Law Review Symposium Will Celebrate 100 Years of Women’s Right to Vote

The goal of this year’s Law Review Symposium is to commemorate the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment by providing a forum to discuss the historic centennial of women’s suffrage and explore its relevance in politics today. As is evident throughout history, the representation of women in politics has not always been an equal one. The Symposium will discuss and analyze the different pathways women have taken during their journey to acquire equal rights under the law as it pertains to voting. Although the Nineteenth Amendment affords women the right to vote, it is imperative to note the fight for equality is one that is ongoing.

This event is free and open to the public, and we encourage everyone to come join in the discussion! If you are interested in attending please RSVP to

This Year’s List of Speakers Include:

Barbara Berenson

Barbara Berenson is the author of Massachusetts in the Woman Suffrage Movement: Revolutionary Reformers (2018), Boston in the Civil War: Hub of the Second Revolution (2014), and Walking Tours of Civil War Boston: Hub of Abolitionism (2011, 2d ed. 2014).  She is the co-editor of Breaking Barriers: The Unfinished Story of Women Lawyers and Judges in Massachusetts (2012). Barbara earned her undergraduate degree from Harvard College and her law degree from Harvard Law School, and until recently worked as a Senior Attorney at the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. She is on the boards of Boston By Foot and the Royall House & Slave Quarters. She will be discussing her book Massachusetts in the Woman Suffrage Movement: Revolutionary Reformers (2018).

  Excerpt from the Introduction of Massachusetts in the Woman Suffrage Movement: Revolutionary Reformers:

     This book tells the riveting story of woman suffrage with a focus on those women in Massachusetts who shaped both the national and state movements. Why concentrate on this one state? Indeed, why emphasize the suffrage campaign in any state when women ultimately gained the vote through adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution? The answer is that the traditional story about woman suffrage, which focuses on the Seneca Falls Convention as the origin of the movement and Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton as the heads of it, omits essential parts of the full story.

     The women’s rights movement began in Massachusetts, the nation’s most important abolitionist center. In 1837, Angelina and Sarah Grimké traveled throughout the state lecturing about the evils of slavery. When criticized for departing from a “woman’s sphere,” the Grimké sisters defended their right to have a voice in public debates about political issues. From the outset, they also set their sights on a larger prize. “I contend,” Angelina Grimké wrote, “that woman has just as much right to sit in solemn counsel in Conventions, Conferences, Associations and General Assemblies, as man – just as much right . . . [to sit] in the Presidential chair of the United States.”

Joya Misra

Dr. Joya Misra is a Professor of Sociology & Public Policy at UMass Amherst. She is also Vice-President Elect of the American Sociological Association, Director for the Institute for Social Science Research, and Director of ADVANCE Programming. Her work falls into subfields of political sociology, economic sociology, race/gender/class, and comparative historical sociology. She received her Ph.D. and M.A. in Sociology from Emory University and her B.A. in Religion from Centenary College.

Abstract: Women involvement in politics increased substantially since the passing of the 19th amendment one hundred years ago, though in the United States, women have been less formally engaged in politics than in many other wealthy countries. What explains women’s greater or lower levels of involvement in formal politics, as legislators and elected officials? Does women’s greater involvement in politics lead to greater gender equality? How do politics both constrain women and empower women to act? How does diversity among women lead to complex realignments, such as when certain groups of women overwhelmingly vote for politicians who do not support gender equality?”

Bandana Purkayastha

Dr. Bandana Purkayastha is a Professor of Sociology and Asian & Asian  American Studies at the University of Connecticut, as well as an author. Her research on human rights, intersectionality, transnationalism, migrants, violence and peace have been published in several books, articles, and chapters in the US, Germany, India, and South Africa.  She has held elected and nominated positions at the International Sociological Association (ISA), American Sociological Association (ASA), and Sociologists for Women in Society and Society for the Study of Social Problems and continues to serve on expert committees internationally.  She has received awards for her research, teaching, and leadership, locally and nationally, including the Hirabayashi award (for the co-edited book on human rights in the US), a career award from the Asia/Asian American section of ASA (2016). And most recently, ASA’s Jessie Bernard award for a career of scholarship and leadership improving the lives of women and other marginalized groups.  She currently serves as ASA’s representative to the ISA. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Connecticut.

