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Library Plans Free Women’s Symposium

After five years spent identifying and organizing its holdings in women’s history, the Library of Congress will culminate its effort with an upcoming symposium.

Titled “Resourceful Women: Researching and Interpreting American Women’s History,” the event will showcase the vast collection of women’s history information at the Library in a two-day conference that will take place Thursday and Friday. The various sessions will feature lawyers, actresses, businesswomen and scholars who will present relevant current research by historians, filmmakers, children’s book authors and others.

“Our hope was to give a sense of diversity of scholarship in the field,” said Janice Ruth, a Library of Congress manuscript specialist in American women’s history. She added that the Library is not just for academic scholars and the symposium will feature “people who have used our resources in what some will consider not-traditional ways.”

The symposium, like the Library’s recently published book, “American Women,” will serve partly as a “users guide” to the vast women’s history collection, according to Audrey Fischer, a Library of Congress spokeswoman.

Featuring an opening and closing address, a keynote session and five panel discussions, the symposium will include remarks from Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O’Connor.

“June is a very busy time at the Supreme Court, and we consider ourselves fortunate that the justices are willing to attend the evening keynote and welcome our audience with brief opening remarks,” Fischer said.

The justices will kick off the keynote session, called “Women and the Law,” set to begin at 8 p.m. on Thursday.

Ranging from law to reform to biography to labor, the diverse panels will provide a “mixed group,” Ruth said. She added that the symposium planners hoped to “get [the panelists] together in ways that had a thematic connection.”

The result — unpredictable discussions and fun, according to Ruth.

The symposium is free and open to the public. It will take place in the Mumford Room in the James Madison Building. Registration is online at rr/women/; however, seats are not guaranteed. There are currently around 300 people registered, close to the room’s full capacity, and arrangements have been made for overflow seating in the classrooms next to Mumford. A plasma screen will be available in the Mumford lobby for those interested in viewing smaller portions of the event.

The online launch of the book, “American Women,” is set to coincide with the symposium.

“We’ve timed it as a celebration as well,” Ruth said.

Ruth said the book is “a survey of what is there but it’s done in a narrative style.” She added that “it’s also a usefully summary of the historical subject.”

Ruth said the group of women who helped her plan the symposium, Sheridan Harvey, Barbara Natanson and Barbara Bair, are also extremely excited about the event.

“It’s going to be a wonderful gathering of a diverse group of researchers,” she said.

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