College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

Book of Essays Explores Scholar’s Role in Shaping Women’s History Studies

A pioneer historian of American women is the inspiration for a book of essays edited by a University of Mississippi history professor.

Elizabeth Anne Payne edited the volume “Writing Women’s History: A Tribute to Anne Firor Scott,” (University Press of Mississippi, 2011) which includes essays by seven woman who are at the forefront of contemporary scholarship on American women’s history.

Payne said Scott, the 90-year-old W. K. Boyd Professor Emerita of History at Duke University and the first woman chair there, has been a mentor for many years.

“In 1970, when she published ‘A Southern Lady,’ I was in Chicago and went to her book signing,” Payne said. “At that time, she had short hair, flat shoes and studied women’s history. I thought it was wonderful.”

When it was published more than 30 years ago, Scott’s book, “The Southern Lady: From Pedestal to Politics, 1830-1930,” (University of Chicago Press) stirred a keen interest among historians in both the approach and message of her book. Using women’s diaries, letters and other personal documents, Scott brought to life Southern women as wives and mothers, as members of their communities and churches, and as sometimes sassy but rarely passive.

In her introduction to “Writing Women’s History,” Payne writes, “She challenged me to think more seriously about the nature and shape of feminist influence in the 1920s and 1930s. I will always be grateful not only for her mentoring but for her friendship, which has enriched my life.”

“Writing Women’s History: A Tribute to Anne Firor Scott” is based on papers originally presented at the university’s 32nd annual Chancellor Porter L. Fortune Symposium in Southern History in 2008. Choosing Scott’s work and its impact on women’s history made sense, as each writer regards “The Southern Lady” as having shaped her historical perspective and inspired her choice of topics in important ways. The essays together demonstrate that the power of imagination and scholarly courage manifested in Scott’s and other early American women historians’ work has blossomed into a gracious plentitude.

Contributors including Laura F. Edwards, Crystal Feimster, Glenda E. Gilmore, Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, Darlene Clark Hine, Mary Kelley, Markeeva Morgan, Anne Firor Scott, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich and Deborah Gray White.

The book is available in hardback and showcases artwork of an appliquéd Bible quilt made in 1885 by Harriet Powers on its cover. The quilt hangs in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and is the focus of Ulrich’s essay.

“The quilt is a moral and religious cosmology of women’s lives in Athens, Ga.,” Payne said.

Scott visited the UM campus in 2000 to teach a course in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, where Payne was a founding director. Scott visited again in 2002 for the SMBHC commencement address.

“This splendid volume contains essays from several of the leading practitioners of American women’s history over the past two generations, as well as from scholars at earlier stages in their careers, all of whom demonstrate the lasting influence of Anne Firor Scott’s pioneering work,” said Joseph Ward, chair and associate professor of history. “Elizabeth Payne has made an important contribution to the field by bringing together such an impressive range of research into a single book.”

Payne is also the author of “Reform, Labor and Feminism: Margaret Dreier Robins and the Women’s Trade Union League” and coeditor of volumes one and two of “Mississippi Women: Their Histories, Their Lives.”

For more information, visit the UM Department of History.