A Letter from Rachel Kramer, Founder of the National Women’s History Month Festival


This article is part of a series of sponsored content provided by AlivenArts and the National Women’s History Month Festival.


Dear All of Cincy,

I planned the first-ever National Women’s History Month Festival because I can’t ever seem to turn off my brain! What started as just a one-off event for the LUNAFEST Women’s Film Fest and tie-in to MUSE, Cincinnati’s Women’s Choir has morphed into a month-long festival.  It is exciting, scary, and fun.  

I hope that everyone will show up and support the incredible array of artistry that will gather for a month. It is my hope that this will generate more collaboration, more events, and more opportunities to continue to celebrate the rich artistry of women during the other 11 months of the year. The National Women’s History Month Festival now has an advisory team and work has already begun on the Festival for 2019 – with our sights on 2020: the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.  

So, why would there even need to be a “National Women’s History Month”? Because there is a still a need for women to have a place at the table – from boardrooms to operating rooms, from culinary arts to performing arts.  While I was thrilled to learn that the first woman was being invited to conduct the Cincinnati May Festival Chorus, the first woman was just now being invited to conduct after 145 years! What does that say? It says there is still a place for women to be invited to the table.  

My hope is that the National Women’s History Month Festival will be obsolete and unnecessary in my lifetime.

You might find it strange to hear that, but until we move our thinking along, these “history months” will have to have special designation and special celebration to even get into the consciousness of some people. It seems curious that as such incredibly evolved human beings, we still have trouble placing women into the fabric of history where they belong and in which they deserve equal placement.  

But, as long as there is a month set aside, I thought, why not take advantage of that? And here we are. We welcome and celebrate all women, the men who love them, and our entire community with this inaugural Women’s History Month Festival I.  

MUSE, Cincinnati’s Women’s Choir embodies the very essence of Women’s History Month. MUSE has a 34 year history of musical excellence and social change and a very important place at the table: MUSE has long pioneered and led efforts to offer equitable access and inclusion, diversity and the celebration of women’s lives. So, it seemed reasonable to me that they be the first recipients of the proceeds from this first festival. (I also served as the associate director and accompanist of MUSE for 17 years, and they continue to be a very important organization to me.)  But, they also bring the artistry of women into full view and I knew that as collaborators of this event, we could blow it out.  

Dr. Brenda Portman is a excellent organist and is among one of the only professional women organists with a doctorate and who is an active national performer. She is the resident organist at Hyde Park Community Methodist Church and will be performing a program of rarely performed or programmed compositions by women on Sunday, March 4. She is a must-see and a woman we celebrate! And, being there means you will be with us for the kickoff opening reception.

Because I love teaming up with people, it seemed fitting that I enlist the expertise and guidance of three fabulous women artists from Cincinnati: Kate Fadick, a published poet from Cincinnati; Shelley Graff, a nationally touring musician; and Jennifer Jones, a multitalented singer and artisan, to lead the Coffee House Concert, the Writing Workshops, and the Women Artisans and Vendors for March 10. They have perfectly orchestrated wonderful programming which is free and open to the public.  

Dr. Tammy Kernodle is not to be missed. She is a P-H-E-N-O-M-E-N-A-L woman and is on the music faculty at Miami University. She will be giving lectures on the Women of the Civil Rights Movement at the Harriet Beecher Stowe House – what a perfect combo. The lectures on March 17 include a tour of the Harriet Beecher Stowe House. Tammy is one of a kind and an incredible orator.

The LUNAFEST Women’s Film Festival is an annual event that LUNA (as in LUNA Bars) sponsors. Approval was given to me to bring the 2018 LUNAFEST Film Festival to Cincinnati, and there will be one showing at Hebrew Union College on Sunday, March 18. You will also be there for a short performance by MUSE at the close of the film festival and a closing reception hosted by Women of Cincy.

Bookend events to the National Women’s History Month Festival are a junior high and high school girls sing-in: “Filiae Mundi” (Daughters of the World) that will happen on March 3; and on March 24, MUSE will travel to the Dayton Correctional Institution for Women, where they will perform with “Hope Thru Harmony,” a women’s choir founded inside the prison and directed by Dr. Catherine Roma, the founder and artistic director emerita of MUSE.

“Hope Thru Harmony” could be the name of this festival, actually, as we celebrate and honor the pioneering women who came before us, the women we work with every day, and the hope we have for our daughters for their future; that we live in harmony and freedom; that we live without fear or oppression; and that we can just have a good time celebrating with one another.

No story is better told than through art-making: music, dance, visual, theater, literary, or film.

That is why we are here: to tell stories, to tell and make history, to celebrate and to say thank you for your artistry, women.

I personally want to say thank you to the many, many women who have said “yes,” who have shown up, and who have partnered, pioneered, and plunged with me into this crazy-brained idea I had last May. And, so, here’s to National History Month Festival I.  

I can’t wait to see you all out and about next month.


Rachel Kramer, CEO