Social change and health care addressed at Great Lakes History Conference

Historian Beatrix Hoffman
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Historian Beatrix Hoffman
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The life of a 97-year-old Detroit activist and the history of health care reform are topics of keynote addresses during the 38th Annual Great Lakes History Conference at Grand Valley State University.


“Born in Revolution: History, Gender and the Power of Conflict,” is the theme of the conference, October 12-13, at the Eberhard Center, 301 W. Fulton, on the Pew Grand Rapids Campus. A fee is required for the full conference; admission to the keynote addresses is free and open to the public.

“Both speakers are addressing topics that are of interest to the general public,” said Gretchen Galbraith, conference organizer and associate professor of history. “We are honoring Michigan history and taking a look at the country’s history of health care, in addition to nearly 20 panels that address our wider conference theme.”

Los Angeles-based filmmaker and director Grace Lee will discuss and present highlights from her documentary film, “American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs,” Friday, October 12, at 7:30 p.m. The biographical work-in-progress film explores the life and work of centenarian Grace Lee Boggs, a Detroit activist and feminist who was born before women could vote. The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Boggs’ life story embodies the major social movements of the last century. She remains a passionate writer and advocate for the rebirth of her adopted hometown.

Filmmaker Lee uses Boggs’ work in Detroit as a springboard for a process of re-imagination, conversation and action. Her film asks audiences to rigorously reflect on their communities and themselves, and understand that revolution is not only possible and necessary, but in places like Detroit, is already happening. Learn more at http://americanrevolutionaryfilm.com.

Beatrix Hoffman is a historian of the U.S. health care system. The professor and chair of the Department of History at Northern Illinois University will present “Health Care for All! Women, Activism and the Human Right to Health,” Saturday, October 13, at 12:30 p.m. Hoffman will provide an investigation of and explanation for what she calls America’s long tradition of unequal access to health care.

Her latest book, “Health Care For Some,” is a history of rights and rationing in the U. S., from the Great Depression through “Obamacare.” Publishers Weekly praised Hoffman’s “rational, plainspoken analysis [which] succeeds in clarifying the discourse around a topic of pressing national importance, delineating partisans’ priorities and discarding the numerous distractions.”

Registration for Hoffman’s address is required; for more information, visit www.gvsu.edu/history. Free parking is available in the Fulton Street and Watson lots on Grand Valley’s Pew Grand Rapids Campus.