IIT Humanities Professor Marie Hicks Presents at Berkshire Conference on the History of Women

Humanities Professor Marie Hicks recently presented a poster at the Berkshire Conference on the History of Women held in Toronto, Canada. Her poster was titled “Silliness or Simulacra?: Cartoons of Women in High Tech at the Dawn of the Digital Age (1943-1971).” It explored early computing in Great Britain at a time when the government’s stranglehold on major computing companies helped produce a rapid, gendered labor shift – changing computer programming and operator work from a heavily female work force to a male-dominated work force.

“This conference is the largest on the topic of the history of women, gender, and sexuality, drawing several thousand participants,” Hicks said. “I was happy to have the opportunity to see so many different presentations on topics close to my area of interest.”

The Berkshire Conference began in 1973 and is held every three years. It is the preeminent conference for women’s history in the country.

According to its website, The Berkshire Conference of Women Historians formed in 1930 in response to women academics’ sense of professional isolation. Although allowed to join the American Historical Association (the professional organization for historians in the U.S.), women were never invited to the “smokers,” the parties, the dinners and the informal gatherings where the leading men of the profession introduced their graduate students to their colleagues and generally shepherded them into history jobs in colleges and universities.

“It’s interesting to see how this conference has evolved. Although it originally grew out of women historians’ attempts to make a professional network for themselves in a largely male field, it currently tries to be an inclusive space for all genders who work on issues related to women, gender, or sexuality in history. The new journal Transgender Studies Quarterly (Duke University Press) had their launch party at the conference, for instance, and many panels dealt more with gender and transgender issues than you might expect at a conference of this name,” Hicks said.

Click here to see Dr. Hicks’ poster.