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Conservative women's book club developing on campus

BY EMILY FRIESE | SEPTEMBER 19, 2013 5:00 AM

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One University of Iowa student is working toward creating an organization to empower conservative women in the workplace — so she started a chapter of a national book club.

“It’s a great benefit to college women to become a part of a larger network of conservative women all over the country,” said Karin Agness, the founder of the national organization the Network of enlightened Women. “We help give ammunition to help these women articulate their views.”

Mary Kate Knorr, the president of the UI College Republicans, is working to bring a chapter of the network to the UI campus.

The organization has 19 chapters throughout the country. The UI has yet to recognize the local chapter, but Knorr is working toward that goal. The first meeting of the Iowa chapter of the group was on Tuesday.

The book club’s reading list follows a “conservative mindset.” The books share a common theme of conservative feminism. Members meet biweekly to discuss the content of the books.

“The whole idea of feminism is linked to a liberal mindset about what a woman’s life should look like,” Knorr said. “The whole point of [Network of enlightened Women] is to create a dialogue about how conservative women go out into the world while maintaining the conservative thoughts and lifestyles they want.”

Knorr said she stumbled upon the organization while interning in Washington D.C., when her boss at the time invited her to attend a networking event. From there, she met Agness.

“I met so many women that struggled with a lot of the issues I was struggling with, like trying to balance being a woman in a workplace among men,” Knorr said. “They struggled with these issues but talked about them in a confident and classy way.”

Agness said the main reason she founded the organization came to her after attempting to find opportunities for women with conservative ideals.

She said she only came across programs that had a “liberal agenda.”

“I tried to think about what students would be interested in,” she said. “I had been involved in enough organizations where you show up, eat food, and leave, and not know what you’re getting into.”

Knorr said with the exception of purchasing books for reading and discussing, there is no membership fee to join the organization.

Madeline Carlson, a friend of Knorr’s, is helping to cofound the Iowa chapter.

“I love reading in general,” Carlson said. “And [Network of enlightened Women] seemed like a perfect way to not only read new books and gain new perspectives from other conservative women but also to gain more connections as well.”

The organization has a focus to help its members acquire jobs and internships while helping women develop professionalism.

Carter Bell, the president of UI Democrats, said she and other liberal female students on campus are involved in many other political and intellectual organizations on campus such as the Feminist Union.

“While this conservative group does not sound like a group I would join, I support women organizing around a cause they care about,” she said.

But despite a conservative tie, Knorr said, the group focuses solely on empowering women over the political ties.

“We’re open to all women joining our group whether they’re liberal or conservative,” she said. “We are trying to create a dialogue that women can be mothers and have careers.”


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