EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been revised to reflect that U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who was originally scheduled to make a presentation at Rural Women Everywhere, will not be able to participate because of changes in her schedule, according to Haaland’s staff.

Women from across rural America will gather online this month at Rural Women Everywhere, a two-day virtual conference presented by the Rural Assembly. 

Scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, October 19-20, the free conference will feature keynote speaker Diane Wilson, an award-winning memoirist and novelist. The event will also feature performances from rural and Native musicians and poets, and discussions on topics such as climate resilience, rural allyship with the LGBTQ+ community, and democracy.

“There is still so much to be said, known, and understood about the essential roles women play in community-flourishing,” said Rural Assembly Director Whitney Kimball Coe.

The Rural Assembly is part of the Center for Rural Strategies, which also publishes the Daily Yonder.

The conference will examine the ways rural and Native women are participating in the work of building more welcoming and inclusive communities, Coe said. Attendees can expect to hear from both national leaders and those working for change in local communities. 

The Rural Assembly is a coalition of hundreds of rural organizations and individuals across the country working to build more opportunities and better policies for rural communities. The Rural Assembly, like the Daily Yonder, is a program of the Center for Rural Strategies.

The Rural Assembly last held a women-focused conference in 2019 in Greenville, North Carolina. 

“I remember one of the participants telling me how important it felt to gather and name the ways we see women showing up over and over again — as culture bearers, seed keepers, strategists, conveners, artists, and leaders at all levels,” Coe said.

While this year’s event is virtual, it is driven by the same desire: champion and celebrate the work of rural women.

“As long as women in this country are making $.82  to every dollar earned by a man; as long as women of color still lack equal access to healthcare, economic opportunity, and platforms through which they can tell of their experiences, the Rural Assembly will be gathering to name and claim women’s powerful contributions,” Coe said.

What to Expect 

Participants will hear from Diane Wilson, author of The Seed Keeper, a novel released this year that follows a Dakota family’s struggle to preserve their way of life and their sacrifices to protect what matters most.

Rural Assembly’s Tyler Owens will interview Wilson about her journey into this story, what lessons and practices we glean from it, and how Indigenous women build power and legacy in rural America.

The mainstage programming will also include performances from musicians and poets including Liv the Artist, Katie Fry, Eliza Blue, Dominque Hunter and Analisa Xavier.  

Roundtable discussions will include:

  • Democracy and the rural agora. Hahrie Han, inaugural director of the SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University, about the rural communities across the country where women are making decisions that build civic capacity and foster participation in democracy. 
  • Allyship with the rural LGBTQ+ community. This panel will offer stories and insights from rural LGTBQ+ leaders, who will talk about their experiences building community in rural areas, what they most appreciate about their small towns, and how rural allies can continue to provide support.
  • Climate Resilience. Women for the Land, a program of American Farmland Trust, has invited rural women leaders in agriculture and food systems work to reflect on and respond on how they are building resilience during dark times.

Participants can also select breakout sessions hosted by organizations such as On Being, 100 Rural Women, the Courageous Mujer Podcast, The Daily Yonder, Health Action Alliance, and Our Towns Civic Foundation. 

“The desired outcomes of this event are humble: we seek to gather diverse rural leaders from across this country in this space for two days and provide some nourishment, fellowship, and spaces for learning,” Coe said. “We don’t expect to overcome the headwinds of the pandemic or turn the tide on race and gender equalities, but we also don’t take for granted the power of tending to one another’s experiences.” 

Registration is free. More information and a schedule are available online.

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