The Berkshire Conference of Women Historians is pleased to announce the following awards for books and articles published in 2015.
For a first book that deals substantially with the history of women, gender, and/or sexuality
2015 > Talitha L. LeFlouria. Chained in Silence: Black Women and Convict Labor in the New South. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015.
Citation: Talithia L. LeFlouria’s Chained in Silence: Black Women and Convict Labor in the New South is a pathbreaking study that puts African American women’s convict labor center stage, from Reconstruction through the 1930s. With vivid, poignant descriptions, this book artfully recreates the distinctive and disturbing world of black women’s prison labor. Inmates moved well beyond women’s traditional agricultural and domestic work to toil in brickyards foundries, and sawmills, for instance, under an expanding penal system that looked frighteningly similar to the system of slavery that had supposedly been dismantled after the Civil War. Alongside its examination of labor, the book also highlights the penal codes and the status of black female prisoners, compares them to their male counterparts, uncovers the centrality of physical and sexual violence to their experience of imprisonment, and chronicles their resistance. Powerfully written, carefully researched, and richly documented, Chained in Silence resonates with contemporary debates about race and incarceration. This is a field-changing book.
Finalists for this award
- Sara Fieldston. Raising the World: Child Welfare in the American Century. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2015.
- Olivia Weisser. Ill Composed: Sickness, Gender, and Belief in Early Modern England. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015.
For a first book in any field of history that does not focus on the history of women, gender, and/or sexuality
2015 > Vanessa Ogle. The Global Transformation of Time, 1870-1950. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2015.
Citation: Vanessa Ogle’s, The Global Transformation of Time, 1870-1950 is an ambitious and inventive transnational examination of how time was understood, managed, marked, and recorded across the world at the turn of the twentieth century. Using English, French, German, and Arabic sources, Ogle shows that debates about how to mark time and create a standard system of telling time became a feature of national and international conversations between philosophers, scientists, businesspeople, religious authorities, and national and anti-colonial leaders. She contests the idea that keeping time emanated from elites in the so-called west. Instead, she argues that as the world became better connected from the late nineteenth century onward (through, for instance, the telegraph and railroads), these networks pressured nations and localities to adopt standardized times. Remarkable in scope, richly documented, and beautifully written, Ogle shows how time became a global obsession in the modern era, and how it was resolved in distinct ways depending on locality and historical context.
Finalists for this award
- Sanya Aiyar. Indians in Kenya: The Politics of Diaspora. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2015.
- Ruramisai Charumbira. Imagining a Nation: History and Memory in Making Zimbabwe. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2015.
- Dana Simmons. Vital Minimum: Need, Science, and Politics in Modern France. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015.
2015-2016 Berkshire Book Prizes Committee
- Terri L. Snyder, Chair, California State University, Fullerton
- Erica Armstrong Dunbar, University of Delaware, Library Company of Philadelphia
- Durba Ghosh, Cornell University
- Hilary Hallet, Columbia University
- Amanda Herbert, Christopher Newport University
- M. Alison Kibler, Franklin and Marshall University
- Tatiana Seijas, Pennsylvania State University
For an article in the fields of the history of women, gender, and/or sexuality
2015 > Rebecca Jo Plant and Frances M. Clarke, “The Crowning Insult”; Federal Segregation and the Gold Star Mother and Widow Pilgrimages of the Early 1930s”; Journal of American History, 102: 2 (September 2015).
Citation: Plant and Clarke highlight the decline in African American status in interwar years, focusing on the “largely forgotten … discriminatory treatment” of mothers and widows of fallen United States soldiers. The federal government-sponsored segregated pilgrimages to Europe from 1930 to 1933 to visit the bodies of their fallen kin became part of an emotionally fraught debate over the limitations of citizenship rights of African Americans, claims of which had pivoted on notions of masculinity. Pressured to boycott the pilgrimages, the “so-called ordinary women” were “forced …to weigh powerful appeals to racial solidarity against deeply felt personal commitments and desires,” which often “signaled their independence from black leaders.” The article prize committee believes that Plant and Clarke compellingly give historical voice to African American women seldom heard from and whose perspectives “harbor[ed] dreams of a radically transformed society.”
For article in any field of history other than the history of women, gender, and/or sexuality
2015 > Debora L. Silverman, “Diasporas of Art: History, the Tervuren Royal Museum for Central Africa, and the Politics of Memory in Belgium, 1885–2014,” The Journal of Modern History 87: 3 (September 2015).
Citation: The article prize committee agreed that Silverman’s treatment of Belgium’s “colonial amnesia” about the period of King Leopold’s Congo Free State, contributes importantly to international conversations about the historical decontextualization of imperial violence, “demonstrating that patterns of collective forgetting are not unique to Belgium.” Examining the representation of vast collections of artifacts—a “diaspora of objects”—from the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, near Brussels, as they recently traveled to the United States, Silverman demonstrates how the perpetuation of the erasure of the “brutal regime’s rampant violence” became a missed opportunity to link United States’ own history of slavery to Africa and the history of imperial violence and exploitation in the Congo. Instead, these exhibitions contributed to a “great forgetting” of the Belgian empire and its violent extractions.
2015-2016 Berkshire Article Prizes Committee
- Jennifer Nelson, Chair, Redlands University
- Mita Choudhury, Vassar College
- Margaret H. Darrow, Dartmouth College
- Amy Forbes, Millsaps College
- Marisa Fuentes, Rutgers University
- Katrina Gulliver, Independent Scholar
- Marjorie Hilton, Murray State University
- Shirley Lim, Stony Brook University
- Betty C. Luther-Hillman, Exeter
- Barbara Molony, Santa Clara University
- Anne Rubenstein, York University
- Lorelle Semley, College of the Holy Cross