Women Leaders from Western Pennsylvania Showcased at Six O’Clock Series

Posted on 2/19/2013 9:36:16 AM

Four members of the “In Sisterhood” exhibit took stage at the Six O’Clock Series on Monday evening, February 18, 2013, to share their experiences as leaders who helped the women’s movement evolve throughout western Pennsylvania.

Pat Ulbrih, Ph.D., Ann Begler, Barbara Hafer, and Maureen McHugh, Ph.D. told stories, jokes, and lessons about their journey as feminists, beginning in a time when there were few other feminists around. Pat put this in context when she explained that Pittsburgh became the third national chapter of the National Organization for Women in 1967. Prior to Pittsburgh’s chapter, Pat explained that nationwide there were only two other chapters: one in New York and another in Washington, D.C. As the first panelist to speak, Pat helped explain how Pittsburgh played a significant role nationally in the women’s movement.

Ulbrih is a sociologist with a history working in the field of public health where she saw first-hand how the advancements of the women’s movement had a direct impact on the lives of women and girls in western Pennsylvania. She commented on Monday night, “I knew nobody would tell the story of these women and their accomplishments, and it needed to be told.” So, Pat wrote a grant that was funded, and she founded the “In Sisterhood” exhibit. “In Sisterhood: A Women’s Movement in Pittsburgh” is an oral history and multimedia project designed to promote a deeper understanding and appreciation of the contributions of women of the region to the women’s movement. The exhibit includes videos, historical photos, and memorabelia—many of which are on display today in the University Museum.

Barbara Hafer spoke following Ulbrih. Although best known for her political work, Hafer is a registered nurse who also has a background in public health. She described being an R.N. in public health in the late ’60s when she said she was “not allowed” to discuss birth control with patients. In many cases, she stated hospitals had a practice of refusing patients who were victims of domestic violence. Begler identified these as forms of “institutional discrimination.” A practicing attorney, Begler was the third panelist and cited legal practices that had played a role in these institutional biases, but were changed through the work of the women’s movement. She cited a change in crime codes applied to courtroom behavior making it no longer legal to interrogate a female witness about her past sexual history as a means of defaming her character. On a more personal note, Ann also described growing up in DuBois and wanting to play drums and baseball as a girl before being told she “wasn’t allowed” because “girls played the flute.”

McHugh, founder of the IUP Women’s Studies program, shared how her education at Chatham University helped forge her feminism. She said it was a juxtopasition to attend an all-women’s college that was led by an all-male Board of Trustees and a mostly male faculty. As the final speaker to present, Maureen aptly summarized the evening, saying that, for her, the women’s movement was not about individual achievement, but rather it was a community or a sisterhood.

The “In Sisterhood” exhibit will be available in the University Museum through March 15, 2013. Additional information about Monday’s Six O’Clock Series as compiled by the IUP Libraries can be found at LibGuides.

The Six O’Clock Series will return on Monday, February 25, with ”Leaving Your Legacy,” a program featuring IUP alumnus Tom Baker and cosponsored by the Office for Student Leadership and Greek Life. Facebook users can follow the Six O’Clock Series on Facebook. Twitter users can follow the series at #6oclockseries.