Amicus Curiae Lecture Series to focus on women’s history

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The Amicus Curiae Lecture Series have been taking place since the inception of the Simon Perry Center for Constitutional Democracy in 2011. Every year a grant from the WV Humanities Council helps fund the events.

Different components come into play when deciding on who should be the guest speaker for an Amicus Curiae Lecture. Amicus Curiae translates into “friend of the court” in Latin. The event tends to bring in speakers ranging from scholars, judges and lawyers.

The first of this semester’s lecture series occurred Jan. 20 with Marjorie J. Spruill presenting. Spruill is a distinguished professor and historian well known for her work on women and the politics that came with the suffrage movement.

This year marks the one hundredth anniversary of the nineteenth amendment, so titled One Woman, One Vote: The Long Road to Ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, this lecture kicks off multiple events that Marshall will focus on in honor of women.

Patricia Proctor, pre-law advisor, director of the Simon Perry Center for Constitutional Democracy and a political science professor here at Marshall, said the history of women trying to get the right to vote was not an easy task.

“It’s very shocking what women went through to fight for the right to vote in this country,” Proctor said. “If you go back and look at the history, women were beaten, arrested, participated in hunger strikes. It wasn’t a situation of asking ‘please, we have a petition. Will you give us this right?’”

 Lectures are planned out a year in advance, so Proctor has the task of choosing the topic, inviting the speaker, planning and arranging the event. 

“I try to figure out what issues are going to be important for people to learn about next year,” Proctor said. “You want to get people who are interesting speakers as well as qualified to talk about the subject. Often times the people chosen have written books, or they are publishing articles and doing scholarly work. I try to figure out who is doing the best work on the subject.”

Although it came into fruition in 2011, the Amicus Curiae has grown and plays a large role in the outreach aspect of the Simon Perry Center. The lectures reach more people every year and can have two-hundred people in attendance at any given event. Tapes are broadcasted on West Virginia public television later as well as streamed online via Marshall’s website.

“This (the Amicus Curiae Lecture Series events) can be important for everyone who comes, who wishes to be a dynamic member of society,” Proctor said. “When people are engaged and understand our government, law and the way society works in an educated way, they are better prepared for the world.”

Olayinka Bamiro can be contacted at [email protected]