College of Liberal Arts

- University of Mississippi

Dissertation Wins Mississippi Historical Society Prize

The Mississippi Historical Society announced the winner of the 2014 Franklin L. Riley Prize for a doctoral dissertation on a topic in Mississippi history or biography March 6-8 at its annual meeting in Jackson. Pictured are Smith (left) and Elizabeth Ann Payne, board member and University of Mississippi history professor

The Mississippi Historical Society announced the winner of the 2014 Franklin L. Riley Prize for a doctoral dissertation on a topic in Mississippi history or biography at its annual meeting in Jackson March 6-8. Pictured are Smith (left) and Elizabeth Ann Payne, board member and UM Professor of History.

A University of Mississippi doctoral program graduate has won a prestigious honor from the Mississippi Historical Society.

Wendy D. Smith, of Pontotoc, received the 2014 Franklin L. Riley Prize for her dissertation “‘Perfect Harmony’: the Myth of Tupelo’s Industrial Tranquility, 1937-1941,” which she completed for her doctorate in history in 2012. The prize, which carries a $500 cash award, was announced March 8 in Jackson during the society’s annual meeting.

“I am surprised and grateful to win this award,” Smith said. “I share this honor with (UM history professor) Dr. (Elizabeth) Payne, who both told me initially about the strike and served as my dissertation director thereafter.”

Smith’s dissertation focused on the 1937 cotton mill strike and an unsuccessful attempt by local women in the garment district to form a labor union.

“Before this, nothing had ever been written on this event,” Smith said. “Most people still don’t even know it ever happened.”

The Riley Prize memorializes Franklin L. Riley, a UM history professor who was instrumental in establishing the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. The prize is awarded biennially as merited for a doctoral dissertation on a topic in Mississippi history or biography completed within the previous two years.

The Mississippi Historical Society, founded in 1858, encourages outstanding work in interpreting, teaching and preserving Mississippi history. It provides annual grants to support programs of the Junior Historical Society and publishes books, maps and other materials aimed at educating the general public.

Membership is open to anyone; benefits include the quarterly Journal of Mississippi History, the monthly Mississippi History Newsletter and discounts at the Mississippi History Store.

For information on becoming a member, call 601-576-6849 or go to the MHS website, http://www.mdah.state.ms.us/admin/mhistsoc.html.