PSB and Edinboro University come together for Cold War panel

Category:  News
Wednesday, April 4th, 2018 at 4:57 PM
PSB and Edinboro University come together for Cold War panel by Erica Burkholder

Women’s History Month continued with a presentation on the women of the Cold War era on March 22 in Compton Hall. The event began at 5:30 p.m. and was hosted by members of the Penn State Behrend and Edinboro academic communities.

Panelists Karrie Bowen, Edinboro alumna and current Penn State Behrend professor, and Ariel Phillips, Edinboro graduate student, talked about women during the Cold War era who interested them.

Phillips started off the night with a talk on black lesbian feminists. The women she picked were black nationalists, communists and Marxists and were chosen because they dealt with intersectionality in the feminist world. 

 “Basically, what we are looking at is how these -isms attract people that are in groups that are marginalized and being oppressed and why these ideas of equality are so entertaining and so encompassing to people that are looking for them,” Phillips said. 

She looked at the second and third wave of feminism, the 1960s-90s, and observed how these women show intersectionality in age, race, sexuality and feminism. 

Barbara Smith was the first woman on the list. She was a founding member of the National Black Feminist organization in 1973 and was also involved with forming the Kumbee River Collective, which focused on the black lesbian agenda. She was a lifelong activist and author. 

Alice Walker, author of “The Color Purple,” was next on the list. Walker is credited with starting the term “womanist,” which was used because she did not like the term feminist as the movement typically failed to include the black and lesbian issues.

Angela Davis, who was discussed, eventually found her way to the Black Panthers. She ended up in jail, when her name was attached to guns involved in a murder and was interviewed from jail for a documentary called “The Black Power Mixtape 1967-75” in which Swedish journalists interviewed members of the black power movement. She talked about how violence is not started from one end, but from both sides. She currently is a professor and does lecture tours. 

Bowen presented on Jim Jones and Jonestown, the town run almost primarily by Jim Jones and his wife. Bowen talked about the history of The Peoples Temple, which was rooted in socialism and mostly made up of African American people. She also talked about how Jones was afraid of nuclear war and communism, yet ran a socialist church. 

Bowen focused on the power that women held in this organization. Jones’ wife Marceline was forced to stay by death threats as Jones knew the power she held over the group. Her leaving would have fractured the group.

Jones’ concubines played an important role in planning the murder/suicide. Carolyn Layton came up with the idea to kill the children first and a few of his other concubines killed the children. 

There was a group of women in Jonestown that did anything Jones asked because they believed in the cause. 

These women were women who spied for him. They also made sure they killed themselves and their families, while one miles away murdered her children and then herself, and the other made sure her husband killed himself when he was doubting what Jones was preaching, when Jones demanded all his followers killed themselves in a mass murder-suicide. 

The only question asked wondered why Jones breaking up families was acceptable when the organization had a strong Christian foundation. The answer was he knew the people of his church had poor ideas of a family unit and by breaking it down even further, he gained more power. He also made sure that people knew this was for his idea of the greater good. 

Erica Burkholder can reached at

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