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Ruth Simmons Prize in Gender and Women's Studies

Funding Opportunities

The Pembroke Center is pleased and honored to offer the Ruth Simmons Prize in Gender and Women’s Studies. The prize is awarded annually for an outstanding honors thesis on questions having to do with women or gender. In the spring, the Pembroke Center invites faculty in all fields to nominate honors theses for the prize. A committee of faculty who teach and write in the area of gender studies will make the selection.

If you wish to make a nomination, please email the following to by 1:00 pm on the current nomination deadline date:

  • Thesis advisor’s evaluation
  • Copy of the thesis

The Ruth Simmons Prize carries with it an award of $1,000.

2021 Recipient

Congratulations to Lyle Cherneff, recipient of both the 2021 Ruth Simmons Prize and the 2021 Joan Wallach Scott Prize

For the first time, a thesis has been awarded both the Joan Wallach Scott prize for an outstanding thesis in Gender and Sexuality Studies and the Ruth Simmons Prize in Gender and Women’s Studies. This is the first time that the Pembroke Center has given both prizes to the same thesis, which speaks to the superlative research and writing of Lyle Cherneff’s “The Ties That Bind: Incest and Family-Making in the Postbellum South.”

Lyle CherneffLyle Cherneff's thesis explores domestic culture in the postbellum South through the prism of incest. Lyle reads criminal court cases, state statutes, legal commentaries, written accounts authored by formerly enslaved persons and historic newspaper articles to document a postbellum culture of racialized sexual violence that was intimate, domestic and persistently unredressed. Informed by historians of Reconstruction, Black feminist scholars and legal theorists of sexuality, Lyle finds that incest carried the memory of the intimate and violent sexual culture of the slave plantation into the postbellum South.

2021 Honorable Mentions

In an impossibly competitive pool of nominations this year, the Ruth Simmons Prize committee was compelled to recognize the work of two additional undergraduate scholars whose theses were truly exceptional.

Gemma Sack '21 has been granted honorable mention for her thesis “Selling Mrs. Procreator: Eugenics, Homemaking, and American Nationalism in Women’s Magazines, 1929–1939.” Bringing together several discursive threads--including gender, race, reproduction, and consumption--in a project drawing on historical, theoretical, scholarly, and popular sources, this thesis examines the interconnections of eugenics, domesticity, and the fortification of the American way of life in mass-market women’s magazines of the 1930s. The mutually reinforcing politics of home and nation during the interwar period are clearly evident, the thesis argues, in popular magazines targeting women as the reproducers of a particular ideological form of the family.

The thesis by Cal Turner ’21, “The Virtue of the Virago: Gender-Crossing Difference and the Social Life of the Early Modern Female Crossdresser,” deserves honorable mention for its insightful analysis of two seventeenth-century literary accounts of female crossdressing, one from England and the other written in Spain. This thesis understands female crossdressing not as an instrumental act or a narrative device, but as a mode of relational and social being in the world. Reading the female crossdresser as a profoundly social figure who develops routes toward relationship through the mark of difference that crossdressing constitutes, this thesis finds present-day trans resonances in a historical lineage of counternarratives of gendered existential states.

Past Recipients

  • 2021 - Lyle Cherneff, Gender and Sexuality Studies
    "The Ties That Bind: Incest and Family-Making in the Postbellum South"
  • 2021 Honorable Mention - Gemma Sack, History
    "Selling Mrs. Procreator: Eugenics, Homemaking, and American Nationalism in Women's Magazines, 1929-1939"
  • 2021 Honorable Mention - Cal Turner, Comparative Literature
    "The Virtue of the Virago: Gender-Crossing Difference and the Social Life of the Early Modern Female Crossdresser"
  • 2020 - Sebastián Niculescu, Ethnic Studies
    "Ábreme: Performing Trans of Color Critique"
  • 2019 - Alex Burnett, History
    "Fighting Homophobia During the War on Crime: The Rise of Pro-Gay, Pro-Police Liberalism, 1967-80"
  • 2018 - Deborah Pomeranz, Ethnic Studies
    "Policing the City: How Discourses of Public Safety Reshaped New York"
  • 2017 - Rebecca Hansen, English, Nonfiction Writing
    "On Coming Forward"
  • 2016 - Melanie Abeygunawardana, English and Literary Arts
    "The Persistent Dialogue: Butch-Femme Erotics as Queer Reading"
  • 2015 - Leila Blatt, Africana Studies
    "From the Shadows of Choice: Activism, Power, and Black Women’s Struggle for Reproductive Justice"
  • 2014 - Charlotte Lindemann, English
    "Visions in Vertigo and The Turn of the Screw: A 'reading-adventure'"
  • 2013 - Emma Janaskie, Modern Culture & Media
    "The Constant State of Desire: Thinking the Sexual Specificity of the Abjected/Fluid Female Body with Kristeva and Irigaray"
  • 2012 - Natalia Fadul, Comparative Literature
    "The Female Mind and Absent Body: Writing Female Subjectivity"
  • 2011 - Nandini Jayakrishna, International Relations
    "A Critical Convergence: Gender Development Theory and the Practice of Women’s Empowerment in the Indian Informal Sector"
  • 2009 - Soyoung Park, Sociology
    "Silenced Pain: The Korean Comfort Women’s Struggle to Matter"
  • 2008 - Sara Tabak Damiano, History
    "From the Shadows of the Bar: Law and Women’s Legal Literacy in Eighteenth-Century Newport"