American Studies Students Present at Steinmetz

steinmetz 2010This year's American Studies graduating seniors presented their thesis research at Union College's Charles Proteus Steinmetz Symposium held on May 7, 2010, a yearly event that showcases creative and scholarly research by Union Students. The American Studies session included presentations by the following American Studies majors: "The Black Experience" by Jared Gourrier; "Meeting the Financial and Familial Responsibilities: An Analysis of Messages in Ladies' Home Journal Regarding Women's Economic Citizenship in the 1930's and 1970" by Lisa Crawford; and "The History and Complexities of the ‘N‐Word'" by Aaron Ray.

American Studies 2010 graduating Seniors from left
to right: Jared Gourrier, Lisa Crawford and Aaron Ray.

Reimagining the Distaff Toolkit Projectlily-marto

American Studies major, Lisa Crawford, class of 2010, worked with History and American Studies Professor Andrea Foroughi on a 2009 summer research project in which she and Lily Marto, an American Studies minor, researched the history of domestic labor in America from 1800 to the present. The project grew out of an independent study course that both students took during the preceding spring term with Professor Foroughi.  Their research culminated in the creation of a printed timeline that explores the origin and progress of household tools and the women who used them.  Crawford, who also minors in sociology, says she became involved with this project because of her interest in women's and gender studies. Lisa recently shared with us her thoughts and experiences working on the project.

"I thought it would be a good opportunity to learn about history through art, since I have never taken an art or art history class here at Union.  I also really like the interdisciplinary aspects of the show because each piece is artistic as well as historical and sociological.  For instance, the piece by Bettye Saar is an actual washboard, but it has an image of an African American slave woman on the front who is shown using a washboard, and this added detail gives the viewer a glimpse of how that specific tool was used in the past and who may have used it. 

I really learned a lot about art exhibits by working on this project.  By writing label captions for the pieces, I learned that it was really important to stay focused on strictly the history of the specific tool used in the art piece and not try to interpret or make suggestions about what the piece as a whole represents.  The artist made his or her piece in a specific way and wants the viewers to make up their own opinions without influence from the caption. 

Overall, it was really interesting to learn about how domestic tools have evolved over time, and it makes me really appreciate the tools that we work with today, such as the electric washing machine, as well as acknowledge the extra work that women like my grandmother had to put in several decades ago to accomplish the same tasks."

jarred-gourrierStudent Research Highlights

American Studies major Jared Gourrier '10 worked with archival material in Schaffer Library's Special Collections to research the history of Moses Viney, a runaway slave who found refuge at Union College.  College President Eliphalet Nott protected Viney, hired him to be his coachman and messenger, and purchased his freedom in 1852 after his master came to reclaim his property. Gourrier spoke of Viney's history at the 2009 Founder's Day celebration.