Congratulations to the ICW recipients of the Foulke Fellowship! Established by USC Alumna Roberta Persinger Foulke (BA/MA History 1936), the Foulke Fellowship funds travel and research for doctoral students delving into issues related to women and gender in the field of history. Our recipients shared a few words about how these fellowships will help further their research about California and the West:
This project contributes to the study of gender, immigration, and settler imaginaries in Southern California through its investigation of the International Institute of Los Angeles, an immigrant-serving agency founded in Boyle Heights in 1914 under the auspices of the Young Christian Women’s Association. In addition to analyzing the organization’s contributions to social work and settlement, the paper seeks to understand the aspirations and consequences of this distinct Americanization project and its engagement with the settler colonial making of Los Angeles. This research pays particular attention to the Institute’s efforts to navigate its competing goals of cultural preservation and assimilation through its built environment during the interwar period. The Foulke Fellowship will primarily support new research in the Emory Bogardus Papers in USC’s Special Collections, as revision of the seminar paper for publication.
While the feminist movement of the 1960s-70s took hold in urban centers, some women ensured its growth in the country, where large portions of the counterculture could be found. In Northern California, thousands of back-to-the-landers had migrated to coastal rural towns such as Albion and Mendocino, exalting the rural farmer as the antithesis of the urban-industrial order. Yet, women in Albion noticed men arriving on their farms and immediately exerting a sense of power with traditional gendered-divisions of labor in mind. They formed an all-woman collective, examining their gender roles in a patriarchal society. Initially formed as a “consciousness raising” group, the collective began publishing a monthly periodical called Country Women. Embracing the personal as political, the journal emphasized practical country skills along with women’s liberation and empowerment. It would ultimately reach readers across the world. This summer, I intend to travel to the counties of Mendocino and Humboldt to conduct research on the former collective, Country Women. I will investigate the built environment, conduct interviews, and familiarize myself with different bodies of literature. My research will examine normative behaviors across gender, cultural, and spatial lines. It aims to uncover the essential role of “country women” in furthering social and environmental reform, including “do it yourself” environmentalism and the widening of the women’s and gay/lesbian liberation movements. In doing so, my work will explore the connections, often overlooked, between rural life, counterculture, feminism, and grassroots activism.
Thanks to the generosity of the Foulke Endowment Fellowship, I will be able to further my research on a story of sex, divorce, race, and power in 1912 Omaha. The work surrounds an alimony suit involving Mary McKeen and her former husband, coal magnate Charles Hull. Hull sued McKeen and her husband in an attempt to get out of paying the $91,000 (over $2 million in today’s money) he owed to her. When the McKeen’s fought back, their lawyers began interviewing a who’s who of Omaha movers and shakers, including powerful businessmen, country club employees, and even the gamblers and prostitutes of Omaha’s notorious Third Ward. As the story unfolds in the archive, we get a sense of Hull’s affairs across town. Not only was he cheating on Mary, he was also having affairs with other married women. But perhaps most shocking was his behavior toward the lower-class and often black women, who worked at the country clubs, and his treatment of the multi-racial prostitutes of the Third Ward. The suit comes to an end when top officials at the Union Pacific Railroad, who did business with both Hull and Mr. McKeen, were afraid of the havoc the lawsuit would wreak if more prominent men would become exposed, and had Hull drop the case. I believe this research can make a valuable contribution to our understanding of the power dynamics related to gender, sex, divorce, and race in the early 20th century American West. But it can also help us understand our own moment, as it examines the ways women of different races, occupations, and economic classes were treated by not only licentious men in power, but by society and the law more generally.
For more information about these Foulke Fellowship recipients, visit their profiles on the ICW site, which also includes their contact information.