News and notes from the WGS program @ Fairfield

Events

Annual Activities Fair Tomorrow!!!

activities-fair1-300x166Calling all students!  Be sure to come out for the annual Activities Fair, which will be held on Friday, September 6 from 5-7 p.m. in the BCC Green (Rain Location: Rec Plex).

Students can learn about all of the extra and co-curricular opportunities on campus.  Over 80 clubs will be represented including those that focus on women, gender and sexuality.

 

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The Annual Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies Lucy Katz Award to be presented to Dr. Ellen Umansky

Dr. Ellen Umansky<br />
Dept Chair-Judaic StudiesThis year, the Annual Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Lucy Katz Award will be presented to Dr. Ellen Umansky

At the award reception, she will be speaking on “Why Gender Matters: Feminist Reconceptualizations of Religion”

Wednesday, May 8, 2013 : 7:30 p.m. at Alumni/ae House

This year the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Person of the Year Award is being rededicated to honor Professor Emeritus Lucy Katz in honor of her work as a founder of the Women’s Studies Program (now Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies) and
her longtime work on behalf of women on campus and in the community.

Reservations required. Please email dgudelunas@fairfield.edu.

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WGSS Capstone May 2 at 5PM BCC 200

lectureJoin us as we celebrate our graduating seniors!

On Thursday, May 2nd at 5PM in BCC 200, WGSS Capstone students will be presenting their capstone research on “Majority/Minority: The status of Women and Sexuality Minorities on Campus.” 

We hope to see you there!

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Walk a Mile in her Shoes – a walk against violence, Apr 27

detailsbackgroundJoin the Fairfield and Bridgeport community in a walk against violence against women.

Here are the details:

Registration opens at 8:30 AM.  Please arrive no later than 8:50 AM.

Start Point is at The Fairfield Train Station (165 Unquowa Road, Fairfield).

FREE Parking is available at The Fairfield Train Station.

 

EVENT SCHEDULE

The Walk will start at approximately 9:00 AM at the Fairfield Train Station

and ends at the Fairfield Town Hall on Old Post Road with a

closing ceremony and refreshments to follow.

 

Closing Ceremony Guests:

Gary MacNamara,

Police Chief of Fairfield Police Department
& White Ribbon Campaign Chairman

Debra Greenwood,

President and CEO
The Center for Women and Familiesof Eastern Fairfield County, Inc.

 

PRIZES!

Prizes will be given for; Oldest Walker, Youngest Walker, Biggest Team, Most Fundraising Money and Best Footware!

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Standing Room Only at “In the Works” WGSS Panel

It was standing room only as Dr. Alphonso, Dr. Arendt, Dr. Lawrence and Dr. Orlando talked about their current academic projects at last week’s “In the Works” Panel discussion, part of Women’s History Month here at Fairfield University.  Attendees listened to the professors, from a range of disciplines, discuss topics ranging from Edith Wharton to roller derby.  in the works

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Question of Habit Documentary Screening Tonight!

Monday, April 08  7:30PM

Library Multimedia Room

Join Dr. Bren Ortega Murphy as she screens her award-winning documentary “A Question of Habit.” The film, narrated by Susan Sarandon, examines the depiction of Catholic nuns in contemporary U.S. popular culture. It contrasts these images with the lives of actual women religious, both historical and current. A brief question and answer session will follow the screening. Sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences and the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program. Refreshments provided.

For more information on the film, check out http://www.questionofhabit.com/index.html habit1

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In the Works: WGS Faculty Talk about Current Projects – April 4, 6:00PM

lectureJoin WGSS for a faculty panel discussion about current research projects:

Professor Alphonso – “Family, Politics and the State”

Professor Arendt – “A Rink of One’s Own: Gender, Sport and the Alter Ego in Contemporary Roller Derby”

Professor Lawrence: “Jarena Lee’s Calling: Biography and Storytelling”

Professor Orlando: “Edith Wharton, Women and the Politics of Representation”

All are welcome!  Refreshments will be served.  BCC 206

 

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Women’s Day, April 4 2013 at Fairfield University!

