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William & Mary starts affiliate Berks Chapter

The Berkshire Conference of Women Historians, founded in 1930, began as the Lakeville History Group in order to rectify the exclusion of women from the comradery and networking opportunities of the profession which often occurred in private men’s clubs and retreats. While the American Historical Association was open to women since the 19th century, history departments were still largely dominated by men.  In 1981, the Berks formalized as a 501(3)c. The incorporation of the conference in Maryland allowed the organization to create an endowment fund using membership fees and donations to continue its work as an organization that develops and encourages cooperative relations across the humanities.

In 2022, the Berks was awarded funding from the American Historical Association’s Grants to Sustain and Advance the Work of Historical Organizations Program in collaboration with the National Endowment for the Humanities Sustaining the Humanities through the American Rescue Plan (SHARP): Humanities Grantmaking for Organizations Program.. With this funding, the Berks created a project entitled Creating Student Affiliates and Speakers’ Networks to Diversify and Expand Women’s Histories and Reach.

The William & Mary affiliate chapter is part of a national pilot program that aims to explore ways of addressing declining enrollment of the humanities generally, but with specific attention to the ways in which the discipline fails to recruit and retain all women and members of underrepresented groups. William & Mary was chosen as one of six institutions to pilot this program. Our chapter is focused on developing relationships across disciplines and with the local public to explore the value of historical work and career possibilities with a humanities degree. The guiding principles of the founding of the Berks, to “create cooperative relationships with other organizations that advance the cause of women in the historical profession,” continues at the affiliate level.