April 3, 2002
Memoirist Jill Ker Conway to Reflect on
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
the Challenges of Writing Biographies of Women
NORTHAMPTON, Mass.-Jill Ker Conway,
the former president of Smith College whose autobiographical
trilogy has widely influenced the writing and interpretation
of women's histories, will present "Telling Stories About
Women's Lives: Biography, Memoir and Archives" at 2:30 p.m.
Friday, April 12, in the college's Wright Hall Auditorium.
The lecture is free, open to the public and wheelchair accessible.
A book signing and reception will follow in the Neilson Library
Born on an Australian sheep farm, Conway has led an extraordinary
life, as reflected in her internationally published memoirs.
"The Road from Coorain" (1989) presents stories from
early parts of her life, reflecting on her Australian childhood
and her education in history and English at the University of
Sydney. "True North" (1994) recounts Conway's life
in America, from her arrival in 1960 to the beginning of her
presidency at Smith in 1975. "A Woman's Education,"
published last year, recalls her decade at the college, during
which she resisted pressures toward co-education and supported
movements toward liberalizing the curriculum.
In her talk, Conway will focus on the challenges facing biographers
of women. Through examinations of various biographies and personal
papers of Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath and Gloria Steinem, Conway
will explore how women's life stories have been presented differently
from those of men with regard to such topics as work, social
and sexual life, education and illness. She will discuss as well
the importance of resources such as Smith's Mortimer Rare Book
Room and Sophia Smith Collection of women's history manuscripts
in informing biographical research.
Conway, who lives in Boston, is a visiting scholar and professor
in MIT's Program in Science, Technology, and Society. She serves
on the boards of Nike, Merrill Lynch and Colgate-Palmolive, and
as chairman of Lend Lease Corporation.
Conway's talk is part of the 60th anniversary celebration of
the Friends of the Smith College Libraries, a group that provides
support to the college libraries and sponsors events that add
to the intellectual life of the college.
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