Women’s History Month display writes women back into history

Maegan Kirby

UT libraries aim to project female voices and write women back into history, to combat the historical tradition of female voices being present but not always heard. 

In celebration of National Women’s History Month, UT librarians have compiled a “Reclaiming Herstory Across Disciplines” display. Located on the third floor of the Perry-Castañeda Library for the month of March, the display highlights women’s contributions across different disciplines and recognizes the impact femme-identified people have had throughout history.

Elle Covington, liaison librarian for social work, kinesiology and educational psychology, said the diversity action committee wants to bring attention to underrepresented groups who historically did not have societal privileges or connections.

“Even though Women’s History Month started in 1989, women’s history was going on long before that,” Covington said. “Women were writing things, they were doing things. It’s not that their voices are absent. It’s that we don’t highlight them.”

Whether it be a novel about female pirates or a children’s book about the first female African-American astronaut, Covington said she wants students to discover new femme voices.

“What we try to do in libraries is enable serendipitous discoveries,” Covington said. “You’re walking past something — it’s not something that you were looking for — but (you’re) like ‘Oh my gosh, this sounds amazing.’”

Laura Tadena, Consuelo Artaza and Carlos Castañeda resident librarian, said the display focuses on marginalized women who have not been widely recognized.

“It’s not just women — it’s also minorities and people from underrepresented identity groups,” Tadena said. “But you won’t actually read about how they’ve changed major policies, at least in our former textbooks, unless they’re like a blurb or a side note.”

Subject librarians on campus employ their areas of specialization in individual contributions to the display, and Tadena said the works of women across multiple disciplines will resonate with students.

“We have a huge range of books that we’ve selected where these women have made an impact on areas in their field and have opened doors for other women to continue and move progression,” Tadena said.

Tadena said the display offers a unique learning experience for students, including multimedia features. 

“We’ll have a mix of actual, physical books, as well as QR codes that people can scan and get access to our electronic books,” Tadena said. “We’ve also had librarians recommend AV materials, movies, film.”

Larayne Dallas, the STEM liaison librarian for engineering, said the display will encourage female students by focusing on strong femme voices such as Edith Clarke, the first woman electrical engineer and woman professor of electrical engineering at UT.

“Over the years, in science fields, women have been not as well represented as men.” Dallas said. “There is a continuous effort to interest girls in engineering.”

Although Women’s History Month recognizes many minority women and their contributions throughout history, Dallas said the focus should be on their achievements and not their marginalization.

“I like to think of it as not pointing out that women have been overlooked,” Dallas said. “I like to think of it as celebrating women.”