by Shannon Gleba & Samantha Walla, Staff Writer & Production Editor
Sociology professor Martha Joy Rose has been a major proponent for the sociological study of families and motherhood on Manhattan College’s campus for a number of years, and has been able to educate many students through her organization and conference.
In 2003, Rose came into contact with the study of motherhood at academic conferences while creating large scale festivals around the country called Mamapalooza.
“I was going to some academic conferences, and realized at these conferences that there was actually a bubbling underneath the surface, this field of study on motherhood. I said to some of my colleagues at the time, ‘we really need a place that is going to archive and carry this information that’s happening in this movement, both academically, socially, artistically. How about a museum of motherhood?’” said Rose.
When Rose’s colleagues got on board with her idea for a Museum of Motherhood, they started working towards making the idea a reality.
“We founded a non-profit and did exhibits-we worked with Working Mother Magazine, the village of Seneca Falls, N.Y. where the suffragette movement started. We did an exhibit on their streets called “The Moms of Rock and Roll” and was a big tourist attraction for a summer of 2010. And we opened a space in Manhattan in 2011. So, for 29 months we had 2,500 square feet on the Upper East Side of Manhattan,” said Rose.
According to their website, the Museum of Motherhood’s mission “is to start great conversations, feature thought-provoking exhibits, and share information and education—we believe a more comprehensive understanding of pregnancy, birth, and the value of caregiving labor will lead to healthier and happier homes, more productive workplaces, and better social policies.”
Today, the Museum of Motherhood (MOM) has transformed and has grown an impressive online presence, as well as created a new educational space.
Rose said, “Now, we have a presence online. We have a Mom Art Annex in the Arts District of St. Petersburg, Fla., where we do residencies, fellowship and internships.”
“For example, relevant to Manhattan College, if you are a student or graduate and your area of interest falls within sociology of family or women’s studies, or any of those kinds of things and you’re working on a project, you can pitch a proposal and say ‘I want to come work on my project for two weeks’ and you can come stay there for free and work on your project. So, we do power a lot of those kinds of things.”
In addition to fellowships, the MOM “aims to collect, preserve, and disseminate articles, books, artifacts, images, and research on all aspects of motherhood,” according to their website.
In addition to being the Acting Director of the Museum of Motherhood, Rose also spends a lot of time on campus teaching sociology courses beginning in 2015 with a brief hiatus, as well as working in the Lasallian Women and Gender Resource Center.
“My real passion is sociology of family, with a focus on mothers, fathers and families and looking at it from some of the scholarship that we don’t usually hear about,” said Rose.
“We also have a few hours here at the women’s center and they offered for me to come in for a couple of hours a week, and if there are parents on campus, if there are students on campus who are struggling with say their own family situations, because a lot of us are in a sandwich generation where we are taking care of our parents, or other issues or interests around family, motherhood, fatherhood, I am here to talk to people,” said Rose.
“There’s moms in every department,” said student worker at the Lasallian Women and Gender Resource Center, Reilly Rebhahn. “They deserve notice and access to resources. Through this MOM conference and project we’re one step closer to granting moms justice… The center is about healing and justice. By ignoring and stigmatizing what it means to be a mother and by stereotyping what a good mother is, we’re perpetuating more injustices. Providing a space on campus and allowing mothers access to the resources they need is just another way we can bring justice to campus.”
Student worker at the Lasallian Women and Gender Resource Center, Reilly Rebhahn, said
Rose hope that students in her classes are able to learn about how to engage in a family system.
“If we believe fundamentally that education makes us better, which I assume we do because we are all in a college, then why wouldn’t education about the history of family make you a better family member? I want it to be very applicable,” said Rose.
Also returning to MC, with co-sponsorship from the sociology department, this April for a fifth time is the MOM Conference, a conference that has been held each year since 2005, in collaboration with different academic institutions. The conference will take place at the end of Women’s Week on campus, on April 5 and 6.
The topic of this year’s conference is “Rewriting Trauma & Visibility: Motherwork, Pregnancy, and Birth,” and will feature many great speakers and artworks, and will feature around 40 presenters and well as panels.
“We have international presenters who are all doing research on different areas of family and mother studies. So this year particularly we are dealing with birth, trauma, loss, illness. We’ll have scholars, we’ll have artists, and arts,” said Rose.
All students are welcome to attend the conference, and all are also welcome to read The Journal of Mother Studies, a digital humanities journal that will feature some of the research presented at the conference. Likewise, MOM will be having an exhibit in O’Malley Library during the month of March.
In the end, Rose hopes the conference will open the eyes of those who attend and that they will be able to apply the knowledge to their own lives. She also hopes to see MC students be as open to the idea of mother’s studies as the college as a whole has been for many years. By inviting MOM to present, collaborating to host the conference, as well as inviting Rose to teach, MC has been an important part of MOM’s past.
Rose said, “In a weird way, when I look back at the history of the museum, and I look back at where we have had invitation to be, to exist, in the oddest way, Manhattan College has been more open in some regard, I want to say that Manhattan College has been incredibly open.”