Women’s Day, April 4,  BCC Lower Level – 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m
Come discover and celebrate women, past and present, who have found their identity through imagination and innovation! Enjoy table presentations from several Fairfield University clubs, arts and crafts, baked goods, a Bead-for-Life jewelry sale, performances throughout the day, and much more!

At 6:00pm, in BCC 206, be sure to check out “In the Works,” WGS Faculty Talk about their Current Projects. In honor of Women’s History Month, WGS faculty will share their current research pertaining to women, gender and sexuality. WOMEN_2013

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“In the Works” WGS Faculty Talk about Current Projects – April 4

In honor of Women’s History Month, WGS faculty will share their current research pertaining to women, gender and sexuality.   Refreshments will be provided!  Join us on April 4, BCC 206 at 6:00 p.m. The following professors will be sharing on their latest research:

Gwendoline Alphonso: “Family, Politics and the State”

Colleen Arendt: “A Rink of One’s Own: Gender, Sport and the Alter Ego in Contemporary Roller Derby”

Anna Lawrence: “Jarena Lee’s Calling: Biography and Storytelling”

Emily Orlando: “Edith Wharton, Women and the Politics of Representation”

WOMEN_2013

 

 

Sponsored by the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program.

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Havana Today: Continuity and Change

Five Fairfield Upr_havana_cars13niversity professors who visited Havana in January will give their multidisciplinary impressions of contemporary Cuba in “Havana Today: Between Continuity and Change” on Thursday, March 21, 2013, at 6 p.m. The discussion, which is free and open to the public, will take place in the University’s DiMenna-Nyselius Library multimedia room.

Faculty participating in the talk will be: Joy Gordon, Ph.D., professor of politics; Gisela Gil-Egui, Ph.D., assistant professor of communication; Olivia Harriott, Ph.D., associate professor of biology; Ania Aksan, Ph.D., assistant professor of economics; and Giovanni Ruffini, Ph.D., associate professor of history.

Light refreshments will be provided.

The event is part of the University’s two-year focus on Cities. It is sponsored by the Humanities Institute of the College of Arts & Sciences; the Latin American & Caribbean Studies Program; the Public Lectures & Events Committee; the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program; and the departments of Philosophy, Communication, Biology, Economics, and History.

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Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Alumnae Panel Tonight

Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Alumnae Panel

Kelley Center Presentation Room – Tonight!womens-history-month

 

Tonight we kick off Women’s History Month with the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program Alumnae Career Panel Discussion!

Hear about life after Fairfield as some of our recent graduates share their experiences in the working world. The discussion will be moderated by Professor Orlando.  Refreshments will be provided.

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Women’s History Month!

Please join the Program in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies in celebrating Women’s History Month.  we have many exciting events planned for March and April that you do not want to miss! (Click on the poster below to make it larger.)

35462_Womens_History_Month_poster_3_6 

 

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White Rainbow Documentary Screening and Panel Discussion Tomorrow!

MohiniGiriJoin us for the Screening of White Rainbow
Thursday, March 7th at 6pm, BCC Lower Level

The holy city of Vrindavan India, also known as the “City of Widows” harbors nearly 20,000 widows who are abandoned on the streets and flock there in the hopes of finding “Moksha” – Salvation. In Indian society, widows are stigmatized and maligned.  Learn about a little known yet urgent subject and help bring social justice for women and societies worldwide!

For more information on the film, visit http://asiasociety.org/policy/social-issues/human-rights/mohini-giri-indias-voice-voiceless 

Brought to us by the Montage Initiative; Center for Faith and Public Life; International Studies; Peace and Justice Studies; Sociology and Anthropology; Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies; Model United Nations Club

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Communication Thesis Presentations – Several pertain to WGSS

Be sure to check out some of the Communication Thesis Presentations if you are on campus Monday night.

