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(Re)Claiming ‘Uppity’: “Ordinary” Women as Leaders and Public Intellectuals

August 20, 2020, 4:30PM - 5:30PM

Erica Lawson Web

In the 1890s, Ida Bell Wells-Barnett published “Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in all its Phases”; a mob destroyed her newspaper and presses as her reporting received national attention. In the 1970s, a group of Jamaican women in Canada, scheduled for deportation, protested to change unjust immigration laws; and in 2015, Zunera Ishaq challenged the Harper government’s ban on religious clothing and took her Oath of Canadian Citizenship wearing her niqab. These are examples of women’s day-to-day leadership for social and political change. However, because “legitimate leadership” and power are associated with wealthy men, mostly white, women are not viewed as leaders in their own right. With historical and contemporary examples, this talk is an invitation to re-think ‘ordinary’ women as leaders and public intellectuals within the theoretical tradition of Black feminist thought.


Erica S. Lawson is an Associate Professor in the Department of Women’s Studies and Feminist Research at Western University. She teaches in the areas of feminist and critical race theories and gender and post-conflict recovery. Her most recent publications include: “Bereaved Black Mothers and Maternal Activism in the Racial State” (Feminist Studies), and “Mercy for Their Children: A Feminist Reading of Black Women’s Maternal Activism and Leadership Practices” (In African Canadian Leadership: Continuity, Transition and Transformation). Her most recent SSHRC-funded research project is a collaborative initiative that examines how women in Liberia utilize community councils at Peace Hut sites to advance gender equality, address domestic disputes through conflict resolution and mediation, and assist victims of sexual gender-based violence to access the legal system in an effort to build trust in the law as a crucial site for transitional justice.     



  • Tags:
  • LAMP
  • Kimberley Milani
  • Leadership
  • Jana Seijts