Conference June 21-23 celebrates early modern women

“Attending to Early Modern Women: Remapping Routes and Spaces”
Early modern women laid the groundwork in many fields for modern women.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is hosting a conference June 21-23 that looks at the diverse ways these women – from the 14th century to the 18th century – made an impact on history and the future.

More than 200 scholars from around the country and the world are taking part in the conference, “Attending to Early Modern Women: Remapping Routes and Spaces,” at UWM’s School of Continuing Education, 161 W. Wisconsin Avenue.

The Early Modern Women conference, which has been held at the University of Maryland every three years since 1990, has now moved to Milwaukee. A preconference seminar will be held Wednesday, June 20, at the Center for Renaissance Studies at the Newberry Library in Chicago.

The conference brings together scholars from a variety of disciplines – history, arts, music, law, medicine, languages and other areas, according to Merry Wiesner-Hanks, chair of the Department of History and a member of the conference’s organizing committee. UWM’s College of Letters and Science is providing financial support.

Conference topics, inspired by the move, are focused around the themes of environment, teaching/pedagogy, communities and exchanges. Workshop discussions cover topics as diverse as the power of women regents, the role of networking in convents, women in baroque music, Indian agrarian communities and early African American woman.

During the early modern era, says Wiesner-Hanks, “people began to become involved in a global economy.”  It was also an era of discovery, cultural mixing and changing roles for women within their communities and the broader world, she adds.

“Even though the modern world is very different (from the early modern era), some of the ways people respond to these changes in the 16th century parallels what is happening today.” Studying the many facets of the early modern world, she adds, can give greater depth to discussions of current issues.

The Early Modern Women conference is unusual in that it attracts many younger scholars, and participants read many of the presentations in advance and discuss them in a workshop format rather than listening to a series of lectures. Each topic area is summed up in a plenary session.

Valerie Traub, English and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan, will deliver the keynote address at 7:30 p.m. Thursday evening.

On Friday at 4:15 p.m., the Ensemble Musical Offering will play a selection of baroque and classical music on period instruments. The performance will include one of Bach’s wedding cantatas, and selections from the 1725 Anna Magdalena notebook compiled by J.S. Bach for his wife and family.

All events and workshops are open to the public. For a complete schedule, go to