History Honors and a Focus on Local History

Submitted by Eric W. Johnson on
2022 History Honors cohort

The 2022 History Honors Colloquium was held in person for the first time since before the start of the pandemic. Hosted in Smith Hall’s Freedman Remak Room, the colloquium is the culmination of a two-quarter senior research seminar taught by Professors Ileana Rodrgiuez-Silva and Stephanie Smallwood.

Thirteen graduating seniors presented their theses, which covered a broad geographical and temporal scope - from early modern England, to 1960s Brazil and Indonesia, to Seattle in the 1990s. 

Five of these students decided to focus on local histories of Seattle, Puget Sound, the Pacific Northwest, and Washington. We talked to a few of them to learn more about their motivations in pursuing their research topics.

Marshall Bender, “Community Activism and Police Violence in Seattle’s Major Print Media, 1960-1970

Bender’s thesis explores how Seattle’s two major newspapers, The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer, defined the issue of police violence throughout the 1960s. His research finds that Seattle’s activist community influenced media coverage on the issue of police violence, effectively bringing their own viewpoints and demands into the public consciousness. Bender feels this is a significant topic as it shows the influence activists can have on  media coverage of police violence and how they can work to change  media narratives that protect police and reinforce the ‘justifications’ for police violence. 

As a Washingtonian, Marshall always wanted to learn more about local history and share it with others through his own research. His motivation to pursue this topic for his senior thesis arose from the waves of activism and protest that swept through the nation during the summer of 2020 following  the death of George Floyd. “As I participated in and witnessed the protest action that occurred within Seattle,” he said, “I became acutely aware of the way that major media outlets would spin the stories to fit their own world views: painting protestors as violent, framing the police as the victims, and portraying the true victims of police violence as criminals.” 

Ethan Benson, “Magmatic Memory: Narratives of Mount St. Helens’ 1980 Eruption and Society’s Relationship with Nature”

Ethan grew up just 30 miles from Mount St. Helens and has spent the last four summers working there.  “To me, it seemed that the eruption should be a cautionary tale on the importance of being proactive in dealing with nature, but no, the majority seemed to not see it as such. I routinely heard people mention how they wish they were here to see it blow or how glad they are that they are safe now and things like that. The disconnect between how I saw it and how others did is what drove this study, I wanted to see how it got to where it is today and why it never became something more.”

In addition to the support from Professors Rodrgiuez-Silva and Smallwood, Benson benefited tremendously from the guidance of Dr. Nathan Roberts, a lecturer within the department. As Benson put it, “Dr. Roberts always pushed my writing to be better and brought new perspectives to the table.” 

Audun Holland-Goon, “Being Good and Industrious: Indigenous Timber Work on the Late Nineteenth-Century Puget Sound”

Audun’s thesis topic grew out of his interest in indigenous labor history in the Pacific Northwest. “As a born-and-raised Washingtonian, I have long had a fascination with the history of the lands and peoples of where I grew up,” he explained. His interest specifically in indigenous history started with his very first history class at UW in  2018, HSTAA 210 Inconvenient Indians and the "American Problem": American Indian History from 1815, taught by Professor Josh Reid. In his paper, Holland-Goon suggests that the timber industry impacted the lives of Coast Salish peoples to a significant degree, both on and off reservation lands. 

Audun was supervised by Professor Reid, who challenged him to think more critically. Reid’s courses, Holland-Goon feels, were instrumental to his development as a writer. “Developing a relationship with Dr. Reid, by taking multiple classes, attending his office hours, and now working with him on an Honors thesis is one of the best decisions of my college experience.” In addition to his history major, Audun chose a minor in American Indian Studies. 

Hope Morris, “From Women’s Rights to Women’s Liberation:The Second Wave Feminist Movement in Washington State, 1963-1977”

Morris’s thesis offers a critical overview of the feminist movement in Washington State. This included two wings of the movement: liberal feminists and women’s rights advocates, who formed groups such as the National Organization for Women (NOW) and lobbied state legislators in Olympia, and radical feminists, who referred to themselves as liberationists. This work came about as an extension of an article, titled “Equal Rights on the Ballot: The 1972-73 Campaign for Washington State’s ERA,” which she published for the Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History project. 

Morris was supervised by Professor James Gregory.  “Learning from Professor Gregory has made me a better historian, student, and writer,” she commented. She described the honors seminar  as “truly a unique opportunity to focus and dive deep on a topic,” and it allowed her to “work alongside incredibly gifted and talented students in the history cohort as we wrote our theses together.” 

Starting in Fall 2022, Morris will be attending Harvard Law School, from where she hopes to work in public service and continue fighting for women. “I cannot thank the history program enough for everything it has given me and look forward to the opportunities ahead.”

Other Theses of the 2022 Honors Cohort

  • Sariah Burdett, “Rescuing the Ragged and Dirty: Korean Orphans and the Development of Protestantism in Colonial Korea”
  • Estey Chen, “Cracks in the Bandung Spirit: The 1962 Sino-Indian War and Decline of Third World Solidarity, 1962-1965”
  • Simon Ferry, “The Link to a Stable French Past: The Suez Crisis and the Scramble to Save the French Empire”
  • Erin Nicole Kelly, “‘In the Hearts of Men’: The Populist Effects of Robert Kennedy and Ronald Reagan on White Backlash and the Party Realignment
  • Ryan Mealiffe, “Socioecology of English Witch Trials: How Enclosure and Deforestation Reshaped Animal Familiar Beliefs in Early Modern England”
  • Claudia Modarelli, “Building the New Binary: Relationships of Transmasculine and Butch Lesbian Identity in the U.S., 1970-1990”
  • Grace Mosby, “Invasion of the Tom-Tom Club: Grunge, Tech and the Transformation of Seattle in the 1990s”
  • Itai Segre, Neoliberal Fellow Travelers: CONSULTEC and the Organic Coalescence of Neoliberal Elites in 1960s Brazil in an International Context
  • Wendi Zhou, “Translating Guilt to Commitment”: Racial and Queer Intersections in Afro-German Berlin, 1981-1992