Women's History Month 2021

Women’s Progress and the Long Road Ahead

The origins of women’s history month began March 8, 1911 as International Women’s Day and was celebrated in countries around the globe with everything from demonstrations to gift giving. In 1975, the United Nations began sponsoring International Women’s Day. In 1978, a California school district created a weeklong celebration of women’s contributions to culture, history, and society. The idea caught on with communities and school districts across the country and, in 1980, President Jimmy Carter proclaimed the week of March 8 as National Women’s History week. Six years later the Women’s History Project successfully petitioned Congress to expand the event to the entire month of March.

This year we have seen magnified, the strength, resilience, and breakthroughs women have made as well as the ways in which discrimination continues to be a part of all women’s lives. Kamala Harris is the first Black and South Asian woman to be vice president; Deb Halaand, the first Native American to serve as US Secretary of the Interior; Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi founded Black Lives Matter, which officially became the largest protest movement in history and was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize; and so many women—nurses, aids, cleaners, grocery workers, doctors, agricultural workers, teachers, and more—were on the front lines getting us through multiple crises.

Yet, in a 2018 Oregon Public Broadcasting poll, more than half of Oregon women surveyed said they had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. Women —particularly women of color—have lost more jobs than men during the pandemic as jobs where women dominate the workforce have been hit the hardest. In December 2020, Black, Latinx, and Asian women accounted for virtually all of women’s job losses for the month. Women with children at home are still the main caretakers and “home school” teachers, even when in heterosexual couples both the man and woman are working at home. Surely we can say we have made progress, but just as surely we have a long road ahead.

Our university faces similar success stories and similar challenges. Below, for this Women’s History month story, you will hear of the innovative work women and gender variant students, faculty and staff are doing on our campus, despite challenges, from STEM fields to the arts, media studies, to student groups like the Multicultural Center and beyond.

During Women’s History Month, let’s elevate and listen to the voices of women on campus and in our communities. Let’s appreciate women’s history and current climate. Let’s celebrate women’s groundbreaking and creative work. Let’s work toward a more just campus and community for all.

Starting a Conversation

March is Women’s History Month and we are celebrating women who are making a difference in our UO community, from undergraduate students to graduate advisors. They care about social justice issues, climate change, and women’s empowerment. They are music, STEM, landscape architecture, and business majors. Not only do they achieve academically, but they are also actively involved in the UO community, the Eugene community, and the global community. They strive to change the world and create paths for others to follow in their footsteps.

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Minh Nguyen

Minh Nguyen

Minh Nguyen of Clackamas, Oregon is a fourth-year student majoring in human physiology and neuroscience with minors in global health and chemistry. At the UO, Minh is involved with the Center for Multicultural Academic Excellence, where she is able to find her own voice and narrative, build connections with advisors, with whom she now calls family, and strengthen her leadership skills.

Minh is involved with initiatives on campus that promote diversity and equity in healthcare and higher education. She currently serves as president of the UO Minority Association for Premedical Student (UO MAPS). She also created MAP IT OUT, a free and virtual mentorship program for high school students from underrepresented communities who are interested in STEM research or healthcare careers.


“I cannot be more excited to see the positive impact that we can make on the community to support underrepresented student populations on the first steps of their scientific careers” —Minh Nguyen


Taylor Bowden

Taylor Bowden

Taylor Bowden is pursuing a master’s degree in landscape architecture at the UO College of Design. During grad school, she has taken up backpacking and learned how much being out in nature means to her, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Taylor’s master’s project examines the inclusion of Black, Indigenous, and people of color in natural areas. People of color face many barriers to accessing outdoor spaces and are disproportionately underrepresented as staff and recreationists, she has found. As a petite VietnameseAmerican woman, Taylor has felt the need to prove to others that she is capable in the outdoors


“Using community design to address environmental justice issues is hugely important to me. My research has shown me that there is so much work to be done before we can say the outdoors belongs to everyone.” —Taylor Bowden


Morgan Bates

Morgan Bates

Morgan Bates is finishing up a master of art in musicology and a master of music in trumpet performance with a certificate in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. Outside of school, they are a member of the Eugene Difficult Music Ensemble. Through EDME, they are working on the Eugene Garbage Project, which takes everyday trash and turns it into a concert and a permanent interactive display. Aside from music, Morgan is passionate about curry, drag culture, the video game Skyrim, and Food Network chef Ina Garten.


“They have spent the last year learning how to teach trumpet and musicology online, becoming closer than ever with their roommates, family, and friends, reforming their own understandings of activism and allyship, and coming to terms with elements of their nonbinary identity.” —Morgan Bates


Kata Bahnsen-Reinhardt

Kata Bahnsen-Reinhardt

Kata Bahnsen-Reinhardt is the program manager for the Conflict and Dispute Resolution Master’s Program. As an undergrad, Kata majored in sociology and discovered her passion for rugby—she is now the club president of the Eugene Reign Womxn Rugby Club. Kata also loves Olympic weightlifting, traveling, LEGOS, and kitchen dance parties. In her professional life, Kata says that her students are the absolute best part of her job. Kata is inspired by her mom and her partner, whom she says fought for the rights and privileges she enjoys today.


