Sjursen awarded SIUE’s first AAUW fellowship

Despite what Disney portrays, being a princess is a lot more work than hosting tea parties – at least according to historical studies professor Katie Sjursen’s research.

Photo courtesy of Katie Sjursen

Sjursen’s studies on medieval noblewomen, for which she recently received an American Fellowship Grant from the American Association of University Women (AAUW), show women of stature were tasked with the same duties as lords of the time.

“I have three daughters of my own and they like the princesses, the Disney princesses, and I just… want them to have an understanding of what it would have been like— that the princesses really had weighty decisions and they tried hard to do things other than tea parties,” said Sjursen, the first SIUE recipient of the AAUW grant. “They just had more of an impact on society.”

Noblewomen, because of their position in society, are considered lords, according to Sjursen, and would have had held the same responsibilities, including military duty.

Sjursen’s research focuses on French noblewomen in medieval France from 1000 to 1337 and became the subject of her dissertation, which she will turn into a book with the help of the American Fellowship.

Gloria Blackwell, vice president of Fellowships, Grants, and Global Programs for AAUW, said via email nearly 800 eligible applications were received for the 2013-14 academic year for American Fellowships, and 76 were awarded. Sjursen’s interest in “the military obligations of medieval noblewomen” impressed the fellowship panel, according to Blackwell.

“Dr. Sjursen clearly stood out as a fine scholar with a project that demonstrates great potential, in particular if she is able to fulfill the project’s potential to mobilize her theoretical insights around gender to make the work relevant to women’s studies as a whole,” Blackwell said.

Sjursen’s work adds to the mission of AAUW, according to Blackwell, simply because of its scholarship.

“Her work, which hopes to impact how young girls today perceive the world around them based on the variety of experiences of women in the past, is the kind of scholarship that fulfills the AAUW mission,” Blackwell said.

Sjursen’s interest in medieval noblewomen began with a study abroad program in England’s medieval city of Cambridge during her undergraduate studies. She also earned her master’s in medieval studies. After going into the “real world” was still interested in the middle ages, so she applied for a doctorate. An early meeting with her soon-to-be advisor led Sjursen to studying medieval noblewomen because of a story she came across in a text by Jean Froissairt, a French medieval chronicle writer.

Froissart told the story of Jeanne of Montfort being in a castle that was being besieged outside. She called down to the women and children to have them “prize up the stones” and start climbing the towers.

“And then what she did was she got dressed up in armor and she [took] a small band of men out a back gate and she goes over to where the enemy’s camp was and she torches it and she goes charging across the countryside,” Sjursen said, “and I read about all about that and I wonder if there was anyone else like that, and that’s really cool.”

Sjursen said she hopes she will have a completed monograph to send to publishers at the end of the spring semester.

And as the first SIUE recipient of the grant, Sjursen said she wants to create stronger ties with the organization.

“They do a lot of lobbying for women, not just in education but in other fields,” Sjursen said. “They do a lot of research on things like salary equity and such, and I think those sort of conversations would be useful for any college campus, really.”

Be Sociable, Share!

Filed Under: Historical Studies

Tags: , , , , ,

Comments are closed.

Switch to our mobile site