History

The Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship originated in the serendipitous meeting of three feminist medievalists at the 1984 International Congress on Medieval Studies that convenes annually at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. These “founding mothers,” E. Jane Burns, Roberta (Bonnie) Krueger, and Elizabeth Robertson established the Medieval Feminist Newsletter to encourage communication among feminist medievalists. MFN’s first issue appeared in May 1986. Shortly thereafter a fourth founding mother, Thelma Fenster, joined the initial trio. In addition to the usual newsletter fare of annoucements and subscribers’ research interests, MFN included position papers, papers from Kalamazoo sessions, syllabi, book reviews, and the results of surveys identifying issues in teaching, research, and publication that concerned feminist medievalists.

In 1992, the founding mothers launched the Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship to provide a more formal organizational framework for communication and mutual support among feminist medievalists. The Society sponsors sessions at the Medieval Congress, holds its business  and Advisory Board meetings there, hosts a reception for graduate students, and organizes a mentoring exchange. The Society has established book, article, and graduate student essay prizes to recognize outstanding feminist scholarship in medieval studies. European members of the Society have organized sessions and receptions at the Leeds medieval conference.

From its first home at Clinton College (Hamilton,New York), MFN moved to the Center for the Study of Women and Society at the University of Oregon (Eugene, Oregon), in 1996, with Regina Psaki as Managing Editor. In 1999, the membership of the Society approved a title change for MFN to Medieval Feminist Forum which more accurately reflected its academic nature. In 2002 a Subsidia series of occasional publications on special topics was established.

MFF moved again, in 2004, to Minot State University (Minot, North Dakota), when Michelle M. Sauer became Managing Editor. While at Minot State, MFF grew in size allowing for more, and more substantial, articles and more book reviews in each issue.

At its 2007 meeting, the Advisory Board approved a proposal to scan MFF’s backfile to be made accessible online by the University Libraries. In 2009, in the face of rising costs for printing and distribution which hindered the Society’s ability to undertake additional activities to encourage feminist scholarship, the Board approved MFF’s transition to publication in electronic format only, beginning with the Winter 2009 issue through Iowa Research Online, the University of Iowa Libraries’ Institutional Repository.

The Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship has had Affiliated Organization status with the Modern Language Association allowing it to sponsor two sessions at the MLA’s annual meeting since the 1990s. In 2009 it gained similar status with the American Historical Association and will co-sponsor three sessions with the Medieval Academy of America and Committee on Women in the Historical Profession at the AHA’s 2010 meeting in San Diego. SMFS has also sponsored sessions at the annual Medieval Academy of American meeting and has coordinated sessions at the biennial conference of the Australia & New Zealand Association for Medieval & Early Modern Studies (ANZAMEMS).

A Timeline of MFN/MFF/SMFS
1986 Medieval Feminist Newsletter (MFN) founded
1986-1990 MFN produced at the University of Colorado (Boulder, CO)
1992 Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship founded
1990-1996 MFN produced at Hamilton College (Clinton, NY)
1999 MFN becomes Medieval Feminist Forum (MFF)
1996-2004 MFN/MFF produced at the University of Oregon (Eugene, OR)
2000 First Subsidia volume published
2004 MFF issues changed from Spring/Fall to Summer/Winter
2004-present MFF produced at Minot State University (Minot, ND)