The Moxie Project at UNC: Women and Leadership for Social Change


BY JESSIE WILKERSON      The Moxie Project at UNC: Women and Leadership for Social Change is a new program that supports UNC students interested in connecting histories of women’s activism to hands-on learning. I first met the >>pilot cohort of scholars in The Moxie Project at UNC at one of their last classes in their pre-requisite course Oral History and the History of North Carolina Women’s Activism.  There the students reflected on the interviews that they had conducted with North Carolina women activists and trailblazers, from scholar-activists and a town’s first female police chief to feminists who are applying the lessons they learned in the 1970s to current-day issues. To listen to a group of young women intertwining their own experiences with the stories they heard, and now embodied, accentuates the ties that bind women across time and place. That sense of connection and community is what makes the Moxie Project so exciting.

Over a month later the six Moxie students have moved from listening to the stories of activists and studying the history of women’s activism in the South to participating fully in social change organizations in the Research Triangle. Each of the students is working full-time at a Triangle women’s organization, from political organizations like Lillian’s List to community organizations such as the Pauli Murray Project. They are learning first-hand how social change organizations function, the hurdles they face, and the tireless commitment that goes into making them a success. And the students are working hard: writing articles, recruiting new members, getting new projects off the ground, and attending board meetings, conferences, and rallies. They are also cultivating relationships with women who are leaders in the non-profit and political arenas in our state, women whose commitment possibly is most pronounced in their willingness to nurture a next generation of leaders. And for all of us who are gripped by the current politics in the NC General Assembly, the Moxie Project is a welcome sign of a hopeful future for North Carolina women.

You can read more about the Moxie students’ experiences at the Moxie Project website, where the students’ reflect on activism, feminism, and social change in their weekly blogs.

 is a Ph.D. candidate in history at UNC-Chapel Hill. This summer she is working with the Moxie Project at UNC to coordinate and archive oral history interviews.

The Moxie Project at UNC is a collaboration between the Carolina Women’s Center and the Southern Oral History Program in the Center for the Study of the American South. It is supported by the Provost’s Office and the History Department at UNC. The interviews that the students have conduced will be deposited in the Southern Oral History Program’s collection as part of its major new project, The Long Women’s Movement in the American South.

>>pauli murray projectMoxie scholars outside of the Pauli Murray Project. From left to right: Jessie Wilkerson, Nicole Welsh, Mary Koenig, Kearra Brinson, Sarah Kathryn Bryan, Victoria Petermann, Coco Wilder.


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  1. Florry Glasser

    The Moxie Project is an exciting new initiative that will prepare our next generation of young women leaders to move feminist ideas and values forward.

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