It is my pleasure to announce that my former advisor, Professor Carol Lasser, has received a Woman of Achievement Award from the Elyria YWCA. I nominated Professor Lasser for the award, not only because her achievements as a human blow my mind, but because I have personally felt her profound and unending support in my growth as an intellectual young woman. I first met Professor Lasser in 2009, when I was a quiet, nervous sophomore who dreaded knocking on professors’ doors. I remember that visit, because the door swung open before I could consider scurrying away. I was greeted with a smile, told to sit down, and handed a Snickers bar. Thirty minutes later, I was an official college history major. Thirty minutes later, my life had new direction.
The support and inspiration that followed was unbelievable to me. I had been struggling at Oberlin, and wanted to transfer to finish my degree. It is difficult to describe the changes that occurred when I enrolled in Professor Lasser’s Oberlin history course, but I am certain the course and her enthusiasm are the reasons I stayed. There is something special in learning about the places we live and getting involved. Carol Lasser excels at sharing that experience with her students. The more I learned about Oberlin’s history, the more connected I felt to this place. As a young woman, feeling so close to women who had walked these streets before me was invigorating. Studying their lives encouraged me to find my own meaningful space in the community as well as larger social movements.
I was not taught women’s history or the concept of feminism until I met Professor Lasser. My high school teacher introduced Betty Friedan as the “ugliest woman in the world,” but failed to mention how she galvanized an entire generation of women. I could not have named one woman of color other than Harriet Tubman who had changed the nation. Through simple neglect, I was unaware that women’s contributions to society were worth studying. The African environmentalist Baba Dioum wrote: “In the end, we will only conserve what we love. We will only love what we understand. We will only understand what we are taught.” This maxim is usually applied to environmentalism, but it is not unreasonable to apply it to our history as well. The more I learned about women’s history, the more I understood where I wanted our country go next. The more I learned about my community’s history, the more invested I became in its future.
It can be difficult to see empowerment taking hold of your own life, but I have had the opportunity to witness Professor Lasser’s inspiration change the mindsets of younger generations of students as well. I have watched as she encouraged young women to begin statements with “I think” instead of “I feel,” to be confident and take pride in what they have to contribute. I have seen her carefully guide eager male allies to better listen and respect the voices of their female peers. Indeed, Carol Lasser teaches feminism in a way that is inclusive, that inspires all students, regardless of race or gender, to enact change.
As a young woman, my future has been undeniably influenced by Carol Lasser. She was my research advisor my senior year, and supported my thesis on women in early America. Despite having had thoughts of leaving Oberlin my sophomore year, I now consider Oberlin my home [away from home]. Since graduating in 2012, Professor Lasser has supported and mentored me in my career as an emerging museum professional. With her encouragement, I spent a year as an AmeriCorps member, working with local historical societies in Northeast Ohio. As part of my service, I developed a women’s history walking tour for Oberlin and presented an evening program on how local women influenced national history. Without question, none of this would have been possible without the support of my mentor and friend, Carol Lasser.
I would like to thank the Elyria YWCA on behalf of myself and all of Professor Lasser’s former students. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to give back to a woman that has so positively impacted my life. She has empowered generations of students and has helped build a strong feminist community through historic exploration. I am so proud to know such an amazing woman, and so proud that my nomination helped honor her amazing life.
“Persimmon is for power.”