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History Department Hosts Talk on Appalachian Women’s Labor Activism

In commemoration of Women’s History Month, Louisiana Tech University’s History Department will sponsor a talk, “Who Gets to Speak for Appalachia? Women, Gender, and Historical Memory” by Dr. Jessica Wilkerson. The talk will take place at 4 p.m. Thursday, March 15, in Wyly Auditorium.

Present-day political narratives of Appalachia, especially those that depict the region as the “heart” of conservative “Trump country,” have rendered invisible the labor and activism of white and Black Appalachian women. In this talk, based on oral interviews with female labor activists, Dr. Wilkerson will show that by recovering the history of Appalachian women, we can recast our understanding of the Appalachian South and of American politics.

Dr. Wilkerson received her Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2014), and now serves as an Assistant Professor of History and Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi. She is completing her first book, To Live Here You Have to Fight: Antipoverty, Labor, and Feminist Activism in the Appalachian South (University of Illinois Press). Her dissertation on which the book is based was awarded both the 2015 OAH Lerner-Scott Prize for the best dissertation in women’s history and the Herbert G. Gutman Prize for outstanding dissertation from the Labor and Working-Class History Association. Her April 2016 article in Gender & History, “The Company Owns the Mine But They Don’t Own Us: Feminist Critiques of Capitalism in the Coalfields of Kentucky” won the A. Elizabeth Taylor Prize for the best article in women’s history from the Southern Association for Women Historians. In addition to her written work, Dr. Wilkerson was a contributor to the University of North Carolina’s Southern Oral History Project and has been an American Fellow of the AAUW and a visiting scholar at the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Dr. Wilkerson’s talk is jointly sponsored by the Louisiana Tech History Department and the Lambda-Rho chapter of the Phi Alpha Theta history honor society, with the support of the McGinty Trust.


For additional information, contact Dr. David M. Anderson, associate professor of history and coordinator of the History Department’s Women’s History Month events, at 318.257.2872 or by email at history@latech.edu. The event is free and open to the public.