“The fact that I can play rugby, that I can vote, own property, marry whomever I want; that I can wear pants to work and not wear nylons, and enjoy the rights I have,” are all reasons why Women’s History Month is so important to Kata. “That is all thanks to the womxn who came before us. We stand on their shoulders and I think it’s an important thing to acknowledge.” —Kata Bahnsen-Reinhardt


Samantha Polanco

Samantha Polanco

Samantha Polanco is a second-year student at the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center working toward her master of business administration. She currently serves as vice president of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the MBA Student Association and as the graduate student member of the Lundquist School of Business Diversity Committee. In these positions, she works to create a sense of belonging for socially underrepresented and marginalized communities at the college. In the future, Samantha wants to be a champion for gender equity, belonging, and inclusion for all in the sports industry. In her spare time, she reads books on entrepreneurship and self-care, cheers on her favorite sports teams, and finds new trails to explore (while petting every dog along the way)!


“My mother and grandma inspire me daily. Because of their journey to America, I’m a proud first-generation American and first in my immediate family to graduate from college . . . I am honored and forever thankful for the sacrifices my parents made for me so I could achieve my academic dreams.” —Samantha Polanco


Maxine Francisco

Maxine Francisco

Maxine Francisco is a senior, majoring in advertising and minoring in sustainable business. She works on the media team at the Multicultural Center. She is currently the research lead for the Rising Project, which is working to produce a playbook for climate justice that will inspire and invoke real action in our communities. Maxine and her teammates at the Multicultural Center are also planning a virtual World Without Borders event planned for spring term. This event will highlight and celebrate the many cultures that make up the UO through fun and inclusive programming.


When asked what women inspire her, Maxine says Yuri Kochiyama. “She was a Japanese-American activist who worked alongside Malcolm X during the civil rights movement and fought for Black liberation in addition to rights for Asian Americans. Cross-community solidarity has always been crucial, but it’s become even more important today.” —Maxine Francisco

In the spring of 2020, Alice Barkan, a molecular biologist who uses plant systems to answer fundamental biological questions, was elected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences. The announcement, partially obscured by the fog of the COVID-19 pandemic, was a career milestone for Barkan and a win for the UO, which strives to create a culture where a growing roster of women in science, technology, engineering and math fields can thrive.

Creating a Culture for Women in STEM


Alice Barkan standing among young corn stalks
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This month’s “Learn” of our Listen. Learn. Act. Series featured Doctoral student Renee Mitchell. Mitchell is a creative revolutionist and a well-known columnist for The Oregonian who has been nominated twice for the Pulitzer Prize, She is the creative force behind I Am M.O.R.E. (Making Ourselves Resilient Everyday), a “heART-focused” youth development program. She’s developing I Am M.O.R.E.’s theory of change, Empowered Resilience, as a UO doctoral candidate. Listen to her talk Art Saved My Life, from the UO Museum of Culture and History.

“I am a creative, heart-centered Black woman trying to heal from the wounds of living in a country that is historically grounded in anti-Blackness. I strive daily to be a compassionate human being who tries her absolute best to make a lasting and positive difference in people’s lives. And, that is the best lesson I wanted any of my students to ever learn from me.”


Renee Mitchell
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Dayna Chatman

Dayna Chatman joined the UO School of Journalism and Communication in 2018 as an assistant professor of media and intersectionality. Chatman brings expertise in feminist media scholarship, the television industry and fan studies to the SOJC. Read her interview on the SOJC website.

“When I first started my undergrad education, my interest was initially in communications studies, and I wanted to go into broadcasting. That changed when I had to write my senior thesis, which was focused on the media effects of black women viewing — or rather, not viewing — themselves in fashion and beauty magazines. At the time, I did not know about intersectionality as a theory and framework. However, I knew I wanted to study more about black Americans’ representation and absence in U.S. media.”

Uplift and Organize: Women’s History Month 2021
By Yvette Alex-Assensoh
Vice President for Equity and Inclusion

Women’s History Month 2021 commemorates a particularly pivotal time in the American story. We have witnessed history being made at the highest levels of power with the election of Vice President Kamala Harris, the first woman, Black and South Asian person to serve in the role. While that certainly gets much-deserved attention, the early months of 2021 have highlighted the contributions of women in a variety of areas. Representative Deb Halaand is poised to also make history after being nominated to serve as the United States Secretary of the Interior, which would make her the first Native American person to serve in the role. Organizers have also made their imprint. Women like Stacey Abrams and LaTosha Brown led voter registration efforts that not only shaped the 2020 elections, but provided a blueprint for underserved people to exercise their influence for years to come. Meanwhile, Black Lives Matter, which was founded by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, officially became the largest protest movement in history and was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Read the Full Essay

Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Spring 2021 Courses

Course Number Course Title

WGS 101

Intro to Women and Gender Studies (CRNs 35321, 35322, 35324, 35325)

WGS 221

Bodies and Power (CRN 35326)

WGS 251

Transnational & Indigenous Feminisms (CRN 36093)

WGS 303

Women and Gender in American History (CRN 35327)

WGS 341

Women, Work & Class (CRN 36094)

WGS 361

Gender, Film & Media: Queer Aesthetics (CRN 36095)

WGS 450/550

Literature & Feminism World-Making: Queer and Trans of Color Literature (CRNs 35335, 35337)