Skip to content

CWWH Newsletter, Fall 2023


CWWH Newsletter 16, no. 2 (Fall 2023)


Katherine Massoth, University of New Mexico

Letter from the Chair

Dear Coalition Colleagues,

Welcome to the 63rd Annual Conference of the Western History Association!

I’m looking forward to seeing many of you in sunny LA! As you peruse your program, you’ll note that the CWWH has been successful in helping to make many of the changes we hoped to see in the WHA. The conference will welcome a new president, Dr. Kelly Lytle Hernández, who will be the fourteenth woman to serve in that position in the WHA. Mary Lee Spence of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign was the first woman elected to the WHA presidency, serving in 1981-82. In her WHA oral history, Dr. Spence remembered that a breakfast of female members was held before the conference started where they discussed women in the organization and problems as they saw them. Still, they also had a lot of fun. Sounds familiar.

This year’s program has several panels and papers featuring the topics of women, gender, and sexuality (and intersectionality) in the North American West. In some sessions, choosing which overlapping panels to attend will be hard, but it is a good problem. The Coalition has played a large part in these successes, but that doesn’t erase the other issues our profession faces (and may be connected more broadly). We look with horror as West Virginia University and others gut their liberal arts programs. The attacks on books and history curriculum in elementary and secondary schools are also chilling. At the same time, the ousting of scholars at the Texas State Historical Association hits too close to home. Is it a surprise that these attacks have occurred as more women and scholars of color have entered the academy? What we do continues to matter.I am proud to work with the incredible members of the Coalition who keep asking questions about our past that help us think about a more just future.

This year, our Wednesday Roundtable considers “50 More Years of Title IX” by looking back on that legislation’s successes and weaknesses with a fantastic panel of practitioners, scholars, and journalists. The discussion is sponsored in conjunction with WHA CARES (Committee on Assault Response and Educational Strategies). We continue to prioritize mentorship and support for scholars working in the fields of women, gender, and sexualities, as demonstrated by this year’s sponsored session, “Restoring Scholarly Community through Mentorship in a Post-Pandemic World,” on Friday afternoon. Our mentorship also includes our visible presence at the conference and openness to making new participants feel welcome, which is a not-so-subtle reminder to please sign up for a turn at the Coalition booth! (The Google link is included here in the newsletter). Also, join us for the CRAW/Coalition reception. I challenge you to introduce yourself to at least one person you don’t know and tell them about the Coalition if they aren’t familiar with it. And finally, we remain committed to financially supporting young scholars with our prizes–come find out about this year’s Ledesma Prize and the Conference Travel Grant winners at the Coalition breakfast on Friday morning! They are the future of the Coalition. And yet, our successes have perhaps left us somewhat directionless. It has been harder and harder to fill our committees – in part because the number of committees addressing similar issues has expanded due to the hard work of members of the Coalition to make the WHA and our home institutions recognize the importance of these issues. Finding volunteers for our governing positions is harder as other positions have become open to women. And I am conscious that the economic hardships faced by public history institutions and the shrinking of departments in terms of tenure-track scholars and graduate admissions, as well as funding for all, has meant that fewer people are attending scholarly conferences and joining organizations. These trends beg the question of what we in the Coalition should be doing, where we should put our energy, and how best to continue supporting our mission while evolving to meet these new challenges. I urge you to encourage new members to join the Coalition! I invite you to send me your ideas, or better yet, join us for our business meeting on Thursday at 1:30 pm and share them there. Everyone is welcome, and together, we can continue to be a force for good in the field.

Cathleen Cahill, Penn State University