Thursday, November 20, 2014

GEORGIA WOMEN shine at Spotlight on the Arts at UGA

Spotlight on the Arts at UGA was an incredible success, and the Press is proud to have been a contributing entity. Our event with authors Dr. Ann Short Chirhart and UGA's own Kathleen Ann Clark was held this past Tuesday in the Richard B. Russell Special Collections Library on the UGA Campus.

Chirhart and Clark gave a presentation entitled, "Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History: Georgia Women Shape the Twentieth Century," which was launched from their recent anthology, GEORGIA WOMEN: THEIR LIVES AND TIMES, VOL. 2 (published by the Press). Their talk was centered around three Georgia women—two lesser known figures, activists Lugenia Burns Hope and Vara A. Majette, and then one of the most famous women in Georgia history, Margaret Mitchell.

"One challenge we faced [in editing GEORGIA WOMEN] was finding connections between and among these eighteen incredible women," Chirhart said in the opening of the lecture. "Yet we still wanted to remain true to the independent women who had socio-political and cultural influence in many ways."
Dr. Ann Short Chirhart
But through the course of the talk, the interweaving strands became evident. The stories of these eighteen women have often been marginalized, dismissed, or misunderstood in the context of Georgia history. Some of these women viewed the past and the traditions of their time as something to overcome, yet others respected the past, despite its tumultuous nature, and wanted to simultaneously preserve it and challenge the status quo.

Perhaps most importantly, despite being trailblazers in their own times, these women set the stage for future actions. Lugenia Burns Hope's philosophy drew heavily on the Christian tradition, rejected exclusionary racial boundaries, and urged those to "love they neighbor as thyself." Almost half a century later, Coretta Scott King would be greatly inspired by Hope's actions and use her tenants to guide her own activism.

Vara A. Majette was largely critical of the media. She was skeptical of white men's claims that they had a moral duty to protect white women by any means necessary, and she blamed newspapers for fueling the fire of racial tensions in the South after the 1906 Atlanta race riots. Through her work, Majette was devoted to "turning racialized ideologies on their heads."

Dr. Kathleen Ann Clark
Finally, though most notable for writing Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell was actually quite full of gumption. She was the daughter of a suffragette and largely believed in public activism, paid work for women, gender bending, and even delaying or indefinitely postponing marriage. It is in Mitchell's lost adolescent novella, Lost Laysen (her only published work other than Gone with the Wind), that a teenage Mitchell explores pushing the boundaries of racial and gender norms.

Many thanks again to Dr. Ann Short Chirhart and Dr. Kathleen Ann Clark for joining us in Athens for our celebration of the arts, as well as providing us with a thoughtful and engaging talk. Though the week of Spotlight on the Arts at UGA has passed, these kinds of performances and events thrive in Athens year-round. The next on-campus Press event will take place on February 27, 2015, as part of a lecture series for the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts and will feature John T. Edge, Director of the Southern Foodways Alliance and general editor of the SFA Studies in Culture, People, and Place series published with the Press. We look forward to seeing you then!

Dr. Kathleen Ann Clark, Dr. Ann Short Chirhart, and Press Director Lisa Bayer at the GEORGIA WOMEN, VOL. 2 event