2011 Dorothy McGuigan Prizes for Best Essays on Women

Each year the Women’s and Gender Studies Department awards prizes for the best undergraduate and graduate essays on women written at the University of Michigan. The prizes honor the memory of Dorothy Gies McGuigan, a distinguished alumna of the University of Michigan who taught in the School of Business Administration and the Residential College.  Dorothy McGuigan was an early supporter of the Women's Studies Program and a founder and member of the editorial board of the University of Michigan Press series on Women and Culture.

Graduate Winner, Zakiya Luna
’The Phrase of the Day’: Examining Contexts and Co-optation of Reproductive Justice Activism in the Women’s Movement

This methodologically rich study, based on participant observation and interviews with activists as well as archival and historical documents, documents the ways in which women activists, in particular women of color, reframed debates around reproductive rights (access to birth control, abortion) to formulate a more inclusive concept of reproductive justice that seeks to address the different experiences of all peoples around a wider range of political issues concerning family and sexuality.  Through this paper, Luna both contributes to our understanding of the history of feminist activism and adds to the sociology of new social movements. She is a PhD candidate in Sociology and Women's Studies.

Undergraduate Winner, Sarah Chapman
The Constrictions and Freedoms of Female Interiority in Catholic Reformation Spain

In selecting Chapman's essay out of a pool of more than twenty submissions, the award committee cited its outstanding scholarship, historical depth, and innovative perspective that opens up unexpected realms of analysis. This essay illumines how women religious during the Spanish Inquisition were subject to new impositions of bodily confinement in heavy clothing and walled cloisters, and invasion of their thoughts and feelings by male clerics' insistence on hearing, inscribing, and laying claim to their confessions. But Catholic nuns and Moriscas — Islamic women under pressure to convert to Catholicism — sometimes managed, by tactics bodily and discursive, to resist this conscription of their very interiority.

Chapman narrates this history authoritatively and assesses its significance astutely. She writes, "Perhaps the lesson here is that history is not always made on the outside, in spaces visible and clear. Rather, some revolutions occur in interiors, cloistered and veiled…. Being attentive to the ways in which women have communicated in the past will help illuminate whole historical worlds that are not empty, but full of stories and lives which as of yet remain shrouded."

Sarah Chapman wrote this paper for Women's Studies/History 372, Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe with Professor Dena Goodman.

Undergraduate Honorable Mention: Alexandra Cooperstock
THE F-WORD: Feminist (Non-)Identification among Undergraduate Women

The committee was impressed with the Alex Cooperstock's decision to address an issue that is both very timely and very pertinent to women’s studies majors: the lack of feminist identification among undergraduate women. Her technique is unique in that she undertook the formidable challenges of contacting and forging relationships with several politically and religiously diverse groups of women on campus, many of whom do not identify as feminists. This research represents an enormous amount of time and effort.  The author facilitated focus groups, transcribed the interviews, and analyzed them.  Her clear, thoughtful prose contributes to the overall impact of this insightful and effective manuscript. Ms. Cooperstock is a 2010 honors graduate in Women's Studies and Sociology.