Tornado Science & Storm Chasing
I am in the early stages of conceiving this project, but my proposed dissertation topic would investigate the history of storm chasing in the United States. In doing so, I hope to ask questions about citizen science versus professional and academic research, the ways that we use technology to understand our environment and how those understandings shape our relationship to environment, and the role of local knowledge in these understandings. I also hope to explore questions of gender through the identity of storm chasers.
Children's Conservation Education
Though scholars have studied children's engagement with outdoor environments and the nature study movement of the Progressive Era, less has been written about children’s conservation education in the 1930s and 1940s, and the ways that larger conservation efforts in the wake of the Great Depression influenced children’s education. This research focuses on several examples of children's conservation programs in this era, especially the Missouri Nature Knights, a program that encouraged children to do "good deeds to wildlife" and move up the ranks from squire to knight to conservationist. Though they occurred in different states and deployed varying tactics, these programs all offer evidence that the conservation education of the 1930s and 1940s was not just about educating children, but about reaching their parents and making them receptive to conservation practices.
I presented a poster on this research at the 2019 American Society for Environmental History conference in Columbus, OH. (You can see the full poster here.) An article about the Missouri Nature Knights is under review at the Missouri Historical Review.
Health and Water in Hot Springs
My thesis research focuses on access to the perceived healing waters of Hot Springs, Arkansas, in the late 19th and early 20th century. There, indigent bathers fought to maintain their use of the waters even as officials largely rerouted the waters of Hot Springs through pipes and confined them to paid bathhouses. I focus on the Government Free Bathhouse, the one concession to these poor bathers, and the ongoing attempts to restrict who and how people could access the waters of this national land reservation (later national park). Despite the ability of indigent bathers to carve out a space for themselves on the hillside, the restrictions they faced resulted in an unequal distribution of the benefit of the public waters.
I presented this research at the 2018 Society for the History of Technology conference in St. Louis, MO (where it received an honorable mention for the Robinson Prize), and at the 2018 Western History Association conference in San Antonio, TX. I am currently working to prepare the manuscript for journal submission.
An essay based on this research was also selected for publication by Technology's Stories, which you can find here.
Alpine Blitch, Florida Fat Lady
Though somewhat far afield from my usual research, I stumbled on Alpine Blitch during an archival visit for a different project and could not stop thinking about her. Blitch, billed as "The Florida Fat Lady," performed in traveling sideshows and at Coney Island in the early 20th century. Blitch did not leave archival records that I know of, but I traced as much of her life as I could through newspaper accounts. The paper resulting from this research explores questions of agency, self-promotion, gender, and class through Blitch's life. I presented this paper at the 2018 Western Association of Women Historians conference in Davis, CA.