In 1981, Congress passed Public Law 97-28, which authorized the president to proclaim a week beginning March 7 Women’s History Week. In 1987, Congress passed Public Law 100-9, which declared the whole month of that year to be dedicated to women’s history. In 1994, the month was permanently labeled Women’s History Month and most educational institutions, including libraries, sponsor events in recognition of women’s contributions to society and culture.
Eight years ago, three faculty at the Boulder County Campus of Front Range Community College created an oral history project called Reconstructing the Past. Originally the brain child of former Art faculty Camille Rendal, the project forms teams of students from Art, Women’s Sexuality, and Women in U.S. History classes to interview local women about their lives. Students produce art and written work that is displayed in a multimedia art exhibit designed to share the unique stories of women in the Front Range area.
Each year the project has focused on a different demographic of women. The first year, subjects lived at a memory care facility and were all over the age of 70. Subsequent years focused on Latinx business leaders, immigrants and refugees, Jewish women including several Holocaust survivors, homeless women, female veterans including a transwoman, and #metoo survivors. This year the project features indigenous women from the Nahgahchiwanong Anishinaabe, Lakota, Diné (Navaho), Sioux, Chippewa, Shoshone, and Kickapoo nations.
The art component of the project changes every year. The first year, it was crafted pieces of narrative jewelry to accompany the written pieces. Since then, the art has included drawing, painting, graphic-novel panels, digital photography, and sculpture.
There is always an opening reception for the project at the Boulder County Campus. Additionally, the project has been installed at a number of Longmont-area galleries. This year we are excited to install it at Left Hand Brewing Company; this will be the first time we have used that space.
Art and written narrative combine to tell stories in powerful ways. Women’s History Month is a time to celebrate stories that are often overlooked in traditional tellings of history. Women can be “tokenized;” how many times have we learned of Joan of Arc but never of Dorothy Vaughan? Projects like Reconstructing the Past are a community’s attempt to fill in the gaps and present a more inclusive representation of history.
Reconstructing the Past openings are free and open to the public. Front Range Community College, Boulder County will have its opening from 5:30 to7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 23. The opening at Left Hand Brewing Company, 1265 Boston Ave., Longmont, will take place on from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, May 1.