Janet James Award

Each spring, the Janet James Award is presented to a 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.

Who was Janet James?

The cover of a book called "Notable American Women"

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.

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.

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 2024 scholarship submission deadline has passed and we are no longer accepting additional applications. We will begin accepting scholarship applications for the 2024-2025 academic year starting March 1, 2025.