Michelle Moravec, PhD - March 29, 2017
This past weekend I was delighted to watch six Rosemont College students share their original historical research into Pennsylvania women’s involvement in the suffrage movement and nurse’s First World War scrapbooks at the nineteenth annual SEPCHE honors conference held at Neumann University.
Elizabeth Cunningham, Kimberly Drotar, and Hope Smalley have been involved in a nationwide effort sponsored by Women and Social Movements, an academic online journal, to compile a biographical database of every woman mentioned in the six-volume History of Woman Suffrage, a monumental compendium that chronicles the seven-decade long struggle to earn women the right to vote. Students have focused on Pennsylvania women who were members of the National American Women’s Suffrage Association from 1890 to 1920.
These women’s roles in the suffrage movement varied widely, from prominent women who merely leant their name to the cause, to paid organizers who traversed rural Pennsylvania with a model of the Liberty Bell that they re-named the Justice Bell. Women and Social Movements will publish the students’ biographies in time for the centennial of woman suffrage in 2020.
A second set of students researched women’s participation in the Great War. Kyah Hawkins, Sabrina Heggan, and Hope Smalley shared the results of their investigation into the scrapbooks of nurses who overlapped one another at various medical facilities in France. By piecing together these highly personal narratives of the war, which run the gamut from the most decorated female veteran to a band of “buddies,” telling the history of the Great War through women’s eyes became possible. This research is under consideration for publication in Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies.
Over the past thirteen years, I’ve supervised more than thirty research students, with results incorporated into articles published by the Journal of Research on Mothering, Women and Social Movements, Historical Reflections, Perspectives, the magazine of the American Historical Association, and highlighted in the Philadelphia Inquirer, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and Time.com. The ability of undergraduates to successfully conduct original historical research exemplifies the power of small and attests to the value of a hands-on approach to liberal arts education.