Nominations sought for award honoring local women doing social justice work

Nominations are being accepted through Feb. 1 for the annual Starkweather Award, which honors women with a connection to Eastern Michigan University (EMU) who are doing social justice work.


EMU's Department of Women’s and Gender Studies presents the award, which is named after Mary Starkweather, who funded the building of historic Starkweather Hall on the EMU campus. In 1841, Starkweather and her husband John moved to a 160-acre farm which is now the campus of EMU. She was an active women's club member, and her Ypsilanti home became the Ladies Library in 1890.


Linda Pritchard, professor emerita of history and women's and gender studies at EMU, says the award was conceived in 2015 to honor the 40th anniversary of women's studies as a discipline.


"Women's studies was a new field created in the 1970s as the academic arm of political activism on behalf of women," Pritchard says. "It has grown to be a major discipline now within the university. We thought it was time to recognize the roots of women's studies as applied to our local community."


The award committee seeks nominations of outstanding feminists from the extended EMU community. Pritchard says that could mean the nominee is an EMU graduate or is doing social justice work that relates to EMU and the greater Ypsi area.


The first award went to former Michigan Sen. Alma Wheeler Smith in 2016. The 2017 award went to Kathleen Fojtik Stroud, the founder of Ann Arbor's SafeHouse Center. A dual award was presented to Nathalie "Nat" Edmunds and Jane Bird Schmiedeke in 2018 for their efforts toward historic preservation in Ypsi.


Community members may submit letters of nomination to Pritchard at 714 Pray-Harrold, Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, MI 48197. Pritchard says nomination letters received by Feb. 1 will be given preference.


The award decision will be made by EMU’s Women’s and Gender Studies Community Board and presented at the honors reception for EMU’s Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at 4 p.m. April 10. Questions can be directed to lpritchar1@emich.edu, and more information about the Starkweather Award is available here.


Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She has served as innovation and jobs/development news writer for Concentrate since early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to Driven. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.


Photo courtesy of Eastern Michigan University's Women's and Gender Studies Department.