2009 Changemaker: Kristine Holmgren and the Dead Feminists Society

Salons are “funny, respectful and provocative”

In October 2008 Kristine Holmgren was unemployed for the first time in a long time and wondering what to do as the economy was crashing. She asked herself what she still wanted to do with her life. One idea in particular intrigued her: Organizing a salon of feminists. The name for it just popped into her head: the Dead Feminists Society.

Holmgren started the group with the intent of “knowledge sharing, networking and growing our developing feminist community in the Twin Cities.” She created a Meetup page online and started spreading the word.

The first gathering was held in February and by June the membership was at 100. The number has been growing each month and by October had reached 170. Typically 25 to 30 attend each month. Attendees are “self-identified feminists,” Holmgren said. They are married or single, straight, lesbian or transgendered, women and men.

The Dead Feminists Society meets the third Wednesday of most months from 7-9 p.m. in a space provided by Common Good Books in St. Paul. The meeting’s format is usually a speaker on a designated topic followed by discussion. When Common Good Books closes for the evening, the group often moves across the street to W.A. Frost to continue the conversation for another hour or two.

The guest speaker at the first salon was Adrienne Christiansen, an associate professor in the political science department at Macalester College. She spoke about her research on women and the media. Other salons have included discussions of books, movies, generational differences of feminists and gender bias in theater.

The conversations are “deep, revealing and satisfying” according to Holmgren.

The salon atmosphere is “funny, respectful and provocative,” she said. “We come away with broader knowledge each time we gather. We are making a difference by opening up conversations about equality, fairness and expectations of how women are treated and how we treat others.

“When I get the topic and phone potential speakers who have been recommended, the response has always been ‘yes,'” Holmgren said. “It is gratifying to learn that women are still eager to share their knowledge and experience.”

Salon attendees agree. “This is the only place I can come and talk about things that I think are critical to me and are not seen as controversial. Things like how my employer is treating me, my opinions about the war and the economy,” commented one attendee.

“I didn’t know this conversation [about feminism] was still going on,” said another. And, “I did not know you could explore these ideas with other women.”

The salons will continue into 2010 along with the idea for a new program called Raising the Bar, which will focus on connecting younger women and older feminists in mentorship relationships. The name for this new program comes from “expecting more from ourselves and each other,” according to Holmgren.

And, as she said of the Dead Feminists Society, “Especially in times like this we need each other more than ever.”

Be a changemaker: You are welcome to join the Dead Feminists Society. Sign up, find out when the next meeting date is, register and RSVP on the website: www.meetup.com/Dead-Feminist-Society-of-Minnesota