CSWS Chooses Two Winners For Jane Higdon Senior Thesis Scholarship

Shelley Grosjean

Shelley Annette Grosjean (History) and Sara S. Quinn (Anthropology) are co-winners of the 2010-11 Jane Higdon Senior Thesis Scholarship.  Following an open competition among University of Oregon undergraduates working on a senior thesis on issues related to women and/or gender, the Center for the Study of Women in Society selected the two UO seniors to share the $1,000 prize.

CSWS selected Shelley Annette Grosjean for her thesis project, “A Womyn’s Work Is Never Done: Reforming Traditionally Gendered Work in Lesbian Separatist Communities.” A history major, Grosjean is studying several lesbian separatist intentional communities that were created in the 1970s in southern Oregon, including WomenShare Collective near Grants Pass, Rootworks Community in Sunny Valley, and OWL Farm near Roseburg.

OWL Farm (from Facebook)

“A history of how lesbian separatists created a new system for the division of labor can give us insight into how women who were rejecting the patriarchal system sought new ways to organize their lives,” Grosjean wrote in her application. She continued: “In rejecting a male-dominated culture they were forced to examine all aspects of how they interacted within their lesbian separatist communities and the world at large. In creating a female only space they were taking part in creating a new definition of what ‘women’s work’ meant to them, and their story highlights for us the challenges that were faced when they tried to put their politics into action in their daily lives.”

Advisor Ellen Herman, professor of history, described Grosjean as a student who “was a very noticeable and memorable presence” in the course she took from her last winter. About Grosjean’s thesis research, she said: “Special Collections in Knight Library is the repository for a treasure trove of materials related to these communitarian experiments, a few of them still ongoing, that were established almost 40 years ago. Thus far, very few students or scholars made use of these fascinating and important materials. I am delighted that Shelley Grosjean has decided to focus her attention on them.”

Sara Quinn

Sara Quinn’s research focuses on “International Solidarity and Indigenous Female Empowerment in Post-War Guatemala.” A senior majoring in cultural anthropology—with a strong interest in gender studies and Latin American studies—Quinn will graduate in June.  Her hometown is Moscow, Idaho.

Quinn has been living and working in rural Guatemala during fall and winter terms, learning Spanish and Quiché and working closely with indigenous Mayan women in communities recovering from the 36-year civil war in Guatemala and the ethnic cleansing of indigenous Mayan people that was a deliberate part of that war.

Thesis adviser Lynn Stephen said that Quinn “looked for a situation where she would not only be in the position of a ‘researcher’ but also would be able to work for a nonprofit organization and relate to the women she hoped to work with in a way that could make a direct and tangible contribution to their daily lives.” A distinguished professor of anthropology and ethnic studies at UO, Stephen noted in her recommendation letter that Quinn’s research style “is the hallmark of collaborative research. Such research begins by choosing a research topic that responds to local interests. In her case, Sara noticed early on an interest in education and community organizing among the women she was working with and has therefore followed their direction in setting up her project.”

The Higdon Scholarship honors the life and work of Jane Higdon, a faculty researcher at the Linus Pauling Institute at OSU and an avid cyclist who was killed while bicycling on Territorial Highway in May 2006.  The financial support for the scholarship is provided by the Jane Higdon Foundation, which is dedicated to encouraging and empowering young people to pursue healthy and active lifestyles and academic excellence.