Especially the following 2 that relate to WGSS subject matter:

“Beauty and the media beast: A cross- generational comparison of women and beauty”

“Whips Chains and Change: A Third Sexual Revolution”

Communication Thesis Presentations, Monday, March 04  6:30 – 8:45

Library Media Room, Lower Level

Camille Protano will be presenting her Project research titled:

“Stories in the workplace: An exploration of manager perceptions”
Dr. Pagano, Director, Dr. Gudelunas, Second Reader

Diane Casaretti will be presenting her Thesis research titled:

“Beauty and the media beast: A cross- generational comparison of women and beauty”

Dr. Gudelunas, Director and Dr. Pagano, Second Reader

Lori Naber Allyson will be presenting her Thesis research titled:

“Whips Chains and Change: A Third Sexual Revolution”
Dr. Gudelunas, Director and Dr. Serazio, Second Reader

Valerie Montinat Chernetskyy will be presenting her Thesis research titled:

“Consumer motivations for contributing online reviews of products and services”

Dr. Gil-Egui, Director and Dr. Serazio, Second Reader

lecture

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Living Thinkers Documentary showing this Friday

Roxana Canton Profile PicLIVING THINKERS: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF BLACK WOMEN IN THE IVORY TOWER is a documentary by Roxana Walker-Canton.  In it, Black women professors share a collective story about the impact of race, class and gender on their lives as black girls seeking education and their present status in American colleges and universities.

Friday, February 15, 2013 6pm
Gonzaga Hall

Funding made possible by Fairfield University College of Arts and Sciences, the National Council for Black Studies, Cutting Edge Gender Research Grant, and the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism

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March for Change- Advocating for Safer Gun Laws in Connecticut

stacks_image_16

Gun control is an issue that affects people from all walks of life including populations represented by the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program.

America’s murder rate is:

2 times that of Canada

3 times that of the United Kingdom

4 times that of Australia

5 times that of Spain

10 times that of Iceland and Japan

Countries with homicide rates similar to the U.S. include Niger, Palestine and Yemen

On Thursday, February 14, March for Change in Hartford, CT

March for Change is a local grassroots coalition of activists supporting the enactment of safer gun legislation in Connecticut. They are partnered with Connecticut Against Gun Violence, an organization which has addressed this issue since 1993. On Thursday, February 14th from 11am-1pm, these organizations are planning a rally on the north steps of the Capital building in Hartford, CT.

The Center for Faith and Public Life, in partnership with the Center for Catholic Studies, Peace and Justice Studies, and Service for Justice Residential College, is organizing a bus for faculty, staff, and students who would like to attend this event.

Space is limited.  Please register for a seat on the bus by Friday, February 8th at http://www.fairfield.edu/osl/osl_events.html. The bus will depart from Alumni Hall at 9:15am and return by 3:00pm. If you plan to travel to the event with your own transportation, please register directly on the marchforchange.org website. Walkers are encouraged to wear green and/or white, the colors of Sandy Hook Elementary School.

To learn more about existing gun laws in CT and to stay updated on specific legislation that will be proposed in CT, please visit: http://www.marchforchange.org; http://www.cagv.org/; and http://www.cga.ct.gov/2007/rpt/2007-R-0369.htm For more information on March for Change, please contact Danielle Corea, X 3059, Dcorea1@fairfield.edu.

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One Billion Rising, Feb 14 – Demand an end to violence against women

1br-logo-webToday, on the planet, a billion women – one of every three women on the planet – will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. That’s ONE BILLION mothers, daughters, sisters, partners, and friends violated.

V-Day REFUSES to stand by as more than a billion women experience violence.

On February 14th, 2013, V-Day’s 15th Anniversary, we are inviting one billion women and those who love them to walk out, DANCE, RISE UP, AND DEMAND an end to this violence. One Billion Rising is a promise that we will rise up with women and men worldwide to say, “Enough! The violence ends now.”

http://onebillionrising.org/

Start your own rising or join one locally:

Domestic Violence Crisis Center Norwalk

One Billion Rising, February 14 12:30pm-1:00pm at the Green in Norwalk

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MLK Convocation featuring Diane Nash – Thursday, January 31 at 3PM

nashAll faculty, staff, and students are invited to attend the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Convocation featuring civil rights activist, Diane Nash. Convocation will take place this Thursday, January 31 at 3 p.m. in the Quick Center for the Arts – Kelley Theatre. This event is FREE to the University community. This year’s event will be moderated by Dr. Yohuru Williams, Associate Professor of African American History, and will feature and interactive discussion with students and Diane Nash.

