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UConn Advance
Quilts mark Women's Center Anniversary
By Sherry Fisher - March 7, 1997

In "Freedom," a teacher stands at a blackboard while several African-American children look on. She writes, "Tell them we are rising..."

Audrey Hepburn, Mae West and Lena Horne are captured on silvery patches in "Starlight Drive." Airplanes border the famous female pilot in "Soaring: Amelia Earhart."

These images, depicted on handcrafted quilts by Pat Carter, were on display for the Women's Center's 25th anniversary celebration Monday night at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. Another quilt commemorates the center's milestone.

The colorful display of quilts with political and social themes pays homage to women, from suffragists and blues singers to artists and filmmakers. Carter, the associate director of women's studies, combined traditional and contemporary patterns and techniques, using paint, photographs, beads and feathers.

"Our center is one of the oldest in the region and the country," said Myra Hindus, director of the Women's Center since 1990. The center "was formed in the wake of protests by women students and staff who demanded space and budget for the center," she said.

A strong surge of activism set the stage for the founding of the center in 1972, she said.

"We must not forget this history or 'herstory'," Hindus said. The center's history is about both a struggle for equity and a passion for this cause, she noted. The center's history is "empowering and gives us strength," she said.

A small three-ring binder sits among a display of Women's Center memorabilia. Its pages are charred. At the top of the first page, dated January 18, it says: "Happy 1973, Sisters." It was the first entry in the log book rescued from a fire that destroyed the Women's Center in 1974.

A short poem in a wooden frame, also rescued from the fire, offered another glimpse into the center's rich history, as did old newspaper articles and brochures, all part of a display. A video of a student protest flashed across a television screen.

The theme of the 25th anniversary celebration is "Piece by Piece: Celebrating 25 Years of Empowering Women."

'Progress on issues'

President Phillip E. Austin, in opening remarks during the program, commended the Women's Center's "progress on issues regarding gender equity."

Elizabeth Roper, whom Hindus called one of the "key founders" of the Women's Center, spoke about the center's early days and some of the struggles it faced. Roper, now retired, was formerly dean of continuing education for women.

Ruth Moynihan, an adjunct professor of history, spoke about the history of quilting. Throughout the years, women have told their stories in cloth, she said. Carter, who teaches courses called Women in the Arts and Women in Film, said her quilts examine the accomplishments of various historical female figures. They are inspired by subjects she teaches. "I get a vision of what I want to do," she said. "Everything I do is experimental."

The 70 women whose names were embroidered on the 25th anniversary quilt included the 1995 NCAA championship women's basketball team and the women of UCPEA. The quilt was made to raise funds for the Women's Center and to honor special women. For a donation, a woman could be honored by having her name embroidered on the quilt.

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