Academics and Research / Magazine Feature

Conference to examine changing nature of motherhood

DU Sturm College of Law Professor Kristian Miccio recalls the early battles in the feminist and post-feminist movements of the 1970s and early 1980s. But times have changed, and today women — mothers in particular — face challenges society couldn’t have imagined back then.

A new conference — Motherhood: Reclaiming Our Past, Transforming Our Future — will attract scores of scholars, students and speakers to the law school March 12–13 as sessions tackle myriad issues facing mothers.

“The idea came from a conference we had back in 2007,” Miccio says. “Those people there who were in that second wave of feminism in the late 1970s and early 1980s, we felt it was really important to look back on the past 30 years, what was it like then and where are we now?”

Among the biggest changes facing mothers is the change in the American workplace. It’s now normal for women to work outside the home, where at one time it was uncommon. And nowhere are those workplace changes more dramatic than in the military. Mothers in the military now face not only deployment overseas, but with the changing nature of warfare, no place is really “safe.” Even support facilities are in the line of fire, thanks to today’s arena of war that includes terror attacks, suicide bombers and roadside bombs, Miccio says.

So the conference will have an entire workshop dedicated to the issue. “Mothers in the Military: Deployment and Return Home,” will be led by law professor Tanya Bartholomew.

“This is an issue that is just so important, the challenges these women face and the impacts felt back here in this country,” Bartholomew says. “You see it everywhere.”

On the panel will be Carol Horle, a Veteran’s Administration clinical social worker who helps mothers adjust to deployment and the return home; Lauren Nelson, a DU law student who is about to become a mother just as her soldier husband is being deployed; and Anissa Thomas, a mother of four who served overseas and now has a daughter in the military.

“In some cases, we see where both parents are in the military and deployed,” Miccio says. “A lot of these kids end up with their grandparents. It’s affecting everyone.”

Other workshops will examine lesbian parenting, incarcerated mothers and donor-conceived families — all issues that have evolved over the past 30 years.

Rickie Solinger, author of Wake Up Little Susie and curator of the exhibit “Incarcerating Women,” will deliver the keynote address. Solinger, a feminist historian and political theorist in addition to being an author and curator, has written several books, the latest co-authored with Martha Raimon on incarcerated women.

The conference is co-sponsored by the Sturm College of Law, University College of Dublin Law School, University College of Dublin, School of Social Justice, Whittier Law School, the DU Gender and Women’s Studies Program and the Colorado Women’s Bar Association.

DU students, faculty and staff are welcome to attend free of charge. For registration and a full schedule, visit the Sturm College of Law Web site.

“Families are changing,” Miccio says. “We’re hoping our discussions will help us look at some of these issues differently and develop new ways of thinking about what issues need our attention.”

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