Palmer Award 2021

July 27, 2021

By Eliza E. Canty-Jones

The “Oregon Historical Quarterly” is a peer-reviewed, public history journal that the Oregon Historical Society has published continuously since 1900. Pictured here are “OHQ” covers published in 2020.

The Oregon Historical Quarterly is guided by an editorial advisory board, composed of scholars from places around the state and from a variety of academic backgrounds. One of this group’s responsibilities is to vote annually on the best research articles published in the previous volume year. Each member provides three, ranked votes, along with comments about the chosen article’s strengths. Every year I look forward to the opportunity to read through their comments before tallying votes using a weighted system that determines the annual winner and two honorable mentions for the Joel Palmer Award. The award was established by Omar C. “Slug” Palmer and William J. Lang in honor of their ancestor Joel Palmer, a nineteenth-century Oregon leader. 

The winner and honorable mentions for the 2021 Palmer Award represent the diverse content published by the Quarterly. They address subjects ranging from the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries, connect Oregon and national history, and even consider the history of historiography — that is, the body of historical narratives and interpretations to which our journal contributes. The COVID-19 pandemic affected the work it took to bring these articles to readers, including delayed mailings, altered research and editorial processes, and of course, through the social context of anxiety, grief, and uncertainty. The Quarterly staff is grateful for the institutional support that enabled us to continue producing the journal and for the community of people whose labor is always necessary to do this work.

To publish their work in the Quarterly, each of these authors underwent a rigorous process of peer-review, revision, editing, fact-checking, and image research. We appreciate the community of archivists, scholars, mentors, and colleagues who have contributed to that process, aiding both the authors and our team in making these articles valuable to readers and researchers. We applaud the authors for their outstanding work — from conceiving their research questions to digging into the primary-source records to consulting with the work of other historians to tracking citations and, finally, to writing, and then rewriting, countless times. The results offer significant and interesting accounts and analysis of a few of the myriad people, places, and events that have shaped