The first Bucket Course of 2024 welcomes Grinnell College Professor Tamara Beauboeuf and her presentation “Becoming Edith Renfrow: Snapshots of an Affirmed Early 20th Century Black Girl.”
The course will be held on Wednesday, February 7, from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. in the Caulkins Community Room at the Drake Community Library. Bucket Courses are open to everyone in the community; no preregistration or fee is required. Donations toward refreshments are welcome.
The lecture will describe Tamara Beauboeuf’s ongoing research on Edith Renfrow Smith, born in 1914, and her girlhood in Grinnell. In addition to interviews Beauboeuf has conducted, the session will draw on a set of sixteen snapshots picturing Edith Renfrow from age one to twenty-two. Beauboeuf explains, “We will examine these images from her family album and her school yearbooks for insight into how she developed into the young woman who ‘recruited myself’ to Grinnell College at the age of eighteen and became its first African American woman graduate in June 1937.”
Beauboeuf hopes that Bucket Course participants will gain a sense of the affirmation Edith Renfrow received in her family home, a window into the opportunities for school-aged girls that existed in Grinnell in the 1920s and 1930s, and a valuing of Black family archives as unique sources of historical understanding. “I am a scholar of gender and have long explored the ways Black girls and women forge identities that broaden their sense of individual worth and collective possibility,” Beauboeuf says. “I think Edith Renfrow Smith is a powerful example of such agency and its impact.”
Tamara Beauboeuf joined the Grinnell College faculty in 2019 as the Louise R. Noun Chair in Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies. She has spent the last three years heading up Team Renfrow, a group of Grinnell College students, alumni, and townspeople focused on researching the life and continuing significance of Edith Renfrow Smith. Beauboeuf is working on a book about Edith Renfrow’s matrilineal history and its impact on her girlhood and college years.
Bucket Courses are sponsored by Grinnell’s Community Education Cooperative whose members include UnityPoint Health Grinnell, Grinnell College, Drake Community Library, Grinnell-Newburg Community School District, Grinnell Area Arts Council, Mayflower Community, Grinnell Education Partnership, Read to Lead, and Iowa Valley Community College. Videos of previous Bucket Courses are available on the YouTube channel Grinnell Community Education Cooperative.
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