7:30 p.m. October 4th at the Kibbie Dome.
“(Steinem) has been a lifelong advocate for women’s rights,” Salsbury said. “You just have to look at the number of awards she’s won, not just for her activism, but for her literary accomplishments.”
Steinem also founded the feminist-themed Ms. magazine the same year the UI Women’s Center was established.
“She’s one of those people who believed so strongly — had such strong convictions in the rights of women to have equal access and equal opportunities,” Salsbury said. “She dedicated her whole life to it.”
Women’s Center Director Heather Gasser said the opportunity to share Steinem’s beliefs will be a highlight of the anniversary events.
“I’m really excited for the opportunity to share with the university and community the work of this amazing person,” Gasser said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
To raise funds for the center and the anniversary events, a fundraising luncheon with Steinem as a distinguished guest will be held Oct. 5th from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the 1912 Center in Moscow. Nectar will cater the luncheon and Camas Prairie Winery will provide wine.
Gasser said the Women’s Center currently has many goals to accomplish throughout the celebration of the anniversary. She said they also want to educate students on the work that went into creating the Women’s Center.
“I think the biggest goal is to do this celebration justice,” Gasser said. “We really want to honor the history that resulted in the foundation of the Women’s Center.”
Not all universities have the resources associated with the Women’s Center. According to Gasser, some centers across the country are being forced to close their doors due to lack of funding.
“We are (also) really celebrating that the University of Idaho embraces the work we do and supports the Women’s Center — we have that support from the highest levels,” Gasser said.
Psychology professor and psychology department board chair Dr. Traci Craig will emcee the “F-Word LIVE!” poetry slam. The slam will be held at 7 p.m. Sept. 21 at the Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre.
Craig has had the opportunity to perform poetry in New York, and has also won second place in a Washington State University slam poetry competition.
“It’s different to hear your peers have that stance versus whatever the stereotype of what a feminist is,” Craig said. “It opens peoples’ eyes.”
Craig said she hopes to have enough poets and presenters to fill a two or three hour time frame.
“Hopefully this year people will get really excited and involved and find things that really resonate with them,” Craig said. “Hopefully they’ll attend in future years, not just when it’s the 40th anniversary.”
Chloe Rambo can be reached at email@example.com