University of Rochester

EVENT: Chicana History Scholar to Open Women's Conference

April 7, 1999

The foremost authority on Latina women's history will deliver the keynote address at the 11th Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, which is being held from June 4 to 6 at the University of Rochester this year.

Vicki L. Ruiz, chair of the Department of Chicana/Chicano Studies at Arizona State University and a spirited and sought-after speaker, will discuss "What's Color Got to Do With It?: Representation, Segmentation and Tactical Coalitions."

Ruiz has been researching, writing, teaching, and making presentations on Latina history for two decades. She is known for her work to reconcile two types of history: the personal stories she heard from family, and the textbook history she learned in school.

Through her interviews—some of which grow out of stories from audience members who attend her lectures—and drawing on such sources as newspaper articles, letters to the editor, poetry, advertisements, census reports, congressional hearings, and other government documents, Ruiz vividly portrays the Latina experience in the United States.

Ruiz' first book, Cannery Women, Cannery Lives: Mexican Women, Unionization, and the California Food Processing Industry, 1930-1950, grew from her dissertation while at Stanford University. Her most recent book, From Out of the Shadows, Mexican Women in 20th Century America, shows how Mexican women in the United States managed multiple cultural, economic, and political demands in their everyday lives. The work was selected as Outstanding Academic Book of 1998 by Choice Magazine of the Association of College and Research Libraries.

Ruiz is also co-editor of Latinas in the United States, a two-volume encyclopedia of Latina women from 1519 to the present, currently in preparation.

In her address at the Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, Ruiz will explore what she calls "suburban legends" with regard to immigrants of color. She will discuss labor segmentation in the Southwest, the problems women face in Sunbelt apparel firms, and empowerment strategies women have used at the grassroots level.

Ruiz was raised in Florida, where she earned her bachelor's degree at Florida State University. She received her master's and doctoral degrees at Stanford University and taught at the University of California at Davis, the University of Texas at El Paso, and The Claremont Graduate School, where she was Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities and chair of the history department.

The Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, one of the biggest women's history conferences in the world, attracts more than 2,000 scholars from around the globe. Held only once every three years, the event features more than 200 panels, workshops, and roundtables.

The first Berkshire Conference on the History of Women was held in 1973 in Douglass College of Rutgers University. Only about 100 participants were expected to attend; instead, more than 300 attended. The following year, the Berkshire Conference drew more than 1,000 scholars to Radcliffe College. The most recent conference was held at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1996.