History Slam Episode Fifty-Six: Franca Iacovetta and the 2014 Berkshire Conference

By Sean Graham

For four days this past May the University of Toronto hosted the 2014 Berkshire Conference on the History of Women. The ‘Big Berks,’ as it’s known, is considered by many to be the biggest women’s history conference in the world and this was the first time it had ever been held outside of the United States. In the lead up to the conference, we featured a series of posts examining the conference’s growth and significance to the historical profession. And since the conference, we’ve had three podcast episodes recorded during the conference.

The Berks was the largest conference I have ever attended – events took place all over the University of Toronto’s downtown campus – and just thinking about the logistics of organizing such an event makes my head spin. The task of putting the whole thing together was undertaken by Franca Iacovetta, whose team worked for three years in organizing the conference.

In this episode of the History Slam I talk with Franca Iacovetta about the Berks and her role as chair of the conference. We chat about the process of organizing the conference, the place of inclusivity in the event, and how women’s history has evolved over time. We also look at how younger scholars have been welcomed into the event and try to get to the bottom of the weird clown posters at the University of Toronto.

Sean Graham is a doctoral candidate at the University of Ottawa where he is currently working on a project that examines the early years of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He has previously studied at Nipissing University, the University of the West Indies, and the University of Regina and like any red-blooded Canadian his ultimate dream is to be a curling champion while living on a diet of beer and poutine.


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