Dr. Lisa-Marie Napoli: So I'm Lisa Marie Napoli. I'm the director of PACE, the political and civic engagement program, and Co-Chair of the big 10 voting challenge.
Dr. Stephanie Sanders: I'm Dr. Stephanie Sanders a professor and the chair of the department of gender studies.
Dr. Wendy Gamber: I'm Wendy Gamber and I'm a professor of history and the chair of the history department.
Dr. Lauren MacLean: I am Lauren McLean, and I'm the department chair of political science and I teach African politics and politics around the world.
Noura Ahmed: I was curious how this course came about and why it was only offered for this semester.
Dr. Wendy Gamber: Well, I'm looking at Lisa-Marie because it was her idea.
Dr. Lisa-Marie Napoli: Well, we were all very enthusiastic, but I probably opened my mouth, more than I should have. But we were all sitting at a round little table in the Provost’s Office. The Provost had called us all together and we were talking about the 100 year Centennial commemorating the 19th amendment.
Dr. Lauren MacLean: And I have to say I was amazed because the provost invited so many terrific women and these women were there, but there are also other women from around campus and looking around that table. I was just so excited about the female leadership on campus.
Dr. Lisa-Marie Napoli: Yeah, thank you for giving us a sense of the setting there. Yeah. So we were very enthusiastic, we started to talk about: wouldn't it be wonderful if we offer a class that talks about women's suffrage? and then Wendy started jumping in with a historical lens and and then we started to talk about sex issues, race issues, and voting rights and that's kind of how it came together.
Dr. Wendy Gamber: Yeah, we thought if we talked about suffrage, or the 19th amendment, that students might not know what that meant. So we changed the title to sex, race and voting rights.
Dr. Lauren MacLean: And I think, Wendy it may have been you, but we were all gearing up and thinking about this big celebration, but also thinking about what were some of the things that were missing from the treatment of these topics and that we wanted to really be critical and thinking about this topic from multiple lenses.
Dr. Stephanie Sanders: And we also thought we could tie it in with the Themester on Democracy.
Dr. Lisa-Marie Napoli: It just seemed like such a wonderful opportunity. We were all enthusiastic and we all realized we wanted to learn more about it ourselves. And we wanted to be able to share the opportunity with students and we could all really grow from this opportunity of 100 years of women getting the right to vote.
Dr. Lauren MacLean: Yeah, and the coincidence with the election too was just tremendous so it's been quite a semester.
Eliza Craig: Yeah, a turbulent one to tie in issues 100 years ago that continue today. So how did you go about creating the course material and the curriculum? Did you consider the election that would be going on this semester, and how did that play into creating the course?
Dr. Wendy Gamber: Well, we decided that we would rely primarily on guest speakers, because I, for example, I'm a historian of US women, but suffrage is not my specialty by any means. I was thinking back to a time in the 1980s, when I was a TA in an introductory women's studies class at Brandeis University where I got my doctorate. And the class was entirely a different guest speaker every week. And since we are all department chairs or program directors and are busy people that seemed to be one way to make this manageable. So we have a different guest speaker every week and tonight we're having the provost, Provost Robel is coming To our class. And that's just been a wonderful experience because not only have I learned so much, but it's just so fun to see different teachers in action and learn from them watch them interact with students and it's just been an incredible experience.
Dr. Lauren MacLean: I would say too that one of the terrific things is drawing on everybody's respective networks. So it's not just our departments, but also colleagues, and other people we know that are doing interesting work. So we've had guest professors, but we've also had interactions with filmmakers and with the political candidates. So we thought about not just voting, but also the candidates, and the activists, and the others, who are all kind of supporting and mobilizing on these issues. So that's been really enriched the class and the discussions.
Dr. Lisa-Marie Napoli: And we allowed the class to really be adaptable and flexible as the semester moved on and as opportunities came up. A film discussion, panelists. We were able to adapt our class accordingly really to integrate all that to to learn from all of these outside incredible sources and peoples and films. It's just been very rich, as my colleagues mentioned, just really exciting to do this.
Dr. Lauren MacLean: And I have to say I was a little nervous about this podcast, because I don't consider myself an expert in these issues, but I was delighted to participate when you thought about what has this class contributed and what have we learned, because you know i just i can't begin to tell you I've learned so much. I mean, this is one of the great joys about being on a college campus like IU.
Dr. Stephanie Sanders: I feel the same way. I've learned so much listening to all these different colleagues and having the opportunities to listen to panels of women who ran for office and who have political roles, things that I wouldn't necessarily be exposed to. It's just terrific and makes you really appreciate being at IU.
Dr. Lisa-Marie Napoli: It was great that none of us had to be the expert in suffrage, we could just put the pieces together. I had taught an intensive freshman seminar on suffrage, but I still had such a steep learning curve of new information that came in through all of these incredible people.
Noura Ahmed: Is there any topic or issue you included in your course that you felt was often omitted?
Dr. Lauren MacLean: Well, I think race was really one of the first things that we really wanted to be mindful of.. I think it was not just us as teachers who are thinking about this, and we're not the first to add this discussion. But really being thoughtful about that throughout and thinking critically about how these narratives were constructed and then revised over time and how people thought about them differently. I think there were so many additions in terms of thinking about not just the black women who contributed to the suffrage fight, but also thinking about other historically excluded groups like the Native Americans we had a discussion around, and thinking about sexual orientation and all kinds of different movements for inclusion. But certainly race was really on, do you think? race was really on the minds of our students after this past summer.
Dr. Stephanie Sanders: I totally agree with you, Lauren. And I think that the ability to kind of tie it to contemporary issues, including what's been happening this summer with the magnifying glass that's been placed on racism. The other thing is, we also were able to incorporate COVID a little bit because we had a presenter talk about countries with women leaders and how they've done better during this whole COVID pandemic. So we've talked about leadership and Contemporary setting.
Dr. Lisa-Marie Napoli: I think one of the themes of our course and Lauren referred to it with the narratives, is storytelling. We got to hear a lot of stories we got to think about stories. Professor Gamber recruited Lisa Tetrault who reminded us about, you know, where do these stories come from and what's sort of behind the stories. What are the biases and what do we need to think about when we hear a story. And I think that's been a very powerful part of our course. And I think we've done a pretty good job of bringing to light stories and voices and people's names that traditionally and historically have been overlooked, mostly women in that respect, and especially women of color. And I think it's been very exciting to learn those stories and to really honor them and mark them for the recognition that they deserve.
Dr. Wendy Gamber: Our very first guest was Lisa Tetrault who teaches at Carnegie Mellon University, who wrote this wonderful book called The Myth of Seneca Falls where she argues in part that our understanding, our standard understanding, of the women's suffrage movement is thus because we take the history of women's suffrage, written by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton as the truth when in fact it was a construction as all histories are and it was payback really for people whom they disagreed with they just kind of left out of the story and really fascinating ways. And so it was really great to start off with Lisa because she said always think about whose story is being told and whose is not. And that was a great start.
Eliza Craig: To be able to deconstruct something that is upheld to hear like Columbus. “discovering” America and watching it crumble in front of your eyes. That's incredible.
Dr. Lauren MacLean: And we've sort of watched it crumble repeatedly over the course, but from different perspectives. So you asked about the way the course was designed we've kind of started with that historical lens. And then did the political science perspective and then gender studies and then PACE, but there was still integration throughout. So we kind of kept coming back to some of these themes from different perspectives and so yeah I do feel like we've seen it crumble a couple of different times.
Eliza Craig: Yeah you all bring these different huge amounts of expertise that would be really interesting. I would love to get a little bit anecdotal and hear some of your favorite moments, you spoke a bit about learning from these guest speakers?
Dr. Lisa-Marie Napoli: There's so many. Professor MacLean recruited a PhD recent graduate, I'm drawing a blank on her name I'm sorry to say, but she's one that did the research on women's leadership in government in different areas of the world. She focused on one region in particular.
Dr. Lauren MacLean: In Pakistan?
Dr. Lisa-Marie Napoli: Yeah, I think it was Pakistan. So I found that really insightful and descriptive. Currently what's going on in another country with women and representation and government. I was able to go to Sweden about 25 years ago and look at women and representative government there because they were leading the way in many ways, of having equal representation. So it was just really wonderful all these years later to hear another study so in-depth that really focused on the advancement of women in a more equitable way in their culture. Which, we still have a long way to go here in the United States.
Dr. Lauren MacLean: So that's one thing we tried to do to; start with the US but then we kept going out and then back in and so thinking more comparatively and internationally. So Maria Waqar was the PhD student that worked on female representation in the legislature in Pakistan. And she did a whole bunch of interviews with all of these legislators, some of whom had their seats because of new gender quotas. And so really thinking about gender quotas and how does that change the game but then how are women actually able to substantively get things passed. Then we had another PhD student from political science, Katherine Johnson, who worked on participation and women who were living in Mali and Burkina Faso. And so both of these contacts are places that probably people think that women don't have a lot of space to participate. And one of the things I liked learning about was what were those spaces that women were able to carve out and really have some agency in and and participate and shape the decisions around them. So even if it's not voting. How there may be other ways that they participate. One of the things she highlighted was small, sort of, savings groups. Where women came together contributed small bits and then were able to do public good projects and support each other and then how they would come together as more of a group and then seek decisions, or seek assistance from lower levels of government like a mayor asked them. So then they would be joining together as women.
Dr. Wendy Gamber: Yeah, I loved learning about those comparative aspects and I’m embarrassed to say that I'd never heard of gender quotas, which I thought was so fascinating. The idea that a certain proportion of legislative seats for example might be reserved for women, although I also learned that that didn't necessarily guarantee equality or actual substantive representation, but that was just fascinating. And I think particularly Katherine Johnson's work on Mali and Burkina Faso was really mind blowing for the students because I'm sure we all came in with these stereotypes that Lauren points out and it was really interesting to learn about various ways of participating in politics. In fact, I believe you titled that section, Lauren, “politics is not just voting” or something along those lines.
Dr. Lauren MacLean: Another professor we had was from history, Michelle Moyd. Again, some of the professors who came in weren't necessarily experts in suffrage, but they were helping us understand suffrage and the exercise of citizenship through their research. She was thinking about citizenship and masculinity. So here we have this course that's focused on celebrating women's right to vote in a certain way and she's talking about how masculinity is tied up with citizenship and the way that people’s duty to participate in the military and looking at how African American men and Native American men had participated in different ways in the military, even before getting the right to vote. A lot of people think about military service as the ultimate duty as a citizen. But even doing that before you have the right to vote and thinking about the implications for women who weren't serving. It was just a really interesting set of questions. I'm thinking now of Collin’s discussion around the mobilization of the LGBT community. He really brought us through from the early days, and these are things that pre date our students’ births, but the early days of the HIV AIDS crisis and many of them have heard about Ryan White from living in Indiana. But it really gave another perspective on how the community came together. How the crisis, which, again, this is coming back to Stephanie's point about COVID. Thinking about HIV AIDS as a pandemic compared to COVID, you know, it’s was fascinating. Stephanie, you have some terrific faculty in general.
Dr. Stephanie Sanders: Yeah, Collin actually gave that talk on election night so
Dr. Lauren MacLean: and he managed to grab our attention even though…
Eliza Craig: even though we were writhing with anxiety!
Dr. Stephanie Sanders: It was riveting. And he started out with a list of words that people are thinking about today, including Dr. Anthony Fauci who of course was key during the HIV pandemic. So It was very interesting. And what moves people from despair to activism.
Dr. Lauren MacLean: One of the things we keep talking about are what tactics different people used. So thinking about women and like how did they organize the Seneca Falls. How did they organize prior to 1920. And thinking about these activists and what moves them and what kinds of tactics and images did they use.
Dr. Lisa-Marie Napoli: And one thing we're able to do with the students was provide an opportunity for them to have a role playing experience to be able to play out these tactics and strategies in a way. So, of course, the whole course is an intersection of all four of our units, but at the same time this was a little bit more in the History and PACE. We went to the early 20th century, it was based on Reacting to the Pas which is a basically a role playing game, a very complex and elaborate and well done, role playing game. Where students were Suffragettes they were Anti-Suffragettes. They were men. They were women. Some of them were more radical. Some of them were more conservative. They were also laborers and there was a lot of tension at the time between the labor movement and the suffrage movement and which rights should be given priority to..
Dr. Lauren MacLean: And the Bohemians!
Dr. Lisa-Marie Napoli: Oh yes we had artists and Bohemians which made it very fun in Greenwich Village, New York City. So that was a piece of the experience for students to which they seem to get a lot out of and they had an opportunity to practice the language of the time and what it means to speak about the rights of suffrage and try to defend and convince others to join your cause too. Which did tie into the Collin piece and social movements in different ways. it's amazing. All the intersections and the connections of the different units. There were a lot of “Aha!” moments when we'd be listening to a speaker in one section and I’d think back a few weeks earlier. Oh, somebody said that. Similarly, but very differently too. And wow it just starts to bubble in your mind differently and the students really talked about stuff like that and seemed to get a lot out of it and the class itself was, we had speakers, but it was highly discussion based. So I think that's important to talk about too.
Dr. Wendy Gamber: Yeah, and we've done this all via zoom, which is miraculous to me! That it’s worked so well. When we started planning this was September 2019. This was going to be an in person class. Right, we were going to be there. We were going to have people physically come visit the class. Even the role playing games seem to work with virtually
Dr. Lauren MacLean: And we were in costumes.
Dr. Wendy Gamber: Well, Dr. MacLean was in costume!
Eliza Craig: Were you a bohemian in Greenwich Village?
Dr. Lauren MacLean: No, I was the Suffragette! I’ll tell ya all about it, in white and with a sash.
Dr. Lisa-Marie Napoli: It's great.
Dr. Stephanie Sanders: A big part of the success was the great students. I thought we had a great group. They really did participate in discussion. So you didn't have that empty zoom moment.
Dr. Lauren MacLean: And they were from all different backgrounds and they really brought those different perspectives which was fun.
Eliza Craig: Yeah, I'm curious about the reciprocity, their reactions to the different speakers, was there ever a moment that was so clearly an “Aha!” moment for all the students where something just clicked?
Dr. Lauren MacLean I think one of the “Aha!” moments for many of the students... because many times the students will introduce themselves to a speaker. And so you get to hear what they've taken away from the course thus far, and I know it was one of the first classes, but it was then reinforced later by one of our law school professors, this idea that voting isn't a right and that there's nowhere in the Constitution that says that you have the right to vote. It's just that you can't bar certain groups from voting or participating and that was kind of an “aha” moment for all of us, and especially leading up to the election.
Dr. Lisa-Marie Napoli: One of the students right before break.. Oftentimes the speakers will come in and say, How's the class going, what are you learning? Or we'll debrief with them afterward. And one of the students just last class said, “I didn't realize how long it took, how long the struggle was.” And it's funny because we've been talking about that since day one, and she's like, I know we've been talking about it, but it just really hit me, you know, over 70 years. And that's only 70 years of what's been documented, right? We had the president of the League of Women Voters come in because we tried to pull in some community grounded practical perspectives too, and, you know, she was helping us identify evidence of it long before and the middle of the 19th century. We all kind of giggled when we heard that from the student because it's like, yeah, are we really comprehending how many years that it took and how many people died and did the work their whole life and never saw the results of their, the fruits of their labor. So that's that was definitely a big aha for at least one of them and I think several as well.
Dr. Lauren MacLean: And I think how long, but also how it's not like a political fact. Like you may change the law or the rule, but then it doesn't all work out so neatly. There were many critiques of several of the films that had these like really fluttery endings. And it's not a fluttery perfect ending and that one of the things I feel like we've emphasized is how much hard work went into getting something changed, and then how much hard work goes into making sure it gets implemented or really living it.
Dr. Wendy Gamber: Yeah, I mean, democracy is fragile and we've learned over the past several weeks, but I too was floored to realize that there is no affirmative right to vote and I really should be read out of the historical profession. But I think a lot of us were because I have always said when I've taught The US history survey that the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote. Well, actually, it didn't. No such thing. It's simply barred the US government or states from denying or abridging that right on the basis of sex but so again I think what's so useful about this class was it really challenged not just the students but, well I'll speak for myself, certainly challenged me, but I think all of us to think in in new ways, and to question all kinds of established narratives we thought of as facts which turned out not to be.
Dr. Lisa-Marie Napoli: And you know it came up earlier about celebrating the centennial but that was a super small part. It was less about celebrating and more about commemorating it and looking at the work we still have ahead. Because you can't get too excited and celebrate too much when we know that so many of these issues have been repeating and repeating and voter suppression I'm amazed at how many different voter suppression documentaries there are. It's just such a common recurring problem and pattern that we know needs a lot of work ahead. And as we mentioned before, not just for women, but for people of color, especially black and indigenous people. And so, yeah, there's just a lot. There's a road ahead and the students seem a bit fired up and ready to take it on and I think they can be more articulate now, understanding the history more clearly and seeing these issues of intersectionality between all four of our units and then some. I mean, my goodness, it goes so much beyond even our four units.
Dr. Lauren MacLean: Yeah, and Wendy, just said that you know that democracy is fragile, and we need to not take it for granted.I felt like our students were sort of on edge thinking about voting rights and thinking about being able to have and enact and exercise that franchise and we traded stories about how long we waited in line and where and what was the best strategy, was it to mail it in? It was such a good group and we all did this learning together. But we were treading on very sensitive, controversial, difficult topics. I think we really tried to approach them in a non-partisan way to think about what do we have in common as we're thinking about democratic institutions and the importance of us as citizens. So I think that was really effective.
Dr. Lisa-Marie Napoli: Yeah, we were able to in the very first class come to, well, I guess it took more than one class, but we figured out some class agreements similar to what we do in the PACE issue forum, you know, just like how do we have these very difficult conversations, knowing that there's going to be a lot of sensitive things. We should establish some guidelines and boundaries and.. One of the things that came up that the students asked for which I thought was incredibly insightful that I've never had students really bring up before was trigger warnings. Because a lot of the materials we've thought about or talked about, or even viewed were hard to watch. And so being able to factor that in, the sensitivity for each student and the care and concern that things may be triggering because of people's past experiences. So that was really important too.
Dr. Wendy Gamber: And I also was really impressed that one student suggested that we add to these agreements to assume that everyone has good intentions. That even if somebody says something that inadvertently offends someone else, to assume that they are speaking from good intentions, which I thought was a really wonderful and useful insight. And again, one of the things I learned and what's been so wonderful working with Lisa-Marie, Stephanie, and Lauren is this idea of coming to a set of class agreements. That's not something I've done before, but I definitely will do that in future classes that I teach.
Dr. Lauren MacLean: Mm hmm. I wish we had more of a chance to team teach. So maybe I'll put a plug in there. Not only do you learn more about other perspectives. You get to know other colleagues, but you also sort of learn pedagogically about other ways of teaching just by being part of it. So it sort of it's a bit of an ethnographic approach that I just loved.
Eliza Craig: You literally took the words out of my mouth. I was just thinking about how this co teaching experience could change pedagogy and firstly, how Zoom is going to change it but I'm sure that your students were so grateful to have this experience. There's so much more care put into each lesson to have four people there.
Dr. Lauren MacLean: I think it was a little intimidating at first, like we would usually let them wait in the waiting room so that they could come in en masse because to see your four professors kind of perched in the zoom...
Noura Ahmed: It’s understandably intimidating, you have four people to impress not just one!
Dr. Lauren MacLean: Yeah, we’re not a tough crowd though.
Dr. Lisa-Marie Napoli: Yeah, I think it was probably tricky for the students to navigate, you know, who do I turn to, what do I do. We sort of had Wendy as the main instructor in many ways to field some student questions, but by and large we were a team for them and they rolled with it.They were awesome
Dr. Wendy Gamber:. And I think it was, well I hope it was, good for them to watch us ask questions of the presenters and I hope that we model learning and inquiry in a way that is useful for the students. Team teaching is really fun. It's really intellectually engaging and it's nice not to feel so lonely. I don't mean that, you know, students are wonderful. I always love my students, but I'm the one who has the sole responsibility or I feel I have the sole responsibility and it's just really been fun to have other shoulders to lean on or cry on I guess sometimes. No, not many tears
Dr. Lisa-Marie Napoli Laugh with for sure.