By Natalie Lauren Koenig, Mass Communication
Started by Kim Huisman, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Maine in fall of 2012, the Maine Mother-Daughter Project (MMDP) provides opportunities for mothers and daughters to come together as a community and work collectively to support mother-daughter connections, while also addressing the larger social forces that often influence their lives.
Modeled after SuEllen Hamkins and Renee Schultz’s book, “The Mother-Daughter Project: How Mothers and Daughters can Band Together, Beat the Odds and Thrive During Adolescence,” the MMDP aims to create a space that supports these relationships by linking the goals outlined in the book with the goals of public sociology.
In addition to the public sociology component of the project, mothers and daughters are given the opportunity to make their private lives public, which enables them to see the connections between their own relationships and a larger social force. This encourages individuals to shift their perspective of these relationships from being a private matter to a public matter, as the challenges they experience are often societal.
“I was sitting here in my office about a year ago when I found the book and I thought it was a proactive approach to bring to the community,” Huisman said. “In seeing through my own daughter the effects that messages in the media have, I saw the book as a good approach to counter messages that are prevalent in our culture. I applied for a grant from the Maine Humanities Council to bring the project to Belfast.”
The MHC grant has funded several components: (1) a mini-conference on mother-daughter relationships that was held at UMaine’s Hutchinson Center on October 26, 2012; (2) the formation of mother-daughter groups that meet regularly in an effort to work together to stay connected and address the challenges and risks that many mothers and daughters face; and (3) a year-long film series and public discussions on topics that girls face as they navigate their way through adolescence.
In addition to the grant, the project is funded by an anonymous donor within the Maine Community Foundation and made possible by the help of current research assistants, Ashlyn Boyle and Molly Hunt, as well as previous research assistants Elizabeth Joy and Tess Walter.
In its second year at the University of Maine Hutchinson Center in Belfast, this year’s program, entitled “Strong Girls: Cultivating Connection, Resilience and Hardiness” took place on Friday November 1st and Saturday November 2nd. Events included a talk given by Dr. SuEllen Hamkins, co-author of the book. Her presentation focused on her work supporting the well-being of girls, mothers and mother-daughter relationships as well as the challenges and successes of mother-daughter groups.
The event also included an all-day training session given by Dr. Lyn Mikel Brown and Dana Bushee Hernandez from Hardy Girls Healthy Women. Their focus was on creating hardiness zones for girls, with a goal of bringing the Adventure Girls program to the Belfast area.
Adventure Girls gives young girls an opportunity to meet with women who are challenging many of the gender stereotypes that exist within our society using an interactive approach. By exposing young girls to women in professions that challenge gender stereotypes, Adventure Girls builds their confidence and inspires them to follow their dreams.
“The program is for anyone who is interested in cultivating hardiness in girls,” Huisman said, “It provides outings for mothers and daughters to meet women and broaden their horizons of what they can do when they grow up.”
For more information or to learn more about The Maine Mother-Daughter Project, visit the Maine Mother-Daughter Project’s web page.