[Header Image: Livre des merveilles du monde. BNF MS français 2810, f. 80r]
This past weekend, the University of Iowa played host to a conference in honour of my doctoral advisor, Constance Berman, on the occasion of her retirement. I was one of the organisers, and we were thrilled to have so many people from across the US come to Iowa City and join us in sending Connie off to the next stage of her life and work.
The scope of the papers presented reflected the extraordinary scope of Connie’s academic interests over the course of her career: the power of women as lords and as queens; grappling with established historiographies which have dismissed women as historically irrelevant or which have tried to confine women to particular categories; the role of women and gender in the Cistercian Order; and women’s command of property and patronage. Many of the speakers prefaced their papers with tributes to how Connie had helped to inspire their work throughout the years. Given Connie’s commitment to supporting women’s history and female graduate students, it was only fitting that the symposium was held in the Senate Chambers of the Old Capitol—the place where in 1847 the state’s general assembly voted to establish the University of Iowa, the first public university in the United States to admit men and women on an equal basis.