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Scholar Spotlight: Carla Freeman and Sarah Smeed on the Women Who Have Inspired Them

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Women have made incredible strides forward in academia. In 2018, 53% of the 79,000 doctoral degrees in the United States were awarded to women. That said, women still face unique challenges when faced with life after the Ph.D.

During March, which is Women’s History Month, the Library, in partnership with the National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, highlights the accomplishments of women, past and present, from many different fields. You can find these stories, here:

Since the Kluge Center has many women in residence with remarkable scholarly credentials, I took the opportunity to learn about two of them and the collections on which they are working. I started off by asking them who it is that inspires them.

Carla P. Freeman, Associate Research Professor of China Studies and Director of the Foreign Policy Institute at Johns Hopkins University, is the current Library of Congress Chair in U.S.-China Relations. At the Kluge Center, she is working on a project titled: The Enemy’s Lines: China Debates Containment. As a part of her residency, she is planning to host panel discussions about the domestic determinants of Chinese foreign policy, and about China’s international economic policy.

Giselle: Is there a woman in your field or academic career who has inspired you?

Carla: Probably the writer who inspired me the most was Barbara Tuchman. I try to weave historical context through my work, but I am not an historian and I am not the story teller she was. More immediately related to my field is another historian, Nancy Bernkopf Tucker. Her 1983 book Patterns in the Dust: Chinese-American Relations and the Recognition Controversy and the Recognition Controversy, 1949-1950, which I read as an undergraduate, left an indelible Impression on me.

Chinese Embassy, photographed by J. Gurney & Son. The image shows a group portrait of the first Chinese foreign mission abroad led by Anson Burlingame with John McLeavy Brown of Ireland, Ferdinand Auguste Emile Deschamps of France, and ten Chinese men (names written in Chinese under their portraits), including Chih Kang, Sun Chia Ku, and interpreters. 1868. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Sarah Smeed, doctoral researcher in American studies at the University of Kent and Arts and Humanities Research Council Fellow at the Kluge Center, is working on a project titled Consuming Appearances: Head Styling and Image in Euro-Indigenous Relations. The Library holds thousands of items related to Native Americans. This link will guide you to some of them.

Giselle: Is there a woman in your field or academic career who has inspired you?

Sarah: The first book I read for my undergraduate dissertation was Karen Ordahl Kupperman’s Indians and English: Facing Off in Early America, and I have always found Kupperman to be an inspiration in how to write cultural encounters in a clear and engaging manner. Whenever I’m struggling with how to approach a source, or I’m stuck on my own paragraph of writing, I always find myself returning to her body of work and coming away with more clarity.

Native American woman. Between 1921 and 1923. Harris & Ewing Collection. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
Young Native American woman, half-length, portrait, standing, facing front.
Lucille. c1907. Curtis (Edward S.) Collection. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

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