HONORS ALUMNI NEWSLETTER STUDENT STORIES
Alumni Spotlight Kathleen Landy
Founder and President of The Feminist Institute, Kathleen Landy, is putting her Honors experience to great use.
“The Feminist Institute is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to documenting feminist contributions to culture by preserving and digitizing archival materials for students, researchers, and the public to access,” Landy said. “We aim to give anyone access to this history regardless of means or resources. We have access to undocumented works of renown artists, politicians, writers, and business leaders, who forged the path for global advances in equity for women and girls, but whose work is largely unseen.”
Partnering with the New York Public Library, over the next five years The Feminist Institute will receive around 50,000 materials to add to their collection of feminist materials ranging from fine arts to media, to political writings. Landy emphasized how in our current media landscape, if something is not online, it is not visible, so her work is dedicated to making the contributions and voices of women visible and accessible.
“At The Feminist Institute, our particular fight for gender equality comes primarily from our efforts to make visible the work of women in the way that men’s work has been more consistently visible,” Landy said.
Landy joined the Honors Program during her freshman year in 1985 when she was unhappy with her experience at Villanova and the courses she was required to take. She wanted to challenge herself and be exposed to new ways of thinking, which prompted her to find a home in the stimulating environment of Honors.
“I really needed a place to spread my wings and listen to the ideas by others who wanted to do something outside of the box, even if it meant not following the rules,” Landy said. “The [Honors] professors had their fingers on the pulse of the culture, and we were so excited by everything we were learning—we absorbed it and we processed it in a way that guides us today. We all bring our VU Honors experience to what we do in this world to make a difference.”
Landy is making a difference through her leadership at The Feminist Institute, and she reflected how this organization was essentially born from her experience in Honors. Landy, as an undergraduate “scholarship kid,” conducted research on the instigators of the feminist art movement when she soon realized she did not have the resources she needed available to her at Villanova, nor could she seek out those materials from other universities. She began her work with The Feminist Institute to ensure that future students looking to complete their research have the resources they need to be innovative and make their contributions to the scholarly landscape.
“The origin of The Feminist Institute is really based on my own experience at Villanova,” Landy said. “I identified an urgent need, then as time moved on, I realized that there was a simple solution. [At TFI] we are now acquiring access to archives of feminist practice, cataloging them, digitizing them, and providing access to the information on a free cloud-based platform. We then hold cultural events to promote the work to share these rich histories in collaboration with the actual people who made them.”
In doing this, Landy preserves the legacies of women who have made significant contributions to our society and culture who have gone unrecognized. She is currently working on a project with the New York Public Library digitizing materials associated with the Women’s Action Coalition, which began in 1992 in New York. This organization was formed in response to Clarence Thomas being named to the Supreme Court, even after Anita Hill’s testimony of him assaulting her.
Landy is incredibly thankful to the Honors Program for inspiring her leadership at the Feminist Institute, specifically mentioning one professor who still works at the University.
“None of this would have been possible without the critical thinking that was encouraged by the Honors Program at Villanova,” Landy said. “In particular, Dr. John Carvalho was inspirational to all of us. He pushed us to read, think, process, and engage, and a generation of activists was born. Our voices mattered in the Honors Program, and we were encouraged to speak up.”
Further, she had words of wisdom to impart on the Villanova community.
“When you get an idea, say it out loud, because the best strategy lies in articulating your conviction,” Landy said. “If you have a voice, use it—people will listen. And, if you have the power to elevate a female voice, do it.”