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27th Annual All-University Conference for the Advancement of Women in Higher Education
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Conference Award for Best Paper

Christopher Thrasher, PhD. Candidate, History

Title: Bare Knuckle Feminist The Life and Legacy of Elizabeth Wilkinson The Eighteenth Century Championess of Europe

Abstract: In the eighteenth century, one fighter’s reputation outshone all others. She was Elizabeth Wilkinson, a bare-knuckled, trash talking, knife wielding, champion of all Europe. Throughout her life and for nearly a century and a half after she left the ring writers praised her in glowing language. She provided a point of imperial pride for authors in search of proof that the British, both male and female, were a tough and courageous people. This all began to change at the end of the nineteenth century. As the British empire seemed in danger of collapse and the American economy shifted unpredictably, men on both sides of the Atlantic began to redefine their masculinity. They embraced a new form of passionate manhood that judged men as lovers, athletes, and for their ability to give and withstand pain in the boxing ring. Boxing, which had long been British regardless of gender, now became male, regardless of nationality. Men built a mythical past for boxing that ignored Wilkinson and crowned one of her contemporaries, James Figg, the sport’s parent. This paper looks into the distant past and offers explanations for the present. It stands on a foundation of wide ranging methodologies including, feminist theory, statistical analysis, and a close reading of three centuries of historical texts. It provides insight into who our heroes are and how we choose them.


Cayla Clinkenbeard, Undergraduate, Angelo State University

Title: A Dose of Androgyny: The Cure for Inevitably Sexist Gender Identity

Abstract: The distinction between males and females has been represented throughout history by the masculine/feminine dichotomy which presumes that certain qualities are attributed to specific genders. The dichotomy presupposes that men are more capable of undertaking more powerful and intelligent roles than women. As women gained confidence in their voice, they sought to show the value in femininity and often exalted feminine qualities above the masculine. Susan Glaspell’s play Trifles exemplifies this inclination. The problem with this kind of rebellion is that the dichotomy has already been accepted. Conversely, recent studies prove that human beings are not consistently categorized by either masculinity or femininity. If this evidence is accepted, androgyny is a reality in humans. In her essay A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf points out that androgyny may also be perceived as an ideal for humans because neither gender is struggling for superiority against the other. Fiction, Woolf says, provides an insight into reality, and without the usage of both types of qualities, a writer is lacking in perspective. Furthermore, the stereotypes involved in the dichotomy only promote sexism and division between genders. Allowing for an androgynous mind refocuses the writer’s perspective and gives a more accurate, less biased, and more progressive direction for the future.



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