Virtual Panel Discussion on Women of Color Organizing for Social justice and Equality

New Bedford Whaling Museum and YWCA present
“Women of Color Lighting the Way to Equality in New Bedford and Beyond” – September 17

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. —The New Bedford Whaling Museum, in partnership with the YWCA of Southeastern Massachusetts, will host a virtual panel discussion on September 17, 2020 to highlight the ways that women of color have historically organized to address inequity for women, and how they continue to address issues of class, race, and other oppressions. “Women of Color Lighting the Way to Equality in New Bedford and Beyond” is part of the Whaling Museum’s Lighting the Way: Historic Women of the SouthCoast initiative. The event runs from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and is free to attend. Advance registration is required. Details are at

Dr. Premilla Nadasen, Professor of History at Barnard College and OAH Distinguished Lecturer, will be the featured guest and panelist. Dr. Nadasen teaches, researches, and writes about race, gender, social policy, and organizing.

Also participating are Gail Fortes, Executive Director of YWCA of Southeastern Massachusetts; Christina Turner, Director of Education at the New Bedford Whaling Museum; and Lee Blake, President of the New Bedford Historical Society. They will be joined by panelists Laurel Berryman, Race & Gender Equity Coordinator, YWCA of Southeastern Massachusetts; Rayana Grace, Arts & Culture Program Manager, SouthCoast Community Foundation; Lisa Lemieux, President of the Southeastern Massachusetts Central Labor Council; and Maria Rosario, Executive Director, NorthStar Learning Centers.

Christina Turner commented, “This is an historic and unprecedented time. The conversation around important issues of justice and equity during ‘Women of Color Lighting the Way to Equality’ will showcase the rich legacy of civic engagement of women, especially women of color and young adults. We hope this event will inspire everyone to exercise their rights to be informed and engaged community members, citizens, and voters.”

Support for “Women of Color Lighting the Way to Equality” comes from “The Vote: A Statewide Conversation on Voting Rights,” which is a special initiative of Mass Humanities that includes organizations around the state and is made possible by Mass Cultural Council. Additional support comes from Organization of American Historians and the OAH Distinguished Lectureship, Island Foundation, and CHT Foundation.

Lighting the Way: Historic Women of SouthCoast amplifies the histories of remarkable women from the Southcoast of Massachusetts who have made an extraordinary impact on their community and beyond. In 2020, Lighting the Way is commemorating the centennial of the 19th Amendment, honoring the unfinished legacy of the women’s suffrage movement, and celebrating historic women who forged the path and lit the way for us all. Information about the initiative is available at

About Dr. Premilla Nadasen
Dr. Premilla Nadasen joined the Barnard faculty in 2013 and is affiliated with the American Studies and Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies programs. She teaches, researches, and writes about race, gender, social policy, and organizing. Her most recent book, Household Workers Unite, examines how African American domestic workers in the U.S. strategically used storytelling to develop a political identity and through their organizing reshaped the landscape of labor organizing. She is currently writing a biography of South African singer and activist Miriam Makeba. Dr. Nadasen is a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians, serves on the scholarly advisory committee of the New York Historical Society's Center for Women's History, and is co-chair of the National Women's Studies Association's Annual Conference.

About the New Bedford Whaling Museum
The New Bedford Whaling Museum ignites learning through explorations of art, history, science and culture rooted in the stories of people, the region and an international seaport. The cornerstone of New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, the Museum is located at 18 Johnny Cake Hill in the heart of the city's historic downtown. Beginning September 1, 2020, Whaling Museum hours will be Wednesday through Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Admission is free for Museum members and children ages three and under; adults $19, seniors (65+) $17, students (19+) $12, child and youth $9. For more information visit

Tina Malott
Director of Marketing and Public Relations
New Bedford Whaling Museum
508-997-0046 Ext. 140


Downloadable Large High Resolution Images at


Harriet Jacobs

Writer, abolitionist and educator, Harriet Ann Jacobs (1813-1897) is the only African American woman known to have left writing documenting her enslavement. Harriet Jacobs is featured in Lighting the Way: Historic Women of the SouthCoast. Photo courtesy The Harriet Jacobs Papers.


Elizabeth P. Ensley

Born in New Bedford to parents who had been enslaved, educator Elizabeth Piper Ensley (1847-1919) was an active leader in African American women’s clubs and the women’s suffrage movement in Colorado. She played a major role in gaining that state the right to vote years before the passage of the federal amendment. Elizabeth Piper Ensley is featured in Lighting the Way: Historic Women of the SouthCoast. Photo courtesy Denver Public Library.


Jane C. Waters

Educator and community activist Jane C. Waters (1902-1983) was director of the West End Community Center and established the first pre-kindergarten school in New Bedford’s West End. Jane C. Waters is featured in Lighting the Way: Historic Women of the SouthCoast. Photo courtesy Martha Briggs Educational Club.


ywca marchers
Courtesy YWCA of Southeastern Massachusetts.


historical photo 9 african american woman
Nine African American women gather for the Banner State Woman's National Baptist Convention in 1915. Nannie Burroughs is holding the banner. (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA)