Student-faculty book project evaluates women’s history through a modern lens

Professor Anne Douds speaking from a podium
Public Policy Prof. Anne Douds speaking at Convocation 2019.

The study of policy and civic engagement has been at the forefront of the mind of Public Policy Chair Anne Douds since her days as a trial attorney and policy consultant, as she witnessed firsthand the effects of policy-making and the importance of civil rights litigation. After spending more than 15 years in the field serving as a prosecutor and then a civil rights attorney, Douds recognized a commonality between all of her cases: her clients’ struggles due to inequitable policies.

In order to truly make an impact, she left her career to purse her PhD in justice, law, and crime policy from George Mason University. Douds’ focus on justice policy enabled her to solve and respond to some of the social issues evident in her previous cases. Now working as an educator, she enables dialogue around change makers and the policy behind their actions, including in her current book project with Gettysburg College student co-authors. Douds thrives off community-based research and engaging with students by opening their minds and their views on leadership throughout history.

When she joined Gettysburg College in 2018, Douds was the first full-time faculty member of the public policy department. Upon immediately assuming the lead of the Women and Leadership program at the Eisenhower Institute and conducting historical-narrative research on women during the Eisenhower Era, she quickly realized that there were several female changemakers whose stories were waiting to be told.

Photograph of student co-authors
Student co-authors prior to presenting the idea for this project at a humanities conference at Wilson College on Feb. 29, 2020.

Through a modern leadership lens, Douds embarked on a new journey to ensure those stories were shared. In her upcoming book, Bold Women of the Eisenhower Era: Feminism, Leadership, and the 1950s, set to publish in December 2021, she focuses on topics of domestic government, foreign affairs, civil rights, the arts and sciences, and the workplace with the help of her contributing authors—35 Gettysburg College students.

Each of these students, including six from Douds’ First-Year Seminar: Sex in the Supreme Court, have played a critical role in immersing themselves in the 1950s, developing an understanding of how women exerted power to achieve change. The idea for this project, which was initially presented at Wilson College in February 2020, evolved into a remote internship opportunity when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the following month. Through their research, they discovered how these bold women embodied modern feminism and leadership theory. Each chapter of the book focuses on influential women who challenged societal norms. Their motivation, persistence, and empathy fostered civic engagement throughout their community in an attempt to end the fight for gender equality.

“You can’t launch a movement without a foundation,” Douds said, noting the female activists during the 1950s who laid the groundwork of the 1960s Women’s Rights Movement. “[I wanted] to broaden [the students’] perspectives on leadership and the importance of intense research to help them achieve their goals.”

Screenshot of Prof. Douds's zoom meeting
A Zoom meeting with Prof. Douds and some of the students currently involved in the book project.

Throughout the endeavor, Douds’ students learned about transformational leadership, as embodied by these bold women, and tried to apply the philosophy to their own work. Their abilities to cultivate a mission-oriented experience within communities to combat gender inequality exemplifies the importance of leadership theory. By analyzing different women across various disciplines, students identified the traits that leaders held.

“The opportunity to collaborate with a dedicated group of peers at such a high-level has not only changed the way I approach academic research, but also my perspectives on being a member of a research team,” said Logan Grubb ’21, who is co-authoring a chapter alongside Emily Dalgleish ’22 about forgotten activists in education—specifically civil rights activists and school desegregation advocates Barbara Johns and Mae Mallory. “When you work with a collaborator, not only does your writing get better, but so too does the chapter.”

As a public policy and economics double major, as well as a child of two secondary education teachers, Grubb found this project as an opportunity to further explore his passion of equitable access to education. Similarly, Emma Padrick ’21, a political science and public policy double major, recognized there were many untold narratives that shape how we view our living history.

“[We] spent a lot of time discussing how women in history have been underrepresented or uncredited for their leadership roles,” Padrick said. “The thought of being able to tell a woman's story was really appealing.”

Offering the opportunity to work alongside professors and peers for personal and professional growth, Gettysburg College is a place in which our community dives deep into specific areas of study, while also encouraging dialogue across disciplines. Through student-faculty research, such as this book project, students are empowered by their findings to enact social change within society.

Explore more student research opportunities with our faculty.

By Samantha Hann ’21
Photos by Shawna Sherrell and courtesy of Prof. Anne Douds
Posted: 03/19/21