Research coming out of the EUI was on the programme of Florence’s annual festival dedicated to women’s empowerment, L’Eredità delle Donne, which took place from 24-26 November to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
The EUI Library, the Historical Archives of the European Union, Ponte Europa, and the EUI Office of Equality, Diversity and Inclusiveness organised a round table discussion and archival presentation for the event. The aim of the organisers was to construct a dialogue between the present and past through the voices of pioneering women in the public sphere.
Making Visible the Invisible: The Legacy of Women in Europe and Beyond explored the contributions of some of the women who struggled for women’s rights and female emancipation and their legacies, preparing the ground for today's pursuit of inclusive gender equality. The event showcased the work of EUI researchers and fellows focusing on women’s empowerment and promoted connections between participants from the EUI and the local Florence community, who were also invited to attend.
Christina Maraboutaki, a Max Weber Fellow at the EUI, moderated the roundtable, which included doctoral researchers Anna Breidenbach and Aude Foucoin from the Department of History and development expert Leah Tesfamariam, a Young African Leader Fellow at the Florence School of Transnational Governance.
The discussion touched upon women’s history, the role of gender in contemporary education, and gender mainstreaming and governance in public policy. With examples from their own research, the panellists highlighted how archival and other historical sources could be used to make the contributions of heretofore invisible women, visible. These included women secretaries in the 1970’s who complained their jobs did not reflect their qualifications, female hotel workers in the early 1900s, and women living through the Belgian colonisation of Rwanda and the Rwandan genocide. The scholars also discussed how to better record and acknowledge the work of women so that future generations could more easily see their impacts on society.
Following the roundtable in Villa Salviati, the event moved over to the Historical Archives of the European Union. There, Ruth Ingeborg Meyer, HAEU Senior Archivist, presented archival materials (1979 – 2005) she had selected to illustrate the reflections of women who successfully achieved high office in the then predominantly male sphere of the European institutions, such as Simone Veil, Marga Klompé and Danuta Hübner. Furthermore the audience was introduced to the lives and thinking of women pioneers Ursula Hirschmann and Sofia Corradi. The presentation was structured in a way to reply, using the women’s own voices as revealed by the documents, to persisting questions such as: How difficult was it for you and other women to lead in national, international, and European institutions? What obstacles did you face in a predominantly male environment? How can women organise to conquer more public space and obtain adequate representation?
2023 was the first year that EUI participated in L’Eredità delle Donne, and the organisers hope to repeat the experience in 2024.