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New Mexico State University

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NMSU Women's Studies 'dances' into Women's History Month

The New Mexico State University Women's Studies Program in the Department of Sociology is collaborating with NMSU's Branson Library and the Frontera Women's Foundation to celebrate Women's History Month and International Women's Day at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 8.

Original artwork from the book "Yes, We Are Still Dancing" such as this piece by artist Connie Dillman, will be on display at a reading March 8 at NMSU's Branson Library. (Artwork by Connie Dillman courtesy Frontera Women's Foundation.)

The event features a reading from the book "Yes, We Are Still Dancing" by local author Jacquelyn Stroud Spier and artists Connie Dillman and Susan Amstater, followed by a reception and refreshments. The 128-page book is a collaboration by the three women who have distilled their friendships and their six decades of Southwest living into a beautifully written and illustrated book, published by the foundation with the goal of raising funds for an endowment for the arts for at-risk girls and young women.

"In the days of ever-tightening budgets, arts often get hit especially hard," said College Assistant Professor Mary Benanti. "Education itself is seeing shrinking resources."

For young women and girls along the U.S.-Mexico border, funding a future in the arts can be even more difficult. Foundation co-founder Pat Villalobos, a successful businesses owner, recalls that it was having an opportunity to learn and play music that often gave her the inspiration to go forward as a young girl despite growing up in an at-risk community.

"We have to ensure our young girls continue to have these opportunities," Villalobos said.

The book features women in the third stage of life, "women with a history," said Benanti. This ties well into the theme of Women's History Month this year: "Our History is Our Strength."

"Individually and globally, women's history becomes their strength," Benanti said. "The Sociology Women's Studies Program's collaboration with a community foundation is a perfect union because we share goals."

Collaborating with NMSU's library to host the readings and the reception outside the Caroline E. Stras Research Room, where the library's women's studies collection is housed, also brings recognition to a notable woman in local history. Stras broke down gender barriers in this region as the first woman vice president of a bank in the late 1950s.

Copies of the book will be available at the reading and some of the original artwork also will be on display. The Women's Studies Program will gain a small percentage from the sale of the book at NMSU.

Two NMSU professors, Manal Hamzeh and Cynthia Bejarano, also will be featured to discuss their recent works.