Nash’s involvement in the non-violent movement began in 1959 while she was a student at Fisk University. In 1960 she became the chairperson of the student sit-in movement in Nashville, TN, the first southern city to desegregate its lunch counters.  In 1961 she coordinated the Freedom Ride from Birmingham, AL to Jackson, MS, a story documented in the recent PBS American Experience film Freedom Riders.

For more information about the MLK Celebration, please visit the web site at www.fairfield.edu/mlk or contact Fred J. Kuo or Dr. Ellen Umansky, Co-Chairs – MLK Celebration Committee.

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Welcome back!

Expect a lot of great things coming from Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies this semester!  Check back often as we are planning our annual Women’s Month events as well as other events.  New courses are also in the works for the next academic year so it is an exciting time to be involved with WGSS!

Here’s an interesting link to get the semester started and to get us thinking about gender: Nepal to issue “third gender” citizenship. 2013-marketing-trends

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Washington Same-Sex Marriage Measure Signed Into Law By Chris Gregoire

An important moment for equality – same sex marriages begin in Washington State!

From the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/05/washington-same-sex-marriage_n_2248014.html

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Gov. Chris Gregoire has signed into law a measure that legalizes same-sex marriage in Washington state, which now joins several other states that allow gay and lesbian couples to wed.

Gregoire and Secretary of State Sam Reed certified the election on Wednesday afternoon, as they were joined by couples who plan to wed and community activists who worked on the campaign supporting gay marriage. The law doesn’t take effect until Thursday, when gay and lesbian couples can start picking up their wedding certificates and licenses at county auditors’ offices. King County, the state’s largest and home to Seattle, and Thurston County, home to the state capital of Olympia, will open the earliest, at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, to start issuing marriage licenses.

Because the state has a three-day waiting period, the earliest that weddings can take place is Sunday. Same-sex couples who previously were married in another state that allows gay marriage, like Massachusetts, will not have to get remarried in Washington state. Their marriages will be valid here as soon as the law takes effect.

“This is a very important and historic day in the great state of Washington,” Gregoire said before signing the measure that officially certified the election results. “For many years now we’ve said one more step, one more step. And this is our last step for marriage equality in the state of Washington.”

Last month, Washington, Maine and Maryland became the first states to pass same-sex marriage by popular vote. They joined six other states – New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont – and the District of Columbia that had already enacted laws or issued court rulings permitting same-sex marriage.

Referendum 74 in Washington state had asked voters to either approve or reject the state law legalizing same-sex marriage that legislators passed earlier this year. That law was signed by Gregoire in February but was put on hold pending the outcome of the election. Nearly 54 percent of voters approved the measure.

The law doesn’t require religious organizations or churches to perform marriages, and it doesn’t subject churches to penalties if they don’t marry gay or lesbian couples.

Heather Kawmoto and Kay Lancaster of Tacoma attended the signing event Wednesday afternoon with their 9-year-old daughter, Kayleigh Kawmoto.

Kawmoto and Lancaster have been together more than 14 years, and domestic partners since 2007, and both said they can’t wait to finally pick up their marriage license as soon as the Pierce County auditor’s office opens at 6:30 a.m. Thursday. They will marry in a small ceremony on Sunday in Tacoma.

“It’s something we’ve hoped for and dreamed of,” Lancaster said. “I didn’t dare hope that it would be this soon, and we’re just thrilled that it is.”

Lancaster and Kawmoto said that the reality of their impending marriage sunk in in the past few days, as they were writing their vows.

“We never knew we’d be able to say those things to each other,” Lancaster said, starting to cry, as Kayleigh quickly handed her a tissue.

Maryland’s law officially takes effect Jan. 1, however couples can start picking up marriage licenses on Thursday, as long as the license has an effective date of Jan. 1. Whether clerks of court issue a postdated license is up to them, however. They are not required to do so. Maine’s law takes effect on Dec. 29. There’s no waiting period in Maine, and people can start marrying just after midnight.

In addition to private ceremonies that will start taking place across Washington state this weekend, Seattle City Hall will open for several hours on Sunday, and several local judges are donating their time to marry couples. Aaron Pickus, a spokesman for Mayor Mike McGinn, said that more than 140 couples have registered to get married at City Hall, and weddings will begin at 10 a.m.

Washington state has had a domestic partnership law in place since 2007. The initial law granted couples about two dozen rights, including hospital visitation and inheritance rights when there is no will. It was expanded a year later, and then again in 2009, when lawmakers completed the package with the so-called “everything but marriage” law that was ultimately upheld by voters later that year.

This year, lawmakers passed the law allowing gay marriage, and Gregoire signed it in February. Opponents gathered enough signatures for a referendum, putting the law on hold before it could take effect.

There are nearly 10,000 domestic partnership registrations with the secretary of state’s office. Most same-sex domestic partnerships that aren’t ended prior to June 30, 2014, automatically become marriages, unless one of the partners is 62 or older.

That provision was included in the state’s first domestic partnership law of 2007 to help heterosexual seniors who don’t remarry out of fear they could lose certain pension or Social Security benefits.

Marcy Kulland and Terry Virgona, both 59 and from Tacoma, said they plan to get married on Sept. 28, 2013 to celebrate their 22nd anniversary.

“I’m just ecstatic. Now we’re legitimized,” Kulland said. “It’s just absolutely wonderful.”

However, she that while the state law is a great step forward, as long as federal law continues to deny federal recognition of same-sex marriages, there’s more to be done.

“This completes us, it doesn’t complete our work,” Kulland said.

___

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From the Fairfield Mirror: Campus Groups Unite

Here’s an opportunity to get involved on campus and support causes related to women, gender and sexuality.

On Monday night, a small but passionate group of student leaders assembled in the BCC to form a new network of humanitarian and justice activists on campus.

Known as the Progressive Student Alliance (PSA), this organization formed for the purpose of bringing exposure to important causes on campus and providing support for student organizations trying to make a difference.

PSA first organized late last year, and so the network was still in its early stages at the end of the semester. As a result, they are “just now finding out how best to network to strengthen our movements collectively,” according to Arturo Jaras Watts ’14.

Jaras Watts is one of many students involved in the launch of PSA last year. Rachel Lang ’14, Crystal Rodriguez ’14 and Mike Elwell ’13, as well as graduates Marissa Tota ’12 and Alicia Bissonnette ’12, brought PSA to life. Both Jaras Watts and Record were quick to emphasize throughout the meeting that the purpose of PSA was not to create a new organization with them as leaders. Rather, PSA will function as a horizontal network of dedicated leaders who provide support for other organizations on campus with important causes.

“Each of us here represent different clubs that we are committed to,” said Record. “But the purpose of PSA is so that when it gets to a point … where you go and present these ideas and it’s on the line and you need backup, we can come.”

Record clarified that this support was not automatic. “If you need a petition that needs to be signed, we should all read it and not just blindly follow you guys,” Record said, “but I think we can see the benefits that this would accrue for all of us.”

Another important function of PSA is to increase the visibility of important humanitarian and justice events happening on campus. In order to accomplish this goal, PSA discussed options such as compiling a bathroom newsletter that lists these events and provides information about the clubs and organizations sponsoring them.

“We have events like the phenomenal Take Back the Night event that happens every year and we want participation to be as large as possible,” said Jaras Watts. “The newsletter would serve that side of the function of increasing the visibility and reaching a greater portion of Fairfield students.” The group also discussed creating a public space such as a bulletin board in the BCC that would display these events and club information.

In all, ten different groups and organizations were represented at the meeting on Monday, although not all clubs involved in PSA were able to send representatives to the meeting. These groups ranged from the environmental club Leaders for Environmental Action at Fairfield (LEAF) to Act Against, a student movement that works to bring important issues to the forefront of campus consciousness.

The organizations and clubs involved in PSA are currently working on assembling their newsletter, which they hope to release during the first weeks of next semester.

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Wednesday at 7:30pm Dr. Gudelunas will speak about communication taboos as part of “Talk about communication: Twenty-five years of Communication at Fairfield University”

Join Dr. David Gudelunas, chair of WGSS, on Wednesday night at “Talk about communication: 25 years of communication at Fairfield University”  The event will take place at the Dolan School of Business Dining Room at 7:30PM.

