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Trustee Scholar Lori Weaver ’06 (White Haven, Pa.) is working on a research project seeped in history, but what she’s discovering will have an impact on generations to come.

As an EXCEL Scholar, Weaver is searching through hundreds of books, articles, journals, and case studies to find information for a book on the gender revolution in modern Europe being co-authored by Joshua Sanborn, associate professor of history.

In Lafayette’s distinctive EXCEL Scholars program, students conduct research with faculty while earning a stipend. The program has helped to make Lafayette a national leader in undergraduate research. Many of the more than 160 students who participate each year share their work through articles in academic journals and/or conference presentations.

The book examines the transformation of the gender roles in European society from the late 18th century to the present.

“We’re focusing on five particular revolutions that changed the way men and women thought about other men and other women, themselves, and each other,” Sanborn says.

He explains that those five events are the French Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, the process of imperial expansion throughout the 19th century, World War I and World War II, and the sexual revolution, which is being treated as a process that took place throughout the 20th century.

Until now, no textbook has taken an exclusive look at gender roles throughout European history.

“It’s such a missing piece in teaching European history – it’s just so important that we’re doing this project,” says Weaver, a double major in history and government & law.

She explains that since the project is breaking new ground, it makes the work challenging.

“This isn’t a topic that has had a lot of study or a lot of press in a long time and it’s hard to find works that relate coherently to the subject,” she says. “I’ve been pulling together bits of pieces of information from the past hundreds of years throughout the European continent.”

Weaver is responsible for completing an exhaustive list of all the sources that pertain to gender history for the textbook’s bibliography. She then has to narrow the list of works to what is especially relevant and credible. Finally, she and Sanborn will decide which sources from her list contain information that relates to his sections of the book and write abstracts.

When the book is completed, it will reveal some compelling facts.

“The book points out that men’s and women’s own ideas of masculine and feminine have changed over time,” Sanborn says. “It’s been a historical process, fitting into certain gender roles. For instance, there aren’t many men today that would be caught wearing a powdered wig. The way we think about ourselves as it relates to others in the same and opposite sex has changed over time and we’re trying to point out the moments and the informal factors as to why it’s changed.”

“Doing the project has really showed me that gender continues to play into everything we know about society, and history and events that we like to take for granted are influenced by gender,” Weaver says. “People often take for granted that history is something that exists outside of the perception of gender, but it’s so interrelated and parallel to it. Even science and religion and other things we think are so autonomous are related. A strong example of this is during the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe, scientists started to do a lot of different experiments where they would study women’s skulls and bodies to try and find support for their beliefs that they were weaker and less mature, which would prove that women were not as intellectual as men.”

Sanborn says in addition to learning about changing gender roles throughout European history, Weaver is getting first-hand experience in seeking out hard-to-come-by documents.

“Doing reference research is somewhat different from doing lower-level research, such as you would do for a first- and second-year term paper,” he says. “You need to be much more comprehensive in what you do, need to have an expansive view of what’s out there. There are certain skills you learn when doing research that are transferable. Among them are the ability to ask a specific question and come up with a certain answer, using clarity and diligence in finding good sources, and analyzing them to come up with answers.”

For Weaver, who plans on attending law school, those skills are invaluable.

“To go through a huge text or other source and pick out the important things is a really important skill to have and to come across that as an undergraduate – I think it’s something really special that Lafayette offers,” she says.

Weaver is president of College Democrats, a campus tour guide, and writes for The Lafayette. She participates in mock trial, volunteers through Lafayette’s Landis Community Outreach Center with the prison tutoring program, and helped found Lafayette’s chapter of Amnesty International. Weaver graduated from Bishop Hoban High School.

Sanborn recently provided his insights as a Russian history expert on History Channel International’s “Global View” program. He is author of Drafting the Russian Nation, a groundbreaking book on modern Russian and military-social history, and is working on a book about the interrelationship between civilians and military men in front-line areas of the Eastern Front in World War I.

Selected from among Lafayette’s top applicants, Trustee Scholars like Weaver have distinguished themselves through exceptional academic achievement in high school. They receive from Lafayette an annual minimum scholarship of $7,500 ($8,000 effective with the Class of 2009) or a grant in the full amount of their demonstrated need if the need is more than $7,500.

As a national leader in undergraduate research, Lafayette sends one of the largest contingents to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research each year. Thirty-nine students were accepted to present their research at this year’s conference.

Categorized in: Academic News