CFP: Sites of Feminist Memory

Sites of Feminist Memory: Remembering suffrage in Europe and the United States of America

Conference dates: 12-13 May 2020 – Aix en Provence

Keynote speaker:
Dr Sharon Crozier-de Rosa (University of Wollongong), co-author of Remembering Women’s Activism
, Routledge, 2019.

On April 24th 2018, suffragist leader Millicent Garrett Fawcett became the first woman to be honoured with a permanent statue in Parliament Square, one hundred and eighty six years after George Canning, the first of her 11 male predecessors[1]. The unveiling was the culmination of a two-year campaign initiated by activist Caroline Criado Perez. The choice of Fawcett sparked vigorous debate amongst activists and academics alike[2]. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the coming centenary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment has inspired #Monumental Women, a grassroots organization, to mount a campaign for the commissioning of a statue honouring the suffrage leaders Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. This campaign also triggered vigorous accusations that the monument would “white wash” the suffrage past, accusations which resulted in the decision to add the African-American leader Sojourner Truth to the monument[3]. Its unveiling is planned for August 26, 2020 in Central Park, New York. Like Fawcett’s, it will be the first statue of its kind in this most prestigious of public spaces. 

These spectacular enshrinements of leading suffrage campaigners in such quintessential sites of national memory can be read as a form of apotheosis for a process begun by the suffrage campaigners themselves to inscribe the suffrage past into our built environments via statues and street names, commemorative plaques and memorial monuments, community cafés and communal libraries[4]. Building on the very recent work of Vera Mackie and Sharon Crozier-de Rosa[5], interrogating the history and effects of that process of creation of literal ”Sites of Feminist Memory”[6], across Europe and the United States, in local, national and transnational settings, will be a central ambition of this conference. We thus invite papers which focus on such literal sites of feminist memory in Europe and the United States and fruitfully engage with the following themes:

–   Where and why have literal sites of feminist memory appeared?

–   What is their relation to surrounding « lieux de mémoires”[7] and to « national » collective memory?

–   Does the creation of these sites borrow from existing traditions of site-creation or is there anything distinctly « feminist » about this process?

–   Are there only « national » or « local » sites of feminist memory or can transnational sites be identified?

–   What effects on collective understandings of « feminism » and the « feminist » past do these sites have, if any?

–   What consequences did/do they have on feminists’ collective memory?

–   How did they shape feminist identities at the time of their creation?

–   How do they shape them now, if at all?

–   What affects are associated with these sites?

–   How stable are the meanings attached to these sites over time?

The other ambition of this conference will be to ponder the more general question of the place of the suffrage past in what Maria Grever has called the ”Pantheon of Feminist Culture”[8]. She meant by this a loose and evolving collection of ”sites of memory” in the sense of Pierre Nora, that is a set of ”leaders, historical events, monuments, rituals, symbols, images, founding texts and historiography”[9] which become iconic and are drawn on by feminists to justify their struggles and identities to themselves, to each other and to their enemies[10]. As the controversies surrounding the statues in London and New York have highlighted, the suffrage past’s place in that Pantheon is hotly contested. Here, we welcome papers which focus on specific suffrage leaders, events, texts, symbols, and images as contested ”sites of feminist memory” in Europe and the United States and which explore some of the following themes:

–   How have these sites of feminist memory emerged? 

–   What has been at stake in their memorialisation?

–   How has historical research contributed to or undermined memorial narratives about these sites?

–   Has the place of these sites in the Pantheon of Feminist Culture remained constant or ebbed and flowed? And why?

–   Can transnational sites be identified? Or are these inescapably national?

–   What affects are associated with these sites and their contestation?

It is envisaged that the conference will result in a publication and the constitution of a research network with a view to bidding for international, particularly European, funding. 

Please send a 300 word abstract in English to Marc Calvini-Lefebvre (marc.calvini-lefebvre@univ-amu.fr) and Claire Sorin (claire.sorin@univ-amu.fr) by 19 February 2020

Notification of acceptance will be given by 01 March 2020.

This conference is organised by the Laboratoire d’Études et de Recherche sur le Monde Anglophone (LERMA) of Aix-Marseille Université and supported by the Aix-Marseille Initiative d’Excellence (A*MIDEX)


[1] A statue commemorating the suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst was erected in 1930 in Victoria Tower Gardens which run alongside the Houses of Parliament but do not face them as does Parliament Square. 

[2] e.g. Rachel Holmes, ”A new feminist statue is a great idea. Shame they picked the wrong feminist”, The Guardian, April 14, 2017

[3] Martha Jones, “How New York’s new monument whitewashes the women’s rights movement,” The Washington Post, March 22, 2019

[4] Hilda Kean, ‘Searching for the Past in Present Defeat:The Construction of Historical and Political Identity in British Feminism in the 1920s and 1930s’, Women’s History Review 3, no. 1 (1994): 57–80; Hilda Kean, ‘Public History and Popular Memory: Issues in the Commemoration of the British Militant Suffrage Campaign’, Women’s History Review 14, no. 3 & 4 (2005): 581–602; Laura E. Nym Mayhall, ‘Creating the “Suffragette Spirit”: British Feminism and the Historical Imagination’, Women’s History Review 4, no. 3 (1995): 319–44.

[5] Sharon Crozier-De Rosa, Remembering Women’s Activism (London : Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2019), especially chapter 1.

[6] Maria Grever, ‘Rivals in Historical Remembrance: Wollstonecraft and Holy Women as “Loci” of Feminist Memory’, The European Journal of Women’s Studies 3 (1996): 101–13.

[7] Pierre Nora, ‘Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoire’, Representations, no. 26 (1989): 7–24, https://doi.org/10.2307/2928520.

[8] Maria Grever, ‘The Pantheon of Feminist Culture: Women’s Movements and the Organization of Memory’, Gender & History 9, no. 2 (August 1997).

[9] Ibid, p. 101

[10] Lisa Tetrault, Myth of Seneca Falls: Memory and the Women’s Suffrage Movement, 1848-1898 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2014); Marc Calvini-Lefebvre, ‘The Great War in the History of British Feminism: Debates and Controversies, 1914 to the Present’, Revue Française de Civilisation Britannique [Online] XX, no. 1 (2015), https://doi.org/10.4000/rfcb.310.


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