A newsmaker you should know: Professor's book highlights three important women in American history


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March is Women’s History Month, which makes it the perfect time to read the new book, "Communicative Engagement and Social Liberation: Justice Will be Made" (Farleigh Dickenson University Press, 2014) by Pat Arneson of McCandless.

Ms. Arneson, a professor of communication and rhetorical studies at Duquesne University, focused her book on three important — but not very well-known — women in U.S. history who all had important roles in U.S. history.

Myrtilla Miner founded and operated a teacher’s school for young black women in Washington, D.C., in the 1800s; Mary White Ovington was a co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; and Jesse Daniel Ames, wa a political activist who founded the Association of Southern Women to Prevent Lynching in 1930.

“They were all three remarkable white women who saw injustices towards black people and said, ‘No,’” Ms. Arneson said. She hopes the book will inspire those who read it.

“I’m very interested in digging up women that no one has heard about but who have uncontested importance in our history,” Ms. Arneson said.

Her interest in history and communication stem from her childhood in Minnesota where she remembers asking her mother about the civil unrest in the country.

“I asked her about race and she said, ‘What does race matter? It shouldn’t be an issue. It shouldn’t matter if you are a man or woman or what ethnicity you are’ and that made an impression on me,” she said.

It was a lesson that stuck with her. When Ms. Arneson went to college, she “tried a bunch of majors,” but settled on communication.

“I was always drawn to communication and had been on the speech team in high school and was very good at it,” she said.

As she was completing her undergraduate degree at St. Cloud University, a professor suggested she consider graduate school.

“He told me that I could get an assistantship — I love to learn and thought maybe I would be a good professor,” Ms. Arneson said.

She completed her master’s degree and her doctorate and pursued a career in just that — teaching at the university level. Sixteen years ago, she learned of an opening at Duquesne University.

“I thought, ‘Why not?’...  I thought I would give it a try and of course, the reputation of Duquesne is outstanding,” she said.

Ms. Arneson also continued with her love of learning about history, particularly women in U.S. history. This is her first single-authored book.

“The three women in book are really strong women who took a stand and made a difference in our history,” she said.

Ms. Arneson said she first learned about each of the women over 10 years ago and thought about writing an article, but pursued other projects.

“But these three women stayed with me, these strong, fearless women,” she said. “I hope their stories encourage people to display moral courage — in situations where we feel uncomfortable, to take the next step, to stay in the conversation. That is how change occurs.”


Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.

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