Continuing Influence

Sixteen years after her retirement from Duke, the influence of Anne Scott, professor emerita of history, is both visible and invisible.

Visitors to the East Duke Parlor see portraits of twelve Duke women honored as precedent-setters during the university’s sesquicentennial celebration in 1988. Not only does Anne Scott’s portrait, labeled First Professor of Women’s History, appear in this select group, but so does a portrait of one of her protégées, Janet Nolting Carter ’88, identified as First Woman Elected President of the Associated Students of Duke University. “Anne’s teaching,” says Nolting, “and the research of the women in my family, helped me to believe enough in myself to run.” 

Undergraduates living in the Anne Firor Scott Women’s Studies selective living group see her legacy as “home.” Visitors to the Perkins Library’s Rare Book Room can appreciate her scholarship in the form of her manuscripts of articles, speeches, and lectures donated to Duke. 

History-department colleagues attending the Southern Historical Association conference in Birmingham, Alabama, this past November saw Scott at age eighty-five deliver the keynote speech, “Reading Other People’s Mail,” using her recently acquired skills with PowerPoint. (She credits Edward Balleisen, associate professor of history, and his ten-year-old son, Zack, as her technology teachers.)

Scott’s legacy as a historian continues to shape young scholars at Duke. When Dara DeHaven ’73, A.M. ’74, J.D. ’80 heard Scott speak at freshman convocation her first day at Duke, little did she know that she would become Scott’s student, advisee, student assistant, and eventually, in 1987, the driving force behind the creation of an endowment for the Anne Firor Scott Research Award. (DeHaven, now a lawyer in Atlanta, educated Scott about certain Supreme Court references in her latest book.) 

The Anne Firor Scott Research Awards help fund students conducting independent research. Though primarily awarded to graduate or undergraduate students in history, the one-time awards are intended for those working on seminar projects or dissertations on any aspect of women’s history. Balleisen says that the annual spring awards have “made a world of difference” to undergraduates by enabling them to begin their intensive research the summer before they take his senior honors seminar in the fall.

Applicants in other departments are eligible if their research explores historical aspects of gender issues. Recent award winners include George Gilbert ’06, who researched “The ‘Other’ Oligarchs: Russia’s Female Entrepreneurs” as part of his undergraduate focus on Russian history; Jennifer Garber, a graduate student in the religion department, who produced “Rightly Suited for Reform: American Christians and the Penitentiary 1797-1860”; and history Ph.D. candidate Felicity Turner, who wrote “Creating the Maternal Instinct: Infanticide and Child Murder in Nineteenth Century America.”

Linda Rupert A.M. ’02, Ph.D. ’06, a 2003 winner, says the award helped her track dissertation research in the Netherlands and Spain and think about the gender implications of her work on inter-imperial networks in the early modern Caribbean. Now an assistant professor in the history department at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Rupert, who completed her undergraduate work in sociology and Latin-American studies at Brandeis University in 1979, describes herself as “an older, second-career historian” teaching courses in Caribbean history and the African slave trade.

“Inspired by Anne Scott’s own life and trajectory,” Rupert says, she combines the professional life of research and teaching with her personal role as the mother of two girls. In both, she offers another visible reminder of Scott’s ongoing influence.

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