When we set out to create the conversation about women in power and the idea of a Salon was first proposed for the committee I serve on, WomenEvents Buffalo, I didn’t know the rich history Salon’s had in women’s history. We just knew we wanted to have a wide ranging discussion of the issues, face to face with other passionate and insightful minds.
Salon’s were popular in Paris during the 17th and 18th centuries, but originated as early as the 16th Century. By definition:
“A salon is a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine the taste and increase the knowledge of the participants through conversation. These gatherings often consciously followed Horace’s definition of the aims of poetry, “either to please or to educate” (“aut delectare aut prodesse est”). Salons, commonly associated with French literary and philosophical movements of the 17th and 18th centuries, were carried on until quite recently[when?] in urban settings.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salon_(gathering)
The hostess was a women of means and standing in the community who had the presence, and access to the guest list, to make the conversation lively and perhaps controversial but always civil and respectful. It was a way for the women of the day to participate in politics and culture in a way that they were not allowed as they were denied the vote, the right to own property and to hold office.
And while women’s rights and standing in society has changed drastically since the 17th century, I think the idea of a controversial, yet civil discourse is never out of style.
By attempting to re-introduce the Salon format of discussion in 2015, we are saying that there can be a wide ranging discussion of issues that doesn’t automatically devolve into sound bites and personal attacks. That we can appreciate the point of view of others, without necessarily agreeing with them. That we can be challenged to think and maybe then to act, to make society better for all members.
So, if you are in the Buffalo area on March 6th I invite you to join us as we start to explore this ancient but new to us venue of a Salon as a conversation starter. If you live out of the area I challenge you to consider what it would look like to host your own Salon to bring together great minds, lively conversation and civil discourse.
Let’s create the conversation together…
Buffalo Salon – March 6th at 4:30PM, Central Library Event is free, but registration is required: