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Release: Jan. 12, 2000

UI professor wins two national book prizes

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Linda Kerber, a professor of history at the University of Iowa, has won two national awards for her 1998 book "No Constitutional Right to be Ladies: Women and the Obligations of Citizenship."

The American Historical Association (AHA) awarded Kerber the Joan Kelly Memorial Prize for the best work in women's history and/or feminist theory and the Littleton-Griswold Prize for the best book in any subject on the history of American law and society. Kerber received both prizes at the general meeting of the AHA Jan. 7 in Chicago.

"No Constitutional Right to be Ladies" is an exhaustive look at the ways in which throughout American history women have been held to different obligations of citizenship than men. Only in the last generation have we abandoned the practice of excluding women from jury service, a practice that left women defendants to be judged by male-only juries. For most of American history, women's obligation to pay taxes was not accompanied by the right of representation; deep into the 20th century the obligation to be loyal to one's husband superceded the obligation to be loyal to the nation.

"A tour de force in every respect, and required reading for American historians and legal scholars, Kerber's new book is stunning," said Kirkus Reviews, Aug. 1, 1998.

In awarding the prizes, the AHA said Kerber's book "reshapes the history of American political development by investigating the obligations, rather than rights, of citizenship. This model study underscores the dangers of excusing women from civic responsibilities like loyalty oaths, jury duty, and military service required of men."

Shelton Stromquist, chairman of the UI history department, said the prizes reflect the impact the work has already had in the field. "Together the prizes reflect the cross-disciplinary significance of Linda's work," he said. "This represents an extraordinary level of recognition."