Opportunity abounds as the glass ceiling shatters

Photo Courtesy of thekankeo.org
Photo Courtesy of thekankeo.org

Jeff Turner

On Friday from 7-9 p.m. The Women’s Archive Project will celebrate the launch of their new website at a reception hosted by The KANEKO Gallery, located in the historic Old Market District of Omaha.

The event, sponsored by University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Criss Library, will feature the stories of UNO women, contributing students’ experiences, as well as the opportunity to meet some of the inspiring women featured in the Women’s Archive Project. This will be including our featured speaker Dr. Catherine Pope, the first African American Miss America can-didate and author of “In Search of the Crown.” This event includes light refreshments, a raffle, and information booths on several women’s groups from the Omaha area.

The WAP illuminates the vast experiences of women across the decades and how their contributions have shaped various communities, the American family, the work-place and the academy itself.

Their mission statement says: “Stories echo both our histories and our desires, and they are reflexive, shaping us as we shape them. We contextualize our lives and ourselves by holding our histories up against those of others. We notice the similarities of our experiences and stand in bewilderment of the marvelous peculiarities of difference. Sharing stories helps us to become fuller, more robust individuals. We better understand the world, our communities, and how we fit—or don’t—within them.”

WAP was started in 2009 thruough UNO. Stories of women are compiled by students and the organization is ran by students. The speakers are fascinating, and there’s a lot of good work from recent UNO graduates. I had an opportunity to speak with the editor of the WAP currently, Tammie Kennedy.

Catherine, a former Miss America contestant and star speaker, will speak on her book that she wrote about the racial prejudices she endured during her time competing for Miss America (representing Nebraska, of course!) She was very guarded about her experiences initially and said it was very raw for her. Although she eventually opened up and wrote about it. Hers is a remarkable story of political upheaval and racial strife and eventually, perseverance.

Kennedy also spoke about some of the UNO students involved right now. A lot of UNO students have published profiles: Mor Sheinben wrote about Bea Karpov, who was a holocaust survivor, and Anjelika Walker wrote several profiles, including one on Nebraska native Mary Williamson.

Walker will also speak at the reception. Other student authors include Samantha Miller; who was the student that initially wrote a profile on Catherine Pope and Jessi Thompson, who did a piece on Grace Harlow Kennedy, and, for a very long time was Web Master for the WAP. Thompson has written multiple profiles.

This is a signal of changing times. It used to be that we did not have to acknowledge the capacities, the creativity, or the talent of women or people of color. This was the case, even not that long ago, as early as twenty years ago, ten, even.

There is a vacuum now and it is hard to point a finger at just one thing. People just seem to have had enough, as such, women are now acknowledged as creative, they are now acknowledged as funny, they run for office, they have experiences; they share their stories. They are taking initiative, because they are fed up. These are exciting times.

(Ways to contribute to WAP can be found at http://wap.lib.unomaha. edu/contribute.html)