Angela Vuagniaux, Anni Crofut and Suzi Fowle were the perfect guides for an intense, inspiring writing journey into the memories of first menstruation.   How can we shed memories of not being sufficiently celebrated, and write our way into a new honoring of this crucial rite of passage in a young girl’s life?

At the WRites of Passage workshop


L-R, Anni Crofut, Angela Vuagniaux and Suzi Fowle




Coming to America

Two of the women married men they barely knew (one had stepchildren who still kept a shrine to their deceased mother, and resented this stranger in their home). One woman taught history at a college in Beijing, but fled because of the repressive government. Several, college graduates, had difficulty finding meaningful work in the United States. All six struggled to find work, friends, and ways to connect in unfamiliar surroundings and in a language and culture as foreign as the landscape.

That was the background for the “Coming to America” event at Williams College on Wednesday, facilitated by the Berkshire Immigrant Center in Pittsfield where the women find support and guidance, and with mentoring by Elizabeth Kaidah, a junior at Williams. Hearing stories told by such strong, resourceful, resilient and yet at times very vulnerable and isolated women, gave the audience a deeper appreciation of what is needed to survive and make a full and meaningful life here.

Students, friends, teachers, supporters, husbands and children, and many others filled the hall to cheer them on- and sample homemade cookies, salsa and other snacks. These images, by photographer Marcela Villada Peacock, will give a sense of this joyous occasion.  Everyone is already looking forward to next year’s event!

(More precise captions to come)

Yuko Takaya with friends

Two of the presenters

Greta Phinney (English teacher, center) and presenter Youlin Shi (right) with a friend

A presenter with Marcela Villada Peacock



All the presenters receive gifts and applause

Presenter Liliana Sills


Marjorie Cohan and Hilary Greene from the Immigrant Center, with Marcela Villada Peacock, presenter