AU Press Releases

Women of Influence guest: jailed women and writing

The Alfred University Women’s Leadership Center (WLC) will host Breea C. Willingham, scholar, journalist, researcher and writer, on Tuesday, Feb. 7 at 5:30 p.m. in the Judson Leadership Center on campus. The program is open to the public free of charge.

Willingham’s discussion, "Write On, Sister! How Incarcerated Women Use Writing to Reclaim Their Power," will explore how creative expression such as writing helps incarcerated women define their agency (state of exerting power), reclaim their power, and develop leadership skills.

"Incarcerated women use writing as the lens through which they challenge notions of privilege and power, and empower themselves in the ‘disempowering context’ of prison," said Willingham. "Writing can be transformative for the women, especially when it is done in a space where creativity, self-expression and literacy are typically not encouraged."

She continued, "By telling their stories from prison, women create a space that allows them to define the agency and efficacy of their creative expressions. Using examples from my dissertation research, I will describe what all people can learn about personal integrity, social courage, and self-empowerment from incarcerated women."

Currently, Willingham is a doctoral candidate in American Studies at the University at Buffalo. Her dissertation, titled "Liberated Words: Exploring the Meaning of Incarceration for African American Women," examines how incarcerated and formerly incarcerated black women use writing to articulate their prison experience and explores the political nature of black women’s prison writings.

She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh-Bradford in communications and a master’s in management from Webster University, St. Louis, MO.

Willingham worked as a reporter for 10 years for papers in the Carolinas and Upstate New York before entering academia. She taught in the journalism school at St. Bonaventure University for six years, teaching courses in writing and race, class and gender in the media. Willingham has presented her research at national and international conferences, including in Scotland, Poland, and Israel.

The WLC builds on Alfred University’s heritage as the first truly coeducational institution in the nation. The Women of Influence program brings powerful female role models to campus, providing opportunities for inspiration and guidance through lectures and small group discussions. Past speakers have included a NYS Supreme court Judge, a dean of a medical college, and a lobbyist from Albany.

For more information about the Women of Influence Series at Alfred University, contact Heather Folts at by calling the Women’s Leadership Center at 607.871.2971.