|dc.description.abstract||The purpose of this study was to examine the roles of the women of Highlander and how these women influenced not only the curriculum but also the institutional structure of Highlander. This study sought to determine the roles undertaken by women at Highlander and the ways in which these roles were gendered. The theoretical framework guiding this study was from Robnett (1997) who, after analyzing women’s roles in the Civil Rights Movement, developed the concept of bridge leader in order to explain the critical role of women in the Civil Rights Movement which she suggests significantly contributed to the movement’s success. Like women in the Civil Rights Movement, women’s roles at Highlander are largely unknown and under analyzed.
In order to uncover and understand these roles, a qualitative study of the women of Highlander was conducted. Through the analysis of in-depth interviews with 30 women who worked at Highlander in the decades from the 1940s to today, the correspondence of women who worked at Highlander in the 1930s and 1940s, and the analysis of a 1994 women’s workshop, I found seven roles undertaken by the women staff at Highlander. These were cook, cultural worker, educator, caregiver, researcher, adviser and director. In addition to these roles, interviews with the women of Highlander revealed another emerging theme related to conflicted relationships which required further analysis. Categories of analysis developed by Maher and Tetreault’s (2001) study of feminist classrooms informed the analysis of Highlander’s conflicted relationships.
Several conclusions can be drawn from these findings. First, women were instrumental in shaping Highlander. Second, women both accepted and challenged traditional gender roles while at Highlander. Third, women confronted inequity at Highlander from its very beginning. Even though Highlander’s common analysis included only race and class oppression, women named other categories of oppression such as gender and education-based oppression early in its history. The women and the men on staff continue to confront any inequities that may arise, but today they have arrived at a communally created structure which embodies the democracy which Highlander’s mission has always promoted.||