Dr. Gudelunas will discuss communication taboos, specifically the intersection of media, culture and sex.

Dr. Sallyanne Ryan will reflect on 25 years of communication at Fairfield.

Dr. Qin Zang will discuss psychological reactance and verbal defensiveness in the workplace: “the effects of perceived threat and interactional justice in supervisor requests.”

Dr. Michael Pagano will discuss a collaborative approach: “getting interpersonal with simulation pedagogy.”

This lecture is funded by a grant from the Humanities Institute of the College of Arts & Sciences Part 2 in the series in Spring 2013.

Come out and support WGSS!

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Wednesday, November 28: Fairfield University professor to discuss women and politics at the bookstore

Jocelyn Boryczka, Ph.D., associate professor of politics at Fairfield University, will discuss her new book, “Suspect Citizens: Women, Virtue, and Vice in Backlash Politics,” at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, November 28, at the Fairfield University Bookstore, 1499 Post Road, Fairfield. The talk is free and open to the public.

In her timely work, Dr. Boryczka considers the factors that drive the cycle of backlashes against women’s struggle for equality, freedom and inclusion in American politics. She presents a wide-ranging feminist conceptual history and delves into the ideas of virtue and vice from the Puritans through contemporary debates over sex education and reproductive rights.

“Suspect Citizens” challenges virtue and vice as a moral paradigm consistent with contemporary democratic citizenship and advances a politics of collective responsibility and belonging.

“Using examples from ancient, modern, and contemporary political and feminist theory and practice, Boryczka thoughtfully and critically examines the shifting moral boundaries between virtue and vice in order to understand and expose how gendered notions of morality have constructed women as suspect citizens: unequal, constrained, and excluded from full citizenship within American democracy,” wrote Jennifer Leigh Disney, Ph.D., associate professor of political science and director of the Women’s Studies Program at Winthrop University. “Her work constitutes essential reading for students of political theory, feminist theory, and anyone interested in advancing a democratic feminist ethics.”

Dr. Boryczka teaches several courses on political theory, feminist thought, race, class and gender. She holds a Ph.D. from The Graduate Center, City University of New York.

For more information, contact Elizabeth Hastings, ehastings@fairfield.edu or (203) 254-4000, ext. 2688. For more information on Fairfield’s MFA in Creative Writing Program, visit www.fairfield.edu/mfa.

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Celebrating Our Veterans – 92 year old Lucile Wise, WWII pilot

Lucile Wise, 92, awaits pilot Chad Graves as the two prepare to fly in a 1942 Boeing-Stearman biplane at Centennial Airport. Wise, with the Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II, was among the first women to fly military aircraft. This year, they will be honored at the 10th annual gala of Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum on Dec. 21.

This Veteran’s Day, let’s celebrate the first military pilots in US history like Lucile Wise!

From the Denver Post

Arvada WASP pilot recaptures legacy of Fifinella with biplane flight

The first female military pilots in U.S. history — women including Lucile Wise of Arvada — signed up during World War II and trained to fly bombers and fighters such as the legendary P-51 Mustang.

The U.S. Army Air Forces didn’t have enough pilots, so women were recruited for military flying jobs stateside to free up men to fly combat missions overseas.

Seventy years after her pilot training, Wise strapped herself into the open cockpit of a 1942 Boeing-Stearman biplane, used as a military trainer during the war.

The 92-year-old wore goggles, a headset and a borrowed leather bomber jacket. Excited, she grinned as the pilot fired up the engine.

When the canary-yellow biplane roared down the runway, a former Air Force pilot watched in awe.

“Fifinella flies again,” said Greg Anderson, president and chief executive of Wings Over the Rockies, as the plane rose into the warm afternoon sky earlier this week. “The legacy lives on.”

Fifinella — a female gremlin designed by Walt Disney that appeared in many World War II cartoons — was the official mascot of the Women Airforce Service Pilots. Her image appeared on the noses of bombers and on the flight jackets of 1,074 women, including Wise.

“These ladies were way ahead of their time,” he said. “Individually, and as a group, they have a piece of history we will never be able to experience. They paved the way and proved it could be done.”

