Statement from the ASECS Executive Board: St. Louis Conference 2023

Aug. 18, 2022


Dear colleagues,

As we ready our Call for Papers for our annual meeting in St. Louis, Missouri, March 9-11, 2023, we would like to share our thoughts on holding this conference in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade.

Via email and social media, some ASECS members have expressed uncertainty about traveling to Missouri. Others have asked that we show up to the conference as a way of showing up for our colleagues in Missouri, many of whom have expressed the sentiment that they want and need us there. Similarly, colleagues in other states with restrictive approaches to civil rights have asked that we not cancel a conference in a state that looks like their own. Some colleagues, such as those from California, have noted the difficulty of attending due to state restrictions on travel funding: Missouri does not yet belong to the 21 states on California's "ban" of discriminatory states , but we must acknowledge that this "non-banned" status could change any week, as it could for the other states still on the acceptable list.

It is the position of ASECS’s leadership that even absent financial considerations, holding an in-person conference best aligns with our mission and values. Particularly after these past 2+ years of canceled and reduced in-person meeting opportunities, our in-person annual meeting is an important way to fulfill our members’ ability to learn from and support one another. As many of you are aware, canceling a hotel contract would incur substantial penalties for our society. Similarly, the revenue from our annual conference benefits the city, which has a 20.43% poverty rate and a near 50% Black population, populations likely to be disproportionately affected by these kinds of laws.

After the leak of the likely reversal of Roe v. Wade and in anticipation of the Supreme Court decision, we began working with the mayor’s office, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, and our St. Louis colleagues in the Local Arrangements Committee. We have asked for their assistance in identifying resources for our members (including health services), but also how we as a learned society can help support those fighting for civil rights before, during, and after our stay as guests in their city. St. Louis, after all, is at the heart of the fight to defend bodily autonomy; in Mayor Tishaura Jones’ own words, she will “fight like hell to protect reproductive care access.” Her Reproductive Equity Fund is part of that fight on the local and national level.

At the organizational level, we have begun conference programming focused on civil rights and bodily autonomy. Members, too, have been organizing sessions in response to the current political situation. You can read one example of this work here: “Women’s Caucus Statement on the Recent Overturning of Roe v. Wade” We’re still in the planning phases of our conference, but we can share some of the important activities for you to look forward to:

  • Our Local Arrangements Committee, co-chaired by Rebecca Messbarger and Tili Boon Cuillé, are working with the St. Louis Art Museum for a tour of their 18th-century collection, arranging an excursion to the Cahokia Mounds, and other activities of interest to our members.

  • A number of sessions will consider the question of civil rights. To offer just one example before our CfP comes out in the next days, our ASECS President Wendy Wassyng Roworth will be sponsoring two Presidential Sessions in conjunction with the Women’s Caucus on reproductive rights and bodily autonomy in the 18th Century and today.

  • Public school teachers in St. Louis will be invited to attend the conference for free. Local museum and other educational employees will be able to attend the conference at the member conference rate.

  • What’s happening in your state? For those of you interested in knowing what your colleagues are grappling with and their questions and solutions, we’ll offer a space to share those ideas.

  • We will host virtual events as part of our year-round programming and are exploring making some aspects of the conference accessible remotely.

  • Do you have suggestions for other activities? Send an email to our Executive Director Benita Blessing (director@asecs.org).

Thank you all for your support of this society and its mission.

ASECS Executive Board

Wendy Wassyng Roworth | President

Lisa A. Freeman | First Vice President

Paola Bertucci | Second Vice President

Rebecca Messbarger | Past President

Lisa Cody | Member at Large

Catherine Jaffe | Member at Large

Ourida Mostefai | Member at Large

Romita Ray | Member at Large

Emily Friedman | Member at Large

Meghan Roberts | Member at Large

Joseph Bartolomeo | Treasurer

Benita Blessing | Executive Director