The Starr Symposium brought women’s activists Gloria Steinem and Dolores Huerta to the UMKC campus this weekend. The symposium took place in the University Center and included a luncheon, four different workshops, and lectures and book signing by the famous ladies.
The symposium is endowed by Martha Jane Starr, and has been an annual event since 1992. It is organized in part by the Women’s Council and the Women’s Center at UMKC.
“The Starr Symposium brings to the forefront issues that affect the lives of girls, women and or families,” Starr Symposium Chair Kelli Wright said.
The workshops and lectures revolved around this year’s theme of “Age becomes us.”
Wright said the 250 available seats for the luncheon and workshops were sold out. The four different workshops included “The older woman as art and artist,” “Advocacy: changing the community,” “Financial literacy for the boomers and beyond” and a class on leadership for women.
Many women came just to see the speakers, with the approximate 500 available seats nearly selling out.
“I came to see Gloria. She’s my hero,” symposium attendee Kim Westhusing said. “I read her book on self-esteem when it was published in 1992 and it helped me have the confidence to go back to school. She is awesome.”
Steinem was the keynote speaker in the morning and Huerta the one in the afternoon. Both women spoke and answered questions for about 60 minutes with warm reception from the audience with many women yelling, “Don’t stop talking!” when their lecture time was up.
Steinem was a pioneer voice in the women’s rights movement in the ‘70s, and has written books, articles and lectured on the subject for decades. Her lecture included thoughts on fear of aging, the culture surrounding age, mentoring young people, men’s relationship with aging, and lying about getting older.
“It’s interesting it’s the one thing; it’s an economical, cultural and physical event, in which we all go through, if we’re lucky. And it’s the one thing in which we are most likely to lie,” Steinem said.
She ended her speech with an exhortation to the audience.
“On Monday, do one outrageous thing in the cause of age justice and I promise I will do one thing too, and I guarantee you two results,” Steinem said. “And by Tuesday, the world will be more linked. And you’ll have such a good time you’ll never get up in the morning without saying, ‘what am I going to do today?’”
Huerta is a prominent voice and organizer for the Latino community. She co-founded the United Farm Workers of America and is an outspoken voice in the area of women’s rights. She spoke about how aging is viewed by the Latino culture and by America as a whole, and gave personal anecdotes about her life.
Wright said Huerta and the rest of the Starr Symposium benefit the community by giving a voice to issues that aren’t regularly discussed.
“It allows us to explore topics that often don’t get much attention. The idea is to inspire and give our community the advantage of that cutting edge thinking,” she said.