Janet James Award

James Janet Award

Each spring, the Janet James Award is presented to an undergraduate Boston College senior in recognition of their research endeavors, academic achievements, and personal commitment to women's and gender issues. The award is given in remembrance of Janet James, a Boston College professor and pioneer in the field of women's history.

Professor Janet Wilson James (1918-1987) joined the Boston College community as a Professor of History in 1971, where she served on the faculty until her death in June of 1987. As the first woman in the History Department, Professor James argued for women’s history and Women’s Studies to be incorporated into the Boston College curriculum. At this then-newly coeducational institution, Professor James aided in the development of the Women’s Studies program—later renamed the Women’s and Gender Studies program—and mentored young women scholars. She also chaired the Women’s Affirmative Action Council, which paved the way for women leaders at the university.

Among Professor James’ many scholarly achievements were a council seat in the Massachusetts Historical Society and a directorship at Harvard University’s Schlesinger Library, a major research repository on the history of American Women. She and her husband, fellow history professor Edward T. James, were the editors of the three-volume biographical dictionary Notable American History 1607-1950, an invaluable source of information concerning the lives and accomplishments of 1,300 women. Today, this seminal biographical dictionary is widely acknowledged as the necessary precursor to the creation of Women’s Studies as a vital part of the study of American history. (Notable American Women was later extended into a fourth volume, The Modern Period, co-authored by Barbara Sicherman and Carol Green, the latter being another prominent historian who was also involved in the history of the WGS program at Boston College.) Other publications of Professor James’ include Women at Work: A Massachusetts Historical Society Picture Book (1983); and two edited works, Women in American Religion (1980), and A Lavinia Dock Reader (1985).

In the words of a former pupil, “Janet’s courageous persistence created the space for women to follow.” The Janet James Award honors Professor James’ legacy by acknowledging bright individuals who continue to cultivate the fields of gender equality and women’s rights in academia.

For further study:

Award Information

The Janet James Award recognizes a Boston College senior who has demonstrated superior academic excellence, extracurricular leadership, and involvement with women’s and gender issues both on and off campus. The recipient of the Janet James Award will receive a prize money of $250 and is also traditionally commemorated at the Commencement Award Ceremony at the end of the semester.

The recipient is chosen by our selection committee on the basis of two main criteria:

  1. The strength of their research paper, which will approach gender themes in a thorough, systematic, and accessible manner. (See previous award-winning papers for direction.)

  2. Their participation and leadership in activities and programs, on campus or off, that empower and support women, benefit marginalized communities, and/or promote gender equality in a meaningful way.

Requirements for Candidates

To be considered, you must be:

  • A graduating Boston College senior*

  • Involved in women’s and gender issues

* Any Boston College senior graduating in the spring semester that they apply for the Janet James Award is eligible for the award. While Women’s and Gender Studies minors may be prioritized in the first round of judging by the selection committee due to their academic commitment to gender issues in college, strong candidates will move onto the finalist stage, where all papers will be read blind by the WGS faculty and director.

Submission Materials

To apply, please submit the following to gender@bc.edu:

  1. A piece of scholarly writing (20 pages or less) on any gender issue. This piece can be an empirical paper, theoretical paper, creative paper, or part of a senior honor’s thesis.

  2. A cover letter must accompany your paper that communicates your specific engagement and involvement with women's and gender studies issues during your time at Boston College.

The Spring 2020 scholarship submission deadline has passed and we are no longer accepting additional applications. We will begin accepting scholarship applications for the 2020-2021 academic year starting March 1, 2021.

For more information about the scholarship, contact:

The Women’s and Gender Studies Program
Carney 270-271
(617) 552-4198

Past Award Recipients

Every year, the Janet James Award is presented to an undergraduate Boston College senior in recognition of their paper submission and personal commitment to women's and gender issues. Listed below are past award recipients of the Janet James Award.

Note: Entries may be edited for concision and clarity.

