2016 Anne Firor Scott, W. K. Boyd Professor Emerita of History at Duke University
Scott is a pioneer in the revolutionary field of American women’s history. Her first book, The Southern Lady, published in 1970, is characterized by her distinctive approach to the study of the past. With the discerning eye of a literary critic and the political scientist’s appreciation for the workings of power, she conducted a reading of women’s letters and diaries at once close and deep to argue that, so far from retreating from the public sphere, Southern women shaped it. She followed this landmark study with a stunning series of monographs, anthologies, and documentary and essay collections, each aimed at incorporating the study of women’s lives and political struggles into the teaching and writing of American history, including Natural Allies, One Half the People (co-authored with Andrew M. Scott), and Making the Invisible Woman Visible. Late in life, she compiled a selection of letters between Pauli Murray and Caroline Ware, subtitled Forty Years of Letters in Black and White. She was also a consummate editor, applying her keen eye and sharp pen to the work of younger historians. Few American historians have had so powerful an influence on the development of a field.
Born in Montezuma, Georgia, in 1921, Scott graduated from the University of Georgia in 1941, received a Master’s degree in Political Science from Northwestern University in 1944 and completed a Ph.D. from Radcliffe College in 1958. She began teaching at Duke University in 1961, and went on to serve as chair of the North Carolina Commission on the Status of Women and on President Lyndon Johnson’s Citizens’ Advisory Council on the Status of Women. She retired from teaching in 1991. A past president of the Organization of American Historians and of the Southern Historical Association, Scott has been honored with distinguished achievement awards from both the OAH and the American Historical Association. In 2012, she received the National Humanities Medal.