Women’s History Month Celebrated on Campus and Throughout Berkshire County

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By Rachel Feltman ‘08

BFWWThis March, Bard College at Simon's Rock will sponsor the second annual Berkshire Festival of Women Writers. The Festival, corresponding with Women's History Month, will feature over forty events throughout Berkshire County to celebrate the power of the written word.

Taking place up and down the county, 42 different events have been scheduled to engage local residents and inspire women writers throughout the Berkshires. With at least one event each day during the month of March, there's plenty to pick from. Highlights include an event hosted by Gastronomica and Orion Magazine at Williams College Museum of Art, a screening and discussion of the heralded documentary Miss Representation, and several open mics to allow local women to share their own writing.

“This isn't just about getting big names,” Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez, founder of the program, said in an interview, “The festival will open up the world of writing to women of all ages.”

Jennifer Browdy
Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

Browdy de Hernandez, faculty in Gender Studies and Literature at Bard College at Simon's Rock, emphasized how vast and rich the offerings would be for residents of Berkshire County. Included with the many readings and panel discussions are sessions on publishing, book binding, and digital media for writers. Twelve events will be hosted on the Simon's Rock campus, with the remaining 32 scheduled at local libraries, art galleries, and venues like The Norman Rockwell Museum–often silent this time of year.

The events taking place on campus were selected to be especially tempting to the student body. Several tie in directly to courses currently taught at the school. The most notable connection is with one of this Spring's BA Seminar courses, required for all students in the College’s four year program. The BA Seminar covers a broad range of topics.

This semester, Browdy de Hernandez, along with theater faculty member Karen Beaumont, is teaching Human Rights, Activism, and the Arts. “A lot of the events go hand in hand with that theme,” Browdy de Hernandez explained, “They'll give the students a chance to see for themselves how the arts can be used to make a difference.”

A number of Simon’s Rock professors are also incorporating events from the festival into their courses of study for the semester. Students taking Arts, Film, and Language in 20th Century China, taught by Yinxue Zhao, will attend a screening of Echoes of Chongqing: Women in Wartime China. The screening, one of those being held on campus, will be followed by a discussion with Dr. Danke Li, author of the book of oral histories on which the documentary is based.

In mid-month, a day-long film festival co-sponsored by the Berkshire International Film Festival and the Berkshire Human Rights Speaker Series, will mark the observance of International Women’s Day. Two films continuing the theme of “Human Rights, Activism and the Arts” will be shown on March 18. SARABAH, a documentary about a Senegalese rap star’s efforts to use music to advocate for human rights will be shown at the Triplex in Great Barrington, and GRANITO, a film exploring filmmaker Pamela Yates’ decades-long involvement in human rights advocacy in the context of Guatemala, will be shown on campus. Yates will be on hand to discuss her award-winning film following the screening.

While Simon's Rock students will certainly benefit from the opportunity to attend so many screenings and readings, Browdy de Hernandez is most excited to bring more to the larger community each year.

“This started with a one day festival on our campus, and now it's a month long series of events. This festival is really our gift to the community.”

The culmination of the festival will be a gala at The Mount in Lenox, home and estate of the late Edith Wharton, the Berkshires’ most celebrated female writer.

For more information about the festival and its planned events, please visit berkshirewomenwriters.org.