These women will be honored at the 10th annual gala of Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum on Dec. 21, which will feature many WASP pilots, including seven who live in Colorado. The traveling exhibit, “Fly Girls of WWII,” runs through March at the museum.

In an era when the dominant role for women was to stay at home serving as wives and mothers, the opportunity to train as military pilots opened a door to women like Wise, who had dropped out of Colorado Women’s College and was working in Wichita.

“We all wanted to do something to help the war effort. All my women friends were joining the military,” Wise said. “I did it for a lark, to add a little excitement to my life.”

She took her first flying lesson Dec. 6, 1941 — the day before the attack on Pearl Harbor — because someone had taken her up in a Piper Cub.

Once behind the controls, Wise was hooked.

By 1943, Jackie Cochran — a beautician who became America’s top female pilot — had established the WASPs at the request of President Franklin Roosevelt.

More than 25,000 women applied to the program, and fewer than 1,900 were accepted into the training program at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas.

Wise’s classmates included Gertrude “Tommy” Tompkins, whose fighter went down along the California coast soon after takeoff Oct. 26, 1944, and has never been found.

“We never dwelled on it,” said Wise. “We were too busy.”

The pilots flew a total of 60 million miles in two years. Thirty-eight women died during their service, an accident rate comparable to male pilots doing the same job.

WASPs flew military planes from factories to bases, trained male pilots, towed targets for gunnery practices and tested planes.

Two WASPs were also used to convince male pilots it was safe to fly the B-29. Men resisted flying the new heavy bomber because it hadn’t received rigorous testing, and its engines tended to catch fire.

Col. Paul Tibbets recruited two WASPs to serve as demo pilots, and after three days of training, the women powered up the four-engine bomber and ferried around the men.

“They flew it, no problem,” said Brig. Gen. Wilma Vaught, one of the most decorated women in military history, now president of the board of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation. “They thought it was great. That ended the (men’s) fear of flying that plane.”

The WASPs were disbanded in late 1944, receiving a letter of thanks from Henry Arnold, commanding general of the Army Air Forces.

The war had reached a point “when your services are no longer needed,” he said. “The situation is that if you continue in service, you will be replacing instead of releasing our young men.”

Most WASPs returned to traditional roles.

“I didn’t know what I was going to do. I felt lost,” Wise said.

Although the women had been promised that they would be adopted into the military, that never happened. Bills in Congress to militarize the WASPs hit fierce opposition, so they were disbanded with no military benefits and “largely ignored by the U.S. government for more than 30 years,” according to the teacher guide of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

Wise, who married and raised two children with her husband in Washington, D.C., got fired up in the late 1970s when the Air Force announced that women would be allowed to become military pilots for the first time.

“We got very annoyed,” said Wise of the WASPs, who realized they had been totally forgotten by history. “We got organized.”

Wise fought for their rights by volunteering in a tiny office at the Army Navy Club in Washington, D.C.

Their demand to be recognized as military veterans faced a united front of tough opponents, including the Veterans Administration, President Jimmy Carter, the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

“Those groups had so much power, and they feared this would open the floodgates,” said Wise.

If the WASPs were granted military status, opponents feared, then the other civilian organizations that worked in the war effort would also demand military recognition.

But the WASPs refused to quit, calling their congresspersons and talking to supportive reporters. They gained some key advocates.

“The Pentagon testified in our favor,” said Wise. “It was pretty unusual for them to take a position opposite the White House.”

Col. Bruce Arnold, the son of commanding Gen. Henry Arnold, also fought for them, as did Sen. Barry Goldwater, himself a World War II pilot.

In 1977, the House and Senate passed a bill that gave WASPs military status and veterans benefits.

And in 2010, the WASPs received the Congressional Gold Medal from President Barack Obama.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to know a number of WASPs,” said Vaught. “They’re a breed among themselves. They have a spirit of adventure that just won’t quit.”

Colleen O’Connor: 303-954-1083, coconnor@denverpost.com or twitter.com/coconnordp

http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_21968958/arvada-wasp-pilot-recaptures-legacy-fifinella-biplane-flight

 

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