A Conversation with Emma Hoglund Rifai

We would do well to remember women like Zitkala-Sa, Ida B. Wells and Frances Ellen Watkins Harper.


Emma (Hoglund) Rifai is the daughter of Louis Hoglund, Managing Editor of thePelican Rapids Press. Emma is a frequent visitor to Pelican Rapids; she loves the community and is an avidPelican Pressreader! A Concordia-Moorhead graduate, Emma is earning a PHD at the University of Iowa in religion and womens’ studies-related disciplines. 


PH: Do you remember the first time you voted? How did you feel? 
EHR: I do! It wasn’t an official ballot, but my elementary school held ‘mock’ elections during the 1996 presidential campaign. I would have been eleven, and I remember voting for Bill Clinton. I also remember how excited I was that day imagining what it would be like to vote ‘for real’ as an adult. 


PH: Who or what do you most admire about the suffrage movement in the late 1800s/early 1900s? Was there a historical figure who stands out? 
EHR: While I am proud of the women who fought to secure my right to vote, I think it’s important to note that the suffrage movement was also marred by racism. Even today our history books often fail to acknowledge the role women of color played in our struggle for the vote. We would do well, therefore, to remember women like Zitkala-Sa, Ida B. Wells and Frances Ellen Watkins Harper alongside women like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. 


PH: What do you see as the biggest challenge facing women today (locally, nationally, or globally)? 
EHR: Unfortunately, many women today face various hurdles to voting that aren’t so dissimilar from those faced by women one hundred years ago. Thanks to things like voterIDlaws, voter registration restrictions, felony disenfranchisement and gerrymandering, people of color – including women – are still too often prevented from casting their ballots at the local, state, and national levels. 


PH: What is an example of compelling activism taking place in 2020 around an issue that matters to you? 
EHR: Black Lives Matter. 


PH: What is an area of activism that you are personally involved with? What are your goals? 
EHR: As an educator, I live my activism through my teaching. I believe the greatest positive impact I can have is through utilizing effective pedagogy – particularly in the form of intersectional and transnational feminism – in the classroom. 


PH: There has been recent activity around the passing of theERA(the Equal Rights Amendment), first introduced in Congress in 1923. Your thoughts? 
EHR: I am deeply disappointed but not terribly surprised that the federalERAstill hasn’t passed. I am, however, excited to see how Minnesotans vote in November regarding the stateERA. 


PH: Do you have a favorite writer, film-maker, artist, politician or ‘social actor’ who has inspired your own political engagement? 
EHR: It would be impossible to choose just one! However, I would like to highlight the work of fellow Minnesotan Koryne Horbal, who served as United States Representative on the Commission on the Status of Women of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. Horbal also helped found theDFLFeminist Caucus in 1973, which worked to support feminist principles including the Equal Rights Amendment, reproductive choice and workplace equality. 


PH: How do you plan to honor the centennial of the 19th amendment this year (the actual date the amendment was ratified was August 26th)? 
EHR: I plan to honor the historic event by voting in November’s election.