Filling the Gaps with Silence
April 17, 2012 § Leave a Comment
For my on campus lecture I went to listen to Brittany Bayless Fremion. She is a Ph.D. candidate in the history department here at Purdue University. Her lecture was entitled, “Filling the Gaps with Silence: Women’s Oral Testimony and Personal Politics in Grassroots Environmental Activism”. She spoke about her dissertation and how she was looking at a movement in the mid-twentieth century to preserve the Indiana Dunes. She has been investigating this movement through oral interviews through a lens of gender, age, and race.
She talked us through how a group of women decided to organize the Save the Dunes Council. This was needed to prevent the construction of a new port and harbor where the Dunes are. Brittany personally went through tape recorded interviews from the woman on the council. She pointed out how women would at first hide behind the men and act as if they weren’t politically active in this council. Granted at first not all women took on a political role but towards the end of Brittany’s’ talk she showed how woman would stand up for what they were fighting for and didn’t care what others thought. Even in the tape recorded interviews the women would be answering questions and then the tapes would cut out. The women in the council were suspicious in a way. They didn’t want others to know everything so they kept certain details to themselves.
The women in this council defended the Dunes because they wanted a place for their families to be able to go to. At first hiding behind their domestic roles they finally took the extra step and decided to show everyone that they were women who were making a stand. These women went from “lady-like” tactics such as writing letters and making phone calls to making “male based” decisions such as dealing with legal and economic issues.
Back in this time period it wasn’t a very popular occurrence for women to speak up and be a leader of organizations. This group however was one of the few. They felt empowered enough about the topic to be able to educate themselves about the subject and then speak to others to try and help the problem at hand. This group of women hid behind the men at first which I feel like happened a lot back then. They did seem to have enough courage to be able to stand up as a strong group of women in the end. This shows just how much women have transformed their image over the years.
This white housewife dominated group of women activists lead to other parts of the community to get involved. This involvement included men of all colors which created even more tension from the public eye. In the end this group of women stood up for an important issue and went beyond others to speak up. Although this road was not easy these environmental activists helped save something that was truly important to them and their families.