Eastern American Studies Association Conference 2014

Our recent trip to the EASAC was an insightful and interesting experience. While the weather chose not to cooperate with our plans, the group managed to have a fun time while learning about the work of our peers and mentors from the regional area. The conference was held at LaSalle University in Philadelphia, and the topics of conversation ranged from photos capturing poverty in the Cold War era, to county music’s place in urban America, to hygiene of the middle class in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

I found one topic, however, presented by Bridget O’Keefe of Ramapo College of New Jersey to be the most intriguing. She studied the sexual image of women in the 1950s and 1960s. She presented the idea that women growing up in this time were pulled in two very different directions in regards to their sexuality; on one hand they had the promiscuous Marilyn Monroe and on the other they had the buttoned-up June Cleaver. Even children’s movies of the time confused young women. The villains were old ladies who were mean and husband-less. This taught girls to always be kind, docile, and to find a supportive husband. It was very interesting to hear her insight on this topic, and I would definitely be interested in learning more.

To wrap up our trip, the group made our way to Eastern State Penitentiary, one of the most infamous prisons in the world. The rain and cold weather of the day added an eerie backdrop to the crumbling walls as we toured the grounds. We learned about religious practices among the inmates, the construction of additions, escape attempts, and famous inmates like Al Capone. The penitentiary is certainly a historic building rife with history and the stories of America’s notorious criminals.

Cell Block 12 at Eastern State Penitentiary

Cell Block 12 at Eastern State Penitentiary

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