March is Women’s History Month, and for the past ten years Bluffton University has celebrated the voices of female writers, poets, and singers by holding an annual celebration in Musselman Library. Each year, female members of the community are asked to participate in The Celebration of Women’s Voices.
On Tuesday, Mar. 22 the celebration was held in Musselman Library’s reading room. Students, faculty, and members of Bluffton’s community came together to listen and recite their own original works. These works ranged from songs to short poetry readings. There were a variety of themes present in the work, some of which included broken hearts, romance, body image and rubber ducks.
Susan Carpenter, associate professor of English at Bluffton University, has been organizing the event for the last ten years. The event usually includes a special forum where the guest speaker is a woman and later in the day there is the reading/performance in the library. Sometimes the forum speaker is invited to participate in the reading, but this year the forum speaker did not participate.
“One year we had a visiting poet,” Carpenter said, “and we wondered if there was a way we could organize a reading of some sort. I thought, well, we should have a woman’s voices reading.”
Carpenter said the organization of the reading has never been difficult. Organizing the event has never been difficult, like a lot of other administrative jobs.
“It was always an event that just kind of organized itself,” Carpenter said. “You would put out the first call and someone else would call and then someone else would call and you would put it together. It would happen.”
Although men are not barred from listening to the readings, they are not allowed to participate. This event is about the women in the community and their thoughts, feelings and beliefs. Carpenter explained that this sort of environment creates a dialog between the women.
“When you have something that is exclusively women, what happens is, somebody gets up and makes a statement,” Carpenter explained. “You start off with the first person, and then it goes to the next and then the next and a poem and a piece of vocalization has a theme, or a little thing, and these things get passed along. So you begin to have this sort of weaving from one part to the next that happens. We had a sort of dialog between the elderly women and the student women about what was important. There were all these different ideas about what was and what wasn’t important.”
Carpenter will retire later this year and will no longer be organizing the event. It is her hope that the Celebration of Women’s Voices continues in the coming years. Carpenter mentioned several people and groups who could take up the responsibility of organizing the event. She also said that if a Bluffton student wishes to organize the event next year then they are more than welcomed to. Only time will tell what shall become of the annual event.