News Article

National Archives Foundation Announces Two Winners for First-Ever Cokie Roberts Women’s History Fellowship

July 19, 2021

Lois Leveen and Kara Dixon Vuic Selected as Inaugural Fellows

WASHINGTON D.C. – The National Archives Foundation, the nonprofit partner of the National Archives and Records Administration, announces the selection of the 2021 Cokie Roberts Women’s History Fellowship. Lois Leveen and Kara Vuic were selected as the first-ever Cokie Roberts Women’s History Fellows, and will each receive a $7,500 award along with support of their research projects at the National Archives.

This year’s pool drew more than 60 applicants with project proposals to research a wide array of women’s history topics at the Archives. From unearthing the stories of immigrant women to elevating the achievements of our nation’s first women elected officials, this year’s proposals painted a full range of American women’s history.

“The two inaugural Fellows reflect the spirit and passion Cokie brought to storytelling. We hope these two important projects will shine a light on the complexity and diversity of women’s stories, both past and present,” said writer and political commentator Steve Roberts, who was married to Cokie Roberts for more than 53 years.

The fellowship is supported by the Foundation’s Cokie Roberts Research Fund for Women’s History, which was launched in 2019 to honor the noted author and journalist Cokie Roberts who spent her career shining light on the stories of countless women in U.S. history that were previously unknown to the public. Roberts served as a board member of the Foundation for nearly 20 years. The fund in her honor encourages new research at the National Archives in the field of women’s history. 

Dr. Lois Leveen holds degrees in history and literature from Harvard University, the University of Southern California, and the University of California, Los Angeles. She is the author of two novels: Juliet’s Nurse (Simon & Schuster, 2014), which imagines the fourteen years leading up to the events in Romeo and Juliet, and The Secrets of Mary Bowser (HarperCollins, 2012), which was inspired by rumors of an African American woman who played a key role in the pro-Union spy ring that operated in the Confederate capital during the Civil War. In a truth-is-stranger-than-fiction twist, Dr. Leveen is now researching and writing a non-fiction biography of Mary Richards Denman, the real figure behind the Bowser myth. In addition to her Civil War achievements, Mary Richards Denman advocated for women’s rights and racial justice throughout Reconstruction, working both during and after the war with networks of black activists and their white allies. 

Dr. Leveen’s work at the Archives will involve piecing together a broad range of wartime and postwar government records to document Mary Richards Denman’s work within the spy ring, as well as documenting her activities after the war. These findings will be published in The Whole of History: Mary Jane Richards Denman, a Biography of Race and Gender in Nineteenth-Century America, a book that will introduce general readers to little-known aspects of women’s history and African American history.

Dr. Kara Dixon Vuic received her PhD from Indiana University and is currently the LCpl. Benjamin W. Schmidt Professor of War, Conflict, and Society in Twentieth-Century America at Texas Christian University. Her career has focused extensively on women in the U.S. Military with particular focuses on the Army Nurse Corps in the Vietnam War and the history of military entertainment. Her work reflects the Archives’s mission of bridging the past and present. As the case National Coalition for Men v. Selective Service System was recently denied hearing by the Supreme Court, women continue to hold unequal obligations for Selective Service registration. Using details found in Selective Service System and other records documenting the history of women in the military, Dr. Vuic will complete her book Drafting Women, which will intertwine the past debates about conscripting women with their present, and future, implications. 

Dr. Vuic’s work will result in a completed book, Drafting Women, which will be the first comprehensive historical work examining the nation’s debates about women’s conscription. It will be written accessibly for historians, policymakers, military leaders, and interested citizens alike.

“Cokie was a leader on our board and a lifelong advocate for the Archives. These Fellowships are a wonderful tribute to her on-going inspiration to the field of women’s history,” said Governor Jim Blanchard, President & Chair of the National Archives Foundation Board of Directors.

The Fellows research projects will be featured in a National Archives public program in the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives Museum and online through National Archives and Foundation channels. 

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About the National Archives Foundation

The National Archives Foundation is an independent nonprofit that increases public awareness of the National Archives, inspires a deeper appreciation of our country’s heritage, and encourages citizen engagement in our democracy. The Foundation generates financial and creative support for National Archives exhibitions, public programs, and educational initiatives, introducing America’s records to people around the U.S. and the world. Learn more at www.archivesfoundation.org.

About the National Archives

The National Archives is an independent federal agency that serves American democracy by safeguarding and preserving our Government’s records so that people can discover, use, and learn from this documentary heritage. The National Archives ensures continuing access to the essential documentation of the rights of American citizens and the actions of their government. From the Declaration of Independence to accounts of ordinary Americans, the holdings of the National Archives directly touch the lives of millions of people. The National Archives carries out its mission through a nationwide network of archives, records centers, and Presidential Libraries, and on the Internet at: archives.gov.