Since 1994, each member of Notre Dame’s freshman class has selected a “Woman of Impact” to research and created a dinner place setting (plate, utensils, glass, napkin, placemat, frame, flower vase and toast) in her honor.
“The Woman’s Place Project is the perfect start for a Notre Dame freshman,” says Mary Beth Riley, Principal. “In their freshman year students research and honor women of impact. Then, in the senior year, they research and perform their ‘Senior Service Learning Project’ through which they demonstrate how they have become women of impact.”
The Woman’s Place Project (WPP) was started by Sr. Maureen Hilliard, former Notre Dame San Jose Freshman Religious Studies Teacher, who was inspired by Judy Chicago’s art/history exhibit, “The Dinner Party.” The goal was to teach freshmen about the many women of impact and tie it to Women’s History month in March. The project included some of the elements that Judy Chicago employed and some original elements.
Each student selects, researches, and writes about her woman of impact. She also creates a special place setting to honor her life and accomplishments. Students grow as they get to know their women and are inspired by their achievements. The Woman’s Place Project starts in September as part of freshman religion class and culminates in an evening presentation for their parents in Julie Billiart Hall. The evening is the formal ending of the project but not of its effects.
“I think that the project has benefited the students by introducing them to the contributions of many women,” says Ellie Collins, former Religious Studies Teacher. “It’s our hope that the students recognize, over time, that they, too, will take their places as women who have a significant impact on humankind. It’s wonderful to see how proud the girls are when they stand behind their project at the March evening event. They are able to articulate many things about their woman and share their insights into her contributions and character.”