On April 17, chair of general education and associate professor of history at Maryville College Dr. Nancy Locklin-Sofer presented at a history symposium in the Quebec Province for the University of Sherbrooke.
The symposium discussed the legal provisions for women in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, whose husbands were absent. The conference featured a variety of Canadian and American scholars.
According to Locklin-Sofer, the conference only spanned one day, and was referred to as a “day of study” by Canadians. Locklin-Sofer said that she found that having conferences in the middle of the week, such as the Wednesday the Sherbooke symposium was presented, is a Canadian custom, most American symposiums typically lasting through a weekend.
Locklin-Sofer spoke at Sherbrooke regarding an article she had published last year in the Journal of Women’s History. The article discussed a rare law that permitted any two people to create a “society.”
This law encouraged unmarried women who shared a home and business to essentially bundle their family finances together. This law protected the women and gave them power that most men in France had, not the women.
“Imagine that you have this amazing friend or roommate and your records are essentially the same, but if something happens to you, your goods were protected from her family,” Locklin-Sofer said.
According to Locklin-Sofer, the symposium was a first-time experience for her, as it marked the first invitation for her to speak on research. Usually, she said, when conferences issue a call for papers, various scholars respond and speakers are picked from the submissions.
Locklin-Sofer said that she received the invitation to speak at the symposium last year when a scholar in France read an article she had previously published, and talked with a friend to arrange a conference that would bring together scholars whose research deals with widows and unmarried women.
The conference organizers approached Locklin-Sofer with a topic that she explained simply as, “What do we do with the wife whose husband is gone?”
Without much time to work on the study, she started writing between classes, fitting in as much research as she could before presenting.
“It was the first time I’ve been invited,” Locklin-Sofer said. “It’s really quite an honor.”
Locklin-Sofer spent time in the French province of Brittany from 1997 to 1999, conducting her dissertation research. She said that she learned a little French in college and high school, but wasn’t quite prepared for the hardest part of this conference: the fact that she was the only American at a conference entirely in French.
“It’s exhausting spending a whole day in your second language,” Locklin-Sofer said. “My comprehension is good, but I don’t always have the words to respond.”
Locklin-Sofer previously published a book in 2007 and has given many conference papers before last week. The symposium marked the first installment of what she said that she hopes will be a standing collaboration between American and Canadian scholars.
Future plans for the expansion of the conference involves the speakers exchanging papers and editing them for publication on a website that displays the work in both French and English.
“I’ve made connections with people that will lead to more publishing and hopefully more collaborations in the future,” Locklin-Sofer said.