Abstract: This talk will highlight racially marginalized women’s struggles to substantively access rights. While suffrage was meant to acquire political rights for women, and through that mechanism, move towards greater equality between women and men in the public and private sphere, racial minority women, working class and immigrant women, among others, continued to encounter a series of political/civil/economic/cultural/social boundaries that deprived them of access to rights.  From the struggles of working class immigrant women for economic rights to equal pay and better work conditions, to the struggles of Japanese American women who were interned because they were assumed to be “the enemy” of the state, the history of the 20th century is replete with contradictions of what was achieved in the quest for rights and what was suppressed.  This talk will touch on some key moments in history in the quest for women’s rights, but I will mostly draw upon examples from the 21st century, to illustrate the struggles of racially marginalized women to build lives of human dignity, lives that are secure from bodily harm, from severe economic, social, and political inequalities. The journey for rights—human rights that might help secure the conditions that enable people to build secure. dignified lives—remains an unfinished quest.

Tim Vercellotti

Dr. Tim Vercellotti is a professor of political science at Western New England University and director of the University’s Polling Institute and the University’s London Summer Program. He teaches courses in survey research, media and politics, and political behavior. His current research projects focus on public assessments of public schools, the impact of information sources on voter choice in the Brexit referendum, and the role of social class in mediating the effects of political discussion. Dr. Vercellotti holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Notre Dame.

Abstract: I will be discussing how paths to elected office have varied by gender over time. Political science research has shown that women are more likely to make their first run for office at the local level, and in pursuit of part-time and unpaid elected positions, such as on a school committee or town council. Men are more likely to make their initial runs for office at the state or federal level. Women also tend to seek their first elected office later in life than men. There are a number of factors that help to explain these different trajectories, including that the greater share of child care and household management still tends to fall to women. In my talk I would summarize this research and extend it to examine how race intersects with gender to shape different trajectories to power for women of color as opposed to white women. The final aspect to consider is how these trajectories may be changing over time. Are recent high-profile electoral victories by women of color such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib anomalies or indicators of larger shifts in paths to power for women, and women of color in particular?

Joan Marie Johnson

Dr. Joan Marie Johnson received her bachelor’s degree from Duke University and her PhD in history from UCLA.  She has written extensively about the history of women and gender, race, social reform, education, and philanthropy. She most recently published Funding Feminism: Monied Women, Philanthropy, and the Women’s Movement, 1870-1967 (University of North Carolina Press, 2017; Gender and American Culture Series). She is also the author of Southern Women at the Seven Sister Colleges: Feminist Values and Social Activism, 1875-1915; Southern Ladies, New Women: Race, Region and Clubwomen in South Carolina, 1890-1930, and articles on black and white women in the Journal of Women’s History and the Journal of Southern History. Johnson taught women’s history at Northeastern Illinois University for twelve years, was the co-founder and co-director of the Newberry Seminar on Women and Gender at the Newberry Library in Chicago, and now works as the Director for Faculty in the Office of the Provost at Northwestern University.

Abstract: This brief, thereby necessarily limited, history of the movement, highlights important moments and actors, ranging from the mid-nineteenth century through the final 10 year push that helped propel passage of the 19th amendment, to the bittersweet and uneven aftermath of victory in 1920. I address the fraught nature of cross-racial coalition in the movement – the possibilities and the failures—and contrast the ways in which suffragists articulated why women needed, and deserved, the right to vote and the implications of these differences for voting rights today. This history ranges from petitions to the NY constitutional convention in 1946, to Reconstruction era debate over 14th and 15th amendment rights, to new strategies and tactics made possible by an infusion of funding in the 1910s, to Alva Vanderbilt Belmont’s relationship with New York black suffragists and Southern white suffragists, to the failure of the 19th to enfranchise black women and the debate over intersectionality, and the experience of Asian immigrant suffragists “ineligible to citizenship.”

John Baick

Dr. John Baick was born and raised in Southern California, however he considers himself a Northeasterner because of his many years in New York City and Massachusetts. He received his B.A. in History from Columbia University, and his Ph.D. in American History from New York University. He is a Yankees and Dodgers fan, but he has a respect for the cultural significance of the Red Sox in New England. He specializes in the intersection of ideas, politics, and popular culture in modern American history.

