History Department
History Department

UT History Alumna Ava Purkiss Wins Lerner-Scott Prize for Best US Women’s History Dissertation

Tue, April 18, 2017
UT History Alumna Ava Purkiss Wins Lerner-Scott Prize for Best US Women’s History Dissertation
Dr. Ava Purkiss, Assistant Professor, Univ. of Michigan (Ph.D., UT History, '16)

Story by Rebecca Adeline Johnston, Ph.D Student, UT History Dept.

Ava Purkiss, a Ph.D. alumna of the UT Austin History Department, has been awarded the illustrious Lerner-Scott Prize for best doctoral dissertation in U.S. women’s history from the Organization of American Historians (OAH). OAH recognized Dr. Purkiss for her 2016 dissertation, entitled “‘Mind, Soul, Body, and Race’: Black Women’s Purposeful Exercise in the Age of Physical Culture, 1900–1939.”

In a press release, the organization explained their appreciation for her work in detail:
“The committee found Dr. Ava Purkiss’s dissertation to be a new and refreshing work that significantly contributes to the field of women’s history in ways that have not been previously discussed in great depth. Purkiss’s research has undone the myth that black women are not invested in their health or physical fitness. Her argument that black women used exercise to literally and figuratively shape their bodies and “thus, they created a new vision of fit black womanhood,” is timely. It combats the stereotypes of “thick black women” or black women as “fat and happy.” Purkiss’s work provides early historical contexts for women of all varying socioeconomic statuses and how they valued good health. The committee was impressed with Purkiss’s nuanced argument, strong historical context, and clear prose. Primary and secondary source material combined with the theoretical framework produced an accessible, clear, and highly engaging narrative.”
Dr. Purkiss was granted this well-deserved award during a ceremony at the OAH annual meeting in New Orleans on April 8, 2017.
Immediately after finishing at UT Austin, Dr. Purkiss transitioned into an Assistant Professorship at the University of Michigan, where she teaches in both the Department of Women's Studies and Department of American Culture. Her research continues to focus on the intersection of gender, race, and health, particularly in regards to African American and women’s history.

Congratulations, Dr. Purkiss!

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