Web Exclusives: TigersRoar

Letter Box


More letters from alumni about Professor Natalie Davis

Praise for Professor Natalie Zemon Davis

Now that I'm an "old alum," I can't usually relate to the On the Campus articles - but Annie Ruderman '01's "Driving Ms. Davis" (February 21) caught my eye - and my sentiments.

I wasn't a history major, and I never took a history course other than History and Philosophy of Science. But Professor Natalie Zemon Davis ran a fabulous (albeit noncredit) multidisciplinary thesis seminar in 1980-81 in which I participated, which was my most valuable educational experience. This was before the creation of the women's studies department: The seminar was announced in the Prince and invited students from all departments to participate so long as their thesis topic was related to a women's theme. Yes, all 12 participants were women. I was the token science major (biology), but there were also econ majors, sociology majors, philosophy and literature majors, and of course history and politics. One woman was even writing a novel for her thesis.

The seminar was not-for-credit and convened once a week or every other. We started by introducing ourselves and our topics and initially just brainstormed about ideas about research directions (Remember: This was the day before the Internet or even word processors - research was done manually, by looking up publications in thick Index books), chapter outlines, and new "angles." As our work progressed, we came to the group prepared with specific challenges to address or read drafts of our work for group comment, critique and input. As a result, my thesis on "The Unnecessary Surgery Debate with respect to Hysterectomy" wound up including a chapter on the historical background of this issue, the political climate, the economic burden/perspective, statistics, etc. . .and the biological and medical perspectives wound up getting only one chapter each!

I don't remember many of the other women who participated, but I know that most of us said at the time that this seminar was the most valuable educational experience we had at Princeton. I would also guess that most of the women in that group received honors on their thesis projects. . .and of course, the fact that we were collaborating motivated each of us to give it our all (and we probably each felt that everyone else's project was far superior than our own). The real honors due here, of course, went to the unsung "heroine," Professor Natalie Zemon Davis, who truly deserves her legendary reputation, not only as a scholar, but as a mentor, and a teacher of the finest order.

I also don't know if this seminar was ever reoffered, or if anything similar is going on now that there's a women's studies department. I highly recommend this type of a seminar, however, for every multidisciplinary topical area.

Donnica L. Moore '81
Neshanic Station, N.J.

respond to this letter
Send a letter to PAW