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New course series celebrates amazing women

MHCC Instructor Marlene Loisdotter strives to connect women of all ages, share women's contributions throughout history


Photo Credit: OUTLOOK PHOTO: TROY WAYRYNEN  - Longtime Troutdale resident and educator Marlene Loisdotter portrays First Lady Lou Hoover, one of the women in history her 'Amazing Women' series will cover this fall at MHCC.

Thirty-five years ago last week, a class about women making music powerfully influenced Troutdale resident and educator Marlene Loisdotter.

Taught by Jane Bowers, the class helped further ignite Loisdotter’s passion for women’s history and inspired her to teach her own classes.

“Sept. 9, 1979, 3 p.m.” Loisdotter said. “That’s what made me become a feminist. It was like falling in love, but better. You can lose your lover, but you can’t lose your philosophy.”

In the early 1980s, Loisdotter filled her Subaru with books on women and said she would one day love to teach women’s studies.

At her younger sister’s prompting, she wrote a proposal to teach A Study of Women in Art, Music, Literature, History and Psychology on a Friday afternoon. By Monday afternoon, it was accepted at Mt. Hood Community College.

This fall, Loisdotter will teach a new community education short course series about amazing women at MHCC. Class titles include “Amazing Women’s Wisdom,” “Amazing Women Around the World” and “Amazing Women in Myth and Music.”

The series starts Sept. 30 with three segments running through Dec. 2. Loisdotter also is teaching her long-running community education course “Writing Your Memoirs” beginning Thursday, Sept. 25, at Fairlawn Retirement Community Center.

“I want to thank the many women who have helped me over the years and bring their contributions to more people,” Loisdotter said. “I have been so fortunate in introducing many women to other women — that’s one of my goals: to bring together people of all ages in learning about what women have and are contributing.”

Loisdotter often will ask at the beginning of the term how many of her students can name three great women composers or conductors. Hands rarely go up. By the end of the term, though, students will know these women.

Loisdotter wants students to use their own creativity in what they take away from her courses. She hopes to offer them a historical view of women that highlights their accomplishments, involvement and contributions.

Photo Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: JENNIFER NAVARRO - In her courses, Marlene Loisdotter has a 'Conversations' project in which students portray historic women figures. Portrayed in her Clark College class are Joan Baez (Carmen DeNeeve); Gaea, The Great Earth Mother (Kelly Rawhouser); Abigail Adams (Michelle Meyers); and Alice Walker (Janice Hancock). Loisdotter will introduce these characters to MHCC students this fall.

“All you have to do is look at newspapers or listen to the news,” Loisdotter said. “See how women are being treated and ask what more could be included about us that would be fair and give us greater dignity.

“Women are such strong advocates for peace,” she said. “When we get the idea that you don’t have to use force and violence under everything we do, people can be freer and spend energy on positive things. I think it comes down to respect.”

One aspect of her courses has students dress up and portray historical female figures. The dress-up day has become a popular tradition.

For her interview with The Outlook, Loisdotter wore a light purple 1940s dress with a shawl and hat to portray First Lady Lou Hoover, distinguished for her radio broadcasts, leadership within Girl Scouts and athleticism at Stanford University.

A Troutdale resident of 50 years, Loisdotter chose her last name when she first taught women’s history and literature to educators within Portland State University’s School of Education.

She had married her longtime partner in crime, Michael Mahoney, years before and taken his last name, but decided to embrace her matrilineal heritage.

“My mother’s name was Lois, so I added the simple spelling of dotter to honor her and all the women whose names — and perhaps heritage — have been lost when they married,” Loisdotter said.

In these classes, Loisdotter takes a cultural approach to feminism and women’s studies, looking at the ways women are in various cultures and trying to help carry on their traditions.

She said she wants to honor the differences women have and encourage women not to belittle those they disagree with.

Loisdotter draws from a large repertoire of rich and varied material she has collected teaching the past 45 years. Her students have ranged in age from 3 to 99 years old.

“I cherish the people in class and their stories,” Loisdotter said. “I’m not able to overstate how instructing interested learners has enhanced my life.”

The "Amazing Women" series costs $24 per class. To learn more, contact Mt. Hood Community College.

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