Abstract: Discussions of gender and politics in the present day must include a consideration of the charged atmosphere of our political culture. Americans were embroiled in culture wars for much of the 20th century, conflicts that included the right of women to vote, the civil rights of African Americans and other minority groups, and the meaning of sexuality. New debates have been added in the last few years, many of which center on gender, sexuality, and race. And the culture wars have reached a fevered peak with the election and administration of Donald Trump. Yet Trump himself does not represent a new front in the culture wars, but what might be a climactic battle between the forces of the past and the future of the American nation. The title of this piece is drawn from presidential pronouncements on the meaning of women in public life—the first a tried-and-true insult reserved mostly for offending women, and the second a sarcastic critique that Trump directed towards the teenage global warming activist Greta Thunberg. This paper will focus on the front lines that these two insults represent in our culture wars. What does it mean to be a woman and a citizen and a political actor, and in a larger sense, what does it means to be an American in Trump’s America?

Laura L. Janik

Laura L. Janik is an Associate Professor of Political Science and the Director for International Studies at WNEU. Her teaching and research interests are internationally-oriented and include: nonstate actors, health and development dilemmas, human security, and women’s and gender studies. Some of Dr. Janik’s most recent publications can be found in Global Health Governance and the Journal of International Relations & Development.  Outside of the classroom Laura enjoys spending time with her husband, Greg, her daughter, Kaya Rose, and her animal family.

Deepika Bains Shukla

Deepika Bains Shukla is an Assistant United States Attorney and the Chief of the Springfield Branch Office of the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts.  She oversees federal prosecutions in the four western counties of the Commonwealth and prosecutes federal criminal cases involving fraud, public corruption, gun and drug crimes, terrorism, and civil rights crimes.  Before starting at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 2014, Deepika was a Staff Attorney at the Connecticut Fair Housing Center, a litigator at Sanford Heisler, LLP, a small civil rights firm, and an associate at Davis Polk & Wardwell, LLP, a large law firm in New York.  Deepika received her B.A. in American Studies and Ethnicity from the University of Southern California and her J.D. from the University of California’s Berkeley Law School.

Erin Buzuvis

Professor Buzuvis researches and writes about gender and discrimination in education and athletics, including such topics as Title IX’s application to campus disciplinary proceedings for sexual assault, Title IX and college athletics reform, intersecting sexual orientation and race discrimination in collegiate women’s athletics, retaliation and related discrimination against female college coaches, and participation policies for transgender and intersex athletes. Additionally, she is a co-founder and contributor to the Title IX Blog, an interdisciplinary resource for news, legal developments, commentary, and scholarship about Title IX’s application to athletics and education.  She has been quoted in stories about Title IX in such media outlets as the New York Times, NPR, Sports Illustrated, Inside Higher Ed, and in many other national and local publications and broadcasts. Erin received her B.S. from the University of New Hampshire and her J.D. from Cornell Law School. 

Nika Elugardo

Nika Elugardo has more than 20 years of experience in community and economic development with public, private, and nonprofit leaders in communities of color. This includes serving as Jamaica Plain Liaison and Senior Policy Advisor to Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz, becoming the founding director of MassSaves, an economic justice collaborative jointly sponsored by community organizations and financial institutions, and founding the research and consulting departments at the Emmanuel Gospel Center. These departments developed breakthrough models and fostered collaboration in education, youth development and violence prevention, gender justice, and anti-trafficking in Boston and beyond. Nika earned her B.S. from MIT in Urban Planning, an MPP from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government with concentrations in political advocacy, leadership, and peace and security, and a J.D. from Boston University Law School with externships in tax law, human rights, and corporate social responsibility. Nika is the State Representative for the 15th Suffolk District, including Brookline, Jamaica Plain, Mission Hill, and Roslindale.

Jennifer Levi

Professor Levi has dedicated her career to fighting for the rights of women; children; the poor; and gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered clients. Most recently, Professor Levi was Senior Staff Attorney for Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders in Boston. Prior to that, she was a Visiting Professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law in Chicago, worked as an Associate Attorney for two Chicago law firms, and clerked in the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston. Professor Levi served as Co-counsel for the seven same-sex couples who sued the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for denying them the right to obtain marriage licenses in Goodridge et al v. the Department of Public Health. The appeal led to the landmark Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling that stated it was unconstitutional for the Commonwealth to deny gays and lesbians the right to marry.

And last, but certainly not least, the panels will be moderated by two incredible Western New England Alumni and former members of the Law Review, Barbie Curatolo and Chelsea Donaldson.

The Western New England Law Review is excited to celebrate and learn from the remarkable work of these individuals, and cannot wait to delve into what promises to be a day of invigorating discussion and inspiration for the future. We hope to see you there! A huge thank you to Kerri Ann Manning and Emily Cintorino for all of their hard work organizing the Symposium.

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