It was a big week in the Shenandoah Valley.
Preparations for a 24-day trip to Scandinavia.
And, of course, daily check-ins to see how baby Lydia and her parents are doing.
The theme of the conference, Crossing the Line, applies, in my case, to the lines of academic career, Mennonite faith and community, motherhood and grandmotherhood, American citizenship and global community.
I crossed over multiple identities so many times last week I feel a little dizzy.
So I am posting pictures and a few quotes to take with me as I traverse the Baltic Sea and trek and bike across Norway.
I attended several sessions on Amish and Conservative Women’s Narratives of Self and found them fascinating.
“Gelassenheit [yieldedness or submission to God] had its limits when it came to family.” –Esther Stenson
Antje Brons, first major Mennonite historian, nineteenth-century woman leader who influenced American and Canadian historians, who apparently ignored her militarism and German nationalism.
Her own description of her work? “Fruits of a grandmother’s leisure hours.”
She had eight children and 35 grandchildren, and was perhaps the most widely read Mennonite woman in 400 years of Anabaptist history.
The session on literary women, with Julia Spicher Kasdorf, Daniel Shank Cruz, and Jeff Gundy presenting on themes of queering tradition, bad Mennonites, and a woman who was “discussed a lot” in her time, described as a combination of Rachel Carson and Dorothy Day.
The keynote on Saturday took the audience on a detective journey of how Anabaptist women are represented to the world by strangers (French poet Guilluame Apollinaire, the creators of Breaking Amish reality TV show, Amish romances, and even Amish Vampire Romance).
Contrasting the over-simplified, binary images of popular culture to the complex, multicultural reality of Mennonite and Amish women in real life, Sofia asked the question, “Do you see how we’re caught here?”
After the sessions were over, there were opportunities for informal conversations, the best part of many conferences.
I counted fourteen former Goshen College students and faculty colleagues on the program.
Such a deep, deep satisfaction to see them go far beyond me in research, publication, and artistic achievement, all the while staying connected, in their own ways, to family, faith, and feminism.
I barely scratched the surface of this week, but perhaps these impressions will be enough.
Memory, after all, is fragmentary.
Quotes to take away:
“Is it possible to miss someone you’ve never met?” Rachel Epp Buller
“Women catch courage from women whose lives and writings they read, and women call the bearer of that courage friend.” Carolyn Heilbrun,
Friend, what did you see here that connects with you?