Discovering 'Place and Purpose'

Twenty students and four professors took a queer-history tour of Greenwich Village.

Twenty students and four professors took a queer-history tour of Greenwich Village. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Lee.

Queer-history field trip includes walking tour, Broadway musical, feminist art

by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson

Twenty women’s & gender studies majors and four professors examined the history and culture of the queer and feminist movements during a department field trip to New York. Funded by the parents of a recent graduate, the autumn excursion included a guided walking tour, a trip to the Brooklyn Museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art (home to Judy Chicago’s canonical Dinner Party), and a lauded Broadway production about family, queer identity and coming of age.

Talya Auger ’16 (women’s & gender studies, environmental science) especially appreciated the ways that the Greenwich Village walking-tour guide uncovered historic landmarks and brought the histories and experiences of LGBTQ trailblazers to life. "This trip was one of the best experiences I've had at Dickinson," she said.

For Danielle Melnick ’17 (women’s & gender studies, American studies), the highlight was the matinee showing of Fun Home, a musical based on the bestselling graphic memoir by cartoonist and 2014 MacArthur Award-winner Alison Bechdel. “The frustration and the bittersweet nature of navigating who we are in the world is hard to capture, but the musical achieved this and inspired me to think critically about what we risk losing in finding ourselves,” she said.

The field trip was funded by Peter ’73 and Sheila Anderson, who made gifts to support the women’s & gender studies department, the John Montgomery Scholarship and the recent construction of the Durden Athletic Training Center. Their daughter, Hannah, earned a women’s & gender studies degree at Dickinson in 2013.

Women’s & gender studies majors continue to feel reverberations of that generosity, said Department Chair Elizabeth Lee, as professors have interwoven the day’s lessons into curricula and students have built their research projects and assignments around what they learned on the trip. For Melnick, the field trip also brought potentially further-reaching effects.

“This day solidified my academic path and also helped me work toward figuring out my place and purpose,” she said, “and for that I am very grateful.”

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Published December 11, 2015