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 foremothers, 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 announcements 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. By the early 2000s, the Society had also embarked upon sponsoring sessions at the Leeds IMC each July, including an annual roundtable to discuss pressing issues affecting the profession. This annual roundtable is now co-sponsored by the UK-based Gender and Medieval Studies Group, with the SMFS President sitting on its Steering Group board.
The Society has established book, article, and graduate student essay prizes to recognize outstanding feminist scholarship in medieval studies. In 2016, it also set up a Trans* Travel Fund to finance the conference travel and accommodation needs of students and faculty identifying as trans* and to secure for them greater safety. This fund is supported by the sale of SMFS-themes merchandise and by generous donation from individuals and other like-minded groups, such as BABEL.
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, and in 2016, the Society decided to alter this further to Medieval Feminist Forum: A Journal of Gender and Sexuality,to better reflect its content. A flourishing Subsidia series of occasional publications on special topics was established in 2002.
In 2004, MFF moved again, to Minot State University, where the journal grew in size allowing for more, and more substantial articles and additional book reviews in each issue. More recently, the journal has been taken over by the University of Iowa, where it currently remains. In 2009, because of rising publication costs,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 Library’s 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. Having continued to widen its reach, it currently sponsors regular sessions in a wide range of US conferences and at Leeds. Its first jointly-organised, fully-fledged conference will take place in Oriel College Oxford in January 2018.
|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||MFF produced at Minot State University (Minot, ND)|