Women’s History Month: A Reflection by Liana Piehler G’01

Words of inspiration and vision from the affiliate professor

March 2024 – Having attended an all-women’s college—Mount Holyoke College—for my own undergraduate years, I’ve consistently and deeply valued the role of women in all areas of education and achievement.  As undergrads, we were made to feel that all fields of study and professions were possible, because of—not in spite of—being women. In fact, during those years of study for me, that concept was a “given.” I look back on that thought now as a true gift in my life.

I attempt to carry over that affirmative spirit—the sense of empowerment—to my teaching here at Drew in the Caspersen School of Graduate Studies. It has informed my scholarship from my own doctoral studies forward into my teaching and pedagogy, as well as within my creative life.

Women’s History Month is a particular time to bring our attention to women’s achievements and roles across the disciplines; yet I attempt to include women’s voices and visions—through their narratives and their visual work—within all the courses I teach in the Arts & Letters program. Considering whose voices are heard, whose stories are included, along with deep regard for those who are silenced, lost or neglected, shapes my choices of writers and artists for every course I teach. I’ve felt rewarded to see many of my DLitt students over the last several years also following that path by discovering and focusing their own research on women whose lives, experiences, and accomplishments deserve to be recognized and explored. Current DLitt candidates are redirecting our attention to the short fiction of Kate Chopin, the entrepreneurship of Alice Ravenel Huger Smith, the legacy of 19th and 20th century Irish artists and writers, as well as a range of poets, essayists, and novelists illuminating their own narratives.

In my creative life as a visual artist and writer, I also seek eclectic inspiration, while always turning my attention to women’s lived experiences. They allow me to better see my own path. These are our wisdom figures.

If I could pass along a suggestion to others for Women’s History Month, it would be to select a new narrative to read, a new exhibit to see, a little-known life to explore and consider what that discovery adds to your own personal education and way of seeing the world. . . and the silence that exists without it.

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