Women's Symposium program cover, 1966

Women’s Symposium program cover, 1966

March 8th is International Women’s Day. It is a global day celebrating all of the achievements of women, and to raise awareness about women’s equality. In the United States, March is celebrated as Women’s History Month. This national tradition originated in 1981 when Congress requested that the President proclaim a “Women’s History Week.” In 1987 Congress designated the month of March as “Women’s History Month” and ever since, presidents have issued a series of annual proclamations designating the month of March as “Women’s History Month,” to celebrate the contributions and specific achievements women have made.

In 1966 SMU celebrated its 50th anniversary with a wide variety of events that showcased the university. Dean of Women Emmie V. Baine programmed a hard-hitting event that explored the role of women in society. She crafted a two-day symposium entitled “The Education of Women for Social and Political Leadership.”

Marietta Tree, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N.

Marietta Tree, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N.

 

The first women’s symposium provided the needed space for the women of Dallas to voice their concerns. The response to the event was astounding; planned for 150, it drew more than 400 participants. The keynote speakers of the first symposium were Marietta Tree, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N.; Dr. Carl N. Degler, professor of history at Vassar College; Dr. Helen V. McLean, psychiatrist at the Institute for Psychoanalysis in Chicago; Dr. Mary I. Bunting, president of Radcliffe College; and Viola H. Hymes, chairman of the governor’s Commission on the Status of Women for the state of Minnesota.

The early symposiums were, as one woman described them, “a once-a-year intellectual feast” for the women of Dallas. Topic themes of later symposia emphasized women’s rights as issues of national and global importance. In issues like food scarcity, increasing national inequality, and student activism, women’s roles were seen as central. The depth and quality of the programs helped create an annual symposium that grew to be the longest running program in the nation.

Women's Symposium table of contents, 1966

Women’s Symposium table of contents, 1966

Emmie Baine coordinated the Women’s Symposium until 1987 when she stepped down. Under Baine’s leadership the symposium covered topics that ranged from leadership to sexuality to politics.

As Vivian Castleberry described the symposium, it “began as a gentle breeze…” and became “a persistent tailwind that has challenged mindsets, disturbed comfort, and jarred complacency for a quarter of a century.” Last week SMU hosted its 56th symposium via zoom. This year focused on the theme: “Vocal, Viral, Visionary.” It explored the impact of social media in our lives and its impact on women specifically. If you missed this year’s event, check out the CORE the PODCAST.  Organized and run by SMU students, this podcast will introduce listeners to powerful women doing impactful work creating amazing change.

Contact Samantha Dodd, curator of the Archives of Women of the Southwest for additional information or assistance with accessing the collections of Emmie Baine, or the SMU Women’s Sympoisum. The DeGolyer Library continues to expand our digitization efforts, adding new content weekly. We have thousands of items digitized and searchable in our digital collections. Be sure to browse our holdings to find more letters, photographs, manuscripts, imprints, art, and audio/video.