Meredith Hawkins, Class of 2020

Paper: Defiled and Displaced: A Meta-Analysis of Psychosocial Interventions for Refugee Women Survivors of Gender-Based Violence

“It is an honor to have received the Janet Wilson James award from the Women’s and Gender Studies Department as a graduating senior. Having entered college with a very narrow idea of feminism, the WGS program has played a significant role in broadening my understanding of the societal construction of gender, the intersectionality of feminism, and the inherent binaries of masculinity and femininity upon which our patriarchal, capitalistic society thrives. With this understanding, I developed a dual sense of responsibility and desire to dive deeper into my studies, my professional aspirations, and my relationships as they relate to feminism and women’s liberation. I chose to submit a portion of my undergraduate thesis entitled Healing in a New Home: An Analysis of Psychosocial Interventions for Refugee Women Survivors of Gender-Based Violence in a Resettlement Context in which I engage in an applied perspective of the socioecological approach and feminist constructivist theoretical understanding and orientation to mental health and psychosocial service provision for refugee women survivors. Through interviews within my community and a comprehensive literature review, I argue that, vis-a-vis these frameworks, care providers can best account for the intersectional identities of the immigrant woman herself, as well as the collective identity of the culture in which she is situated both ethnographically via the country of origin and physically within the resettlement society. I hope to continue my exploration of the impact of culturally-competent care through my work as a bilingual therapeutic specialist with a culturally-sensitive mental healthcare provider in Boston during my interim year before returning to BC to pursue an MSW!”

Anna Seigel, Class of 2019

Paper: The Question of Choice: Transforming the Rhetoric of the Reproductive Rights Movement

“Before and since arriving at Boston College, social justice issues, specifically those surrounding gender, have been of the utmost importance to myself. I came into BC a declared Political Science major, and shortly into my freshmen fall declared a Women’s and Gender Studies minor. I did so as I believe the combination of my major and minor is extremely coherent and beneficial, as it is hard to examine gendered issues without understanding the politics and policies domestically and internationally that shape them. I have shaped my political science courses to mold with my minor, and have been able to write research papers on topics such as gendered gang violence in Central America, the abortion ban in Nicaragua, honor killings in Turkey, the Global Gag Rule, and the gendered nature of the Arab Spring, to name a few. My academic studies in the area has further shaped my passion and influenced what I hope to do with my career.”

Leah Bacon, Class of 2018

Paper: Undertones of a Patriarchal Woman-Dominated Society: Conceptualizing Gender Dynamics and Rwandan Womanhood

“It is an honor to receive the Janet Wilson James award from the Women’s and Gender Studies Department. Since I began my BC journey, I have had the opportunity to volunteer at Rosie’s Place, a women’s soup kitchen and shelter in Roxbury, conduct research about the shift in gender dynamics in Rwanda post-genocide, and be an activist for the promotion of female empowerment on and off campus. My submission to the department was original research I conducted in Kigali, Rwanda during my semester abroad. After the 1994 Genocide, Rwanda faced a massive gender imbalance which forced their female dominated population to acquire new jobs and roles in reestablishing the country. Now, Rwanda has the highest number of women in Parliament in the world at 64%. Through interviewing Rwandese female leaders, men, and college-aged women I was able to understand this shift and analyze current ideologies on gender equality. As both a woman and a person of color, I strive to use my education and the opportunities afforded to me to promote the voices of those who are so often silenced.

Hanaa Kahn and Regina Noonan, Class of 2017

Paper (Kahn): Our Lady of Impossibility: Implications of Mary as a Gendered Religious Standard

Kahn: “My involvement in women's and gender issues while at BC has been grounded in the courses I have taken as a WGS minor. It has been a hugely important part of both my academic and personal experiences to have critical discussions related to gender and the other identities with which it intersects. I have found this to be one of the most significant ways I have been educated ‘as a whole person’ in the spirit of cura personalis. Outside of my coursework, I participate in a lot of campus ministry activities, especially as a co-director for Kairos retreats. Informally, I have written and spoken a lot about the intersections of gender and religion, particularly with respect to sexuality. I find that it is important to me to be a woman in a space typically understood as male-dominated, and to be attentive to the experiences of other students in that same space. For several years, I also co-led an all-women's reflection and faith-sharing group. In my coursework, my activities, my relationships, and my roommate conversations before bed, gender has been a necessarily central theme. All that I have learned and experienced has made me more aware and attentive to the role gender plays in all of our lives. Perhaps most importantly, it has helped to build a sustained desire to continue working for change in my adult life after I graduate.”

Paper (Noonan): Masculine Societal Structures and the Terrorist Consequences

Noonan: “Throughout my time at BC, I have dedicated myself to the pursuit of gender studies both in and out of the classroom. At Boston College, I had the privilege of taking such classes as Women and the Body, Women and Gender in Islam, Latin American Women Represent Themselves, Masculinity, Sexuality, and Difference and Early American Women. My commitment to gender studies extends beyond just these classes because in every class I take I must examine the function of gender in any narrative. The paper that I have attached to my application for the Janet Wilson James Award is an example of the engrained quest for gendered angle I have in all my studies. My final research paper for Terrorism, Insurgency, and Political Violence with Professor Krause examined the role of masculinity in establishing terrorist networks. I learned that I view my studies with a gendered lens because gender is an everyday lived experience for me. If I cannot escape gender in my day-to-day life, why would it make sense to obscure it in my studies? It is the everyday lived experience that has taken my commitment to gender studies out of the classroom. Gender issues have remained too obscured on Boston College campus, and I believe it is through these grassroots relationships that the discourse can begin to change. I have been fortunate to draw my course of study through the subjects and lenses I find valuable. Professor Janet Wilson James serves as an example of a pioneer in study and in life and I hope to follow her example.”

Darby Sullivan and Katherine Quigley, Class of 2016

Paper (Sullivan): The Veil: A Practice of Shifting Meaning for Western Muslim Women Exploring Western Muslim Women’s Choice to Wear the Veil

Sullivan: “Feminism brought me purpose. It led me to widen my world view through participation in activist and social justice extra-curricular activities. Four years after I took Women and the Body, I can confidently say that my college experience would not have been the same without the WGS department. This specific class led me to discover my passion for social justice and activism, which in turn has shaped my personal and professional future goals. Upon graduation, I will be a research analyst for a company that recommends best care practices to large healthcare organizations. I believe that in order to achieve a just society, we must first change the institutions which our society consists of. I plan to utilize my feminist perspective at my job in order to help make our healthcare system more inclusive for the marginalized members of our society, and for that I have the WGS department to thank.”

Paper (Quigley): Masculinity and Rape in Early America

Quigley: “Since I became a Women’s and Gender Studies minor my sophomore year, I have engaged with women’s issues primarily through education, which I believe is one of the best ways to promote social change. While I always considered myself a feminist, I did not really know what this meant until I took a course that explained just how fundamental gender and intersectionality are in determining how people experience the world. Because my first classroom introduction to gender issues was so crucial to my development as a feminist, I decided to use the classroom to help others learn about gender and feminism. This semester, I am continuing to work in museum education as the Women in Politics intern at the Nichols House Museum, a Boston house museum that highlights the political and professional achievements of Progressive- era women. In addition to giving house tours to museum guests, I am working on an exhibit that connects women’s activism during the Progressive Era to organizations that continue to serve the Boston Community today. I am also in charge of researching and writing a tour for the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail that centers on women’s achievements in politics, pacifism, and labor agitation during the early twentieth century. I hope to use this exhibit and walking tour to bridge the gap between early women’s activism and the work that is being done and needs to be done today, as well as my own personal interest in history and concern over injustices that still occur. I know that closely engaging with women’s issues as a Women’s and Gender Studies minor will allow me to become a more socially conscious citizen and educator after graduation.”

Bethany Woodley, Class of 2015

Paper: Family Planning and Sexual Ethics in an Islamic Twenty-First Century

“Here at Boston College, in the Jesuit tradition, we seek to educate the whole person and to have a group of young adults leave on commencement day better and more socially aware versions of the wide-eyed eighteen year-olds they were when they arrived four years ago. I can unequivocally say that my exposure to women’s and gender studies and my resultant commitments to social justice and the feminist struggle have made me better. Each WGS class has uniquely challenged me to critically examine both the world around me and my place in such a world. I’ve laughed and I’ve cried while attempting to sift through the layers and layers of social construction and social influence surrounding everyday issues like gender, sex, violence, economics, the body, family life, interpersonal relationships, etc. all the while, I firmly believe, becoming a more whole and better person in the process. I now approach all issues with an open mind, being sure to consider multiple perspectives and alternative ways of interpretation.

Jonathan Dame, Class of 2014

Paper: Veiled Racism: France’s Ban on the Burqa and Politics of Citizenship

“Introduction to Feminisms proved to be just as eye opening and intellectually challenging as I had hoped, and ever since then I have been heavily involved in one way or another with  women’s and gender studies. Working with various progressive groups in the Boston area, I  learned not only about advocating for women’s rights, but about how topics labeled “women’s issues” intersected with class and race. While I was initially under the impression that I had to work specifically with women and girls to empower women and advance women’s rights, I soon realized that I can accomplish this goal by working with any group of individuals and helping them to be their best selves, which I will accomplish through my field placement at the Maternal-Newborn health unit at Melrose-Wakefield Hospital.”

For more information about the scholarship

The Women’s and Gender Studies Program
Carney 270-271
(617) 552-4198