IFRWH Meets in Sofia
Karen Offen, November 2007
The International Federation for Research in Women's History (Fédération International pour la Recherche en Histoire des Femmes) held its 2007 conference in Sofia, Bulgaria, August 8–12, 2007. Organized by IFRWH President Krassimira Daskalova and held at Sofia University, the conference focused on the theme "Women, Gender, and the Cultural Production of Knowledge."
The conference attracted nearly 200 attendees, both women and men, with participants from over 45 countries throughout the world, ranging from Austria and Bangladesh to South Korea and Tajikistan.
The opening session featured a panel presentation dedicated to the 20th anniversary of IFRWH. Ida Blom (professor emerita at the University of Bergen, and a recent recipient of the AHA's honorary foreign membership), the first president of IFRWH, spoke—in a videotaped presentation—about the early years of the federation. Her presentation was followed by those of Karen Offen (Stanford Univ.) a co-organizer and first secretary-treasurer of IFRWH, who spoke about the prehistory of IFRWH, beginning in 1975 through the Bellagio conference in 1989 and the first publications, and of Mary O'Dowd (Queen's Univ., Belfast), who reflected on developments during her presidency from 2000 to 2005.
Invited plenary speakers included Mineke Schipper (Univ. of Leiden) who discussed her findings about women in proverbs worldwide; Karen Offen, who spoke about the development of IFRWH in the context of earlier international women's organizing efforts; and Mihaela Miroiu (National School for Political Science, Bucharest, Romania), whose topic was "Priceless Women, a Timeless Story."
The panelists took up several themes for discussion at the meeting, including "Women, Orality, and Memory"; "Women in Traditional Societies"; "Masculinities and Femininities throughout Time and Space"; and "Gender in Books, Art and Music."
A session devoted to five papers discussing the "Reception of John Stuart Mill's Ideas in South Eastern Europe and Scandinavia" drew a very large crowd on the final day of a most stimulating conference.
Historical films (and other multimedia presentations) added a welcome visual element to the program. Two Israeli colleagues presented a moving film on the life of Irma Lindheim (an affluent New Yorker who immigrated to Israel and settled on a kibbutz), and Elena Panayotova presented her documentary about Zheni [Jenny] Bozhilova-Pateva, an activist in the early 20th-century Bulgarian women's movement. Participants also viewed the American film, Iron-Jawed Angels (directed by Katja von Garnier, winner of the Golden Globe Award, 2005) about Alice Paul and the final dramatic thrust during World War I for a federal constitutional amendment to ensure women's vote in the United States. Participants also celebrated the launch of the Bulgarian translation of Scott Macfie's book, With Gypsies in Bulgaria, published by the Sofia University Press.
The complete conference program, abstracts of papers, photos from the conference, and further information about IFRWH can be consulted on the organization's web site www.ifrwh.com.
The next conference of the International Federation will be held in Amsterdam in 2010, in conjunction with the International Congress on the Historical Sciences. IFRWH is an affiliated external organization of the ICHS/CISH, with voting rights and opportunity to influence the bigger CISH program. Francisca de Haan (Central European Univ., Budapest) will be chairing the IFRWH program committee for 2010. The call for papers will be forthcoming in 2008. Details can be obtained by e-mailing email@example.com.
—Karen Offen (Institute for Research on Women and Gender at Stanford Univ.), a founding member of the IFRWH, chaired the AHA's Committee on International Historical Activities from 1986 to 1990.