Women’s studies lecture to focus on feminist activist

The 2020 Charlotte Schmidlapp Distinguished Lecture in Women’s Studies, presented by author and journalist Joan Quigley, will focus on activist and feminist Mary Church Terrell, Friday, March 6.

During the lecture, titled “Until Fool and Final Victory, Mary Church Terrell and the Battle for Equality,” Quigley will present her book, “Just Another Southern Town: Mary Church Terrell and the Struggle for Racial Justice in the Nation’s Capital.”

Laura Michele Diener, director of the women’s studies program, said Church Terrell was active in the women’s suffrage movement as well as the Civil Rights movement.

“She was an activist her entire life,” Diener said. “So her work falls at the intersection of two narratives, which are kind of parallel but also intersecting in terms of American activism and greater rights.”

Church Terrell also had connections to the Marshall University community, Diener said, as she corresponded with Carter G. Woodson, the Father of Black History, who is honored with the Carter G. Woodson Lyceum on campus. She was also a founding member of the African American sorority Delta Sigma Theta, which has a chapter at Marshall.

“There are a number of letters at the Library of Congress between the two of them; they knew each other, they admired each other,” Diener said. “And some students from the Society for Black Scholars are doing a service-learning project exploring that relationship.”

The lecture, as part of Women’s History Month, is focused on 100 years of the 19th Amendment’s ratification, Diener said, though Church Terrell faced additional challenges. 

“That’s one of the reasons we asked Joan Quigley to come because we wanted her to talk about Mary Church Terrell, who was extremely active in the suffrage movement,” Diener said. “But as a black woman, she also faced more challenges, including discrimination within that movement and a lack of acknowledgement for…particular obstacles for black women.”

Copies of Quigley’s book, written with Oxford University Press, will be available for purchase and signing by the author at the reception preceding the lecture.

“People should definitely come because Mary Church Terrell and this talk will speak to a number of very significant moments right now,” Diener said. “It’s not just a talk about the past, because we are of course celebrating the centennial of women’s right to vote, but we’re also coming up to an election where not necessarily peoples right to vote, but people’s access to voting is a very contentious issue. 

“So I would say that this is an extremely relevant topic right now. And also an opportunity to learn about, you know, a really incredible activist who can maybe inspire contemporary students to activism,” Diener said.

The lecture begins at 7 p.m. in the Brad D. Smith Foundation Hall.

This year’s Charlotte Schmidlapp endowed lecture is sponsored by the Simon Perry Center for Constitutional Democracy, Intercultural Affairs and the John Deaver Drinko Academy. 

The lecture was created by the Schmidlapp Foundation, stemming from Jacob Schmidlapp’s desire to honor his daughters who died young and promote women’s education, Diener said.

“It was something that his daughters weren’t able to enjoy, but he thought that they would have had they lived,” Diener said.

Amanda Larch can be contacted at [email protected]