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Academic conference to mark 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage

To honor the 100th anniversary of women receiving the right to vote, the Georgia Philosophy Society is holding two back-to-back academic conferences at Mercer Feb. 21 and 22. 

The organizers, Mercer philosophy professors Creighton Rosental and Rosalind Simson, hope the event will shine a light on the issues women still face since receiving suffrage, they said.

“Our students need to be aware that this is a milestone,” Rosental said. “It is a good opportunity to think about what has not been accomplished and what problems still need to be tackled. And I think our students — and undergrads in general — are the perfect kind of people to ask those questions.”

Rosental and Simson serve as the co-vice presidents of the Georgia Philosophy Society. Last year, they hosted the society’s annual conference at Mercer for the first time in recent memory, Rosental said. With that event going well, they decided to host the Georgia Philosophy Society again this year.

Additionally, with the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage, they thought this was a great chance to highlight this topic, Rosental said. 

“At the time that the 19th amendment was ratified, a lot of people thought that this was the big thing — suffrage,” Simson said. “Women could participate in voting for policies and representatives who would represent their views. The 100 years since then have made very clear that there is a huge step in between getting the right to vote and having equality in society.”

Unlike previous conferences from the Georgia Philosophy society, this year’s conference will feature two different events — an undergraduate conference Feb. 21 in Knight Hall, and a professional philosophy conference Feb. 22 at the McEachern Art Center in downtown Macon, Rosental said.

While the professional conference will be primarily philosophy focused, the undergraduate conference seeks to take an interdisciplinary approach to the topic of women’s rights, Rosental said.

“The reason we pitched it as an interdisciplinary conference is that the topic is so interdisciplinary,” Simson said. “If you think about all the ways in which women today are still facing challenges, they are very interdisciplinary—they are in all different areas.”

The undergraduate research conference is analyzing women’s rights through the lens of philosophy, history, politics, criminal justice and public health, Rosental said. The speakers are students from schools across Georgia, such as University of Georgia, Wesleyan College, Georgia College as well as Mercer.

Rosental said that part of the goal of hosting both students and professors is for those students and professors to see each other’s work. 

“The hope is that, with the conferences back to back, that some will go from one to the next,” Rosental said.

After the undergraduate conference, a free dinner will be provided, which will hopefully be an opportunity to put all of the different talks together into a larger discussion, Rosental said.

“With having them all together in the same room, someone may say ‘I see this connection’ and another person may say ‘I didn’t notice that,’” Rosental said. “That’s another reason why we wanted this to be multidisciplinary.”

Simson and Rosental said they hope that this starts a conversation about the legacy of the 19th amendment, but people will likely take away different things from the event.

“The idea is to come up with some sort of theme — that I think is a super important one right now — and people will take away different things,” Simson said. “I think that is, in a way, what you hope for from an academic conference.”

The presenters will talk for 20 minutes about their research, Rosental said. After that, a commentator will ask the presenter questions, and then it will be open up for questions from the audience.

The undergraduate conference is set to occur Feb. 21, starting around 3:15 p.m. in Room 210 in Knight Hall. The professional philosophy conference is set to begin around 10 am and ending around 7 p.m. Feb. 22 at the McEachern Art Center. Snacks will be provided, organizers said.


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