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Minnesota State University, Mankato
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Femininity Takes Center Stage at Annual Conference

Keynote speaker talks about intersection of spirituality, politics.

Deanna Narveson, Mankato Free Press, 10-23-2016

More than 400 people from all faiths, ages and professions gathered at Minnesota State University, Mankato from all over the Midwest for the 35th annual Women and Spirituality Conference Saturday.

All day Saturday and until 3 p.m. Sunday vendors and presenters celebrated femininity and spirituality through sessions about movement, prayer and personal beliefs. The event drew in more than 52 presenters ranging from shamans and psychics to yoga teachers and professors offering sessions for varied interests.

“Sometimes you hit a session that just speaks to you.” Said Betty Beer, who has attended the event with some of her friends for more than 10 years. “I always go away with one thing of value.”

After the opening ceremony at 10:30 a.m., keynote speaker Daisy Hernandez, shared the story behind her memoir, “A Cup of Water Under My Bed.”

She spoke about her upbringing in a Latino immigrant family in New Jersey and the intersection of faith, feminism, politics and family. She emphasized how sharing stories can bring a common language to people about important issues, and she talked about how community and life experiences affect each person’s beliefs.

“There’s a hunger to perhaps feel that we are connected to something much, much larger than ourselves,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez is an author and professor at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Hernandez described how her family practiced Catholicism but looked to Santeria practicing women in the community to solve problems like Hernandez’s own insomnia, which is how she ended up with a cup of water under her bed to help her sleep.

“There’s stimulating ideas, and an atmosphere of tolerance, acceptance and positivity,” said Diane Brown, who led a session with her sister Terri Hawthorne about the history of feminism in the last 40 years. Brown drove in from St. Paul for the conference and has been coming to Mankato for three years.

In one session lead by Bonnie Berguam, a marketing manager in Minneapolis and belly dancer, attendees learned breathing and dance techniques.

“I loved Bonnie’s free movements,” said Katy Taylor after the session. “It was a good experience over all, I feel like I learned more about the freedom and beauty of feminine movement.”

The conference is moving to Rochester next year and will organized by regular presenter Teri Allred after more than three decades in Mankato. Office manager for Minnesota State Mankato Gender and Women Studies department Cindy Veldhuisen has been a key factor in getting the event put together every year, but is retiring next year.

The entire version of this story can be read in a print copy of the Mankato Free Press. Call the Mankato Free Press at 625-4451 or (800) 657-4662 to find out how to purchase a print copy. The Free Press also prints select stories online at

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