In its second year, the Hoosier Women at Work conference was held at the Indiana State Library on April 1. This event celebrates Indiana women’s history, with this year’s theme being women in science, technology, and medicine.
Upon arrival, attendees gathered to hear from event organizer, Jeannie Regan-Dinius who works for the DNR’s Division of Historic Preservation. Among those in attendance was our own “Songstress of the Limberlost” Adrienne Provenzano. (Adrienne and I were both excited to learn that the theme for next year’s conference would be women in the arts!) After a warm welcome and overview of the day, it was time for the first round of break-out sessions.
My presentation on Gene Stratton-Porter was one of three from which participants could choose for the first session. Speaking to a group of around 25 people, I had the opportunity to share Gene’s story, addressing her work in nature studies, conservation, photography and film-making— aspects of Gene’s career that embraced the science-focused theme of the conference. After my presentation, the audience had time to ask questions—which to led to a great discussion about Gene’s work, the Limberlost Swamp restoration efforts, and both historic sites dedicated to her.
In the second round of break-out sessions, I chose to attend one that featured Kristina Kimmick, program developer at the Culbertson Mansion State Historic Site. Kristina’s presentation brought to light the work of Dr. Emma Culbertson, one of the top surgeons of the Victorian era. Emma’s story was fascinating and—because of Kristina’s curiosity and extensive research—is now a part of the interpretation of the Culbertson Mansion. As I learned about Dr. Culbertson, I couldn’t help but see parallels to Gene Stratton-Porter, as both Hoosier women broke free from gender stereotypes as they fearlessly pursued their passions.
After lunch, we gathered in the auditorium of the Indiana Historical Society to hear the keynote speaker Sharra Vostrel of Purdue University. Professor Vostrel’s presentation on Toxic Shock Syndrome was eye-opening—and she brought humor and a personal side to a very scientific and important topic. (You can listen to the keynote address here.)
It was a beautiful spring day in Indianapolis, and I was proud and honored to bring the story of Gene Stratton-Porter to a new audience. Mrs. Porter certainly embodied a Hoosier working woman and was an advocate for science and the technology of her time. I think she would be pleased to see the number of women working in science, technology, and medicine today and the positive impacts their work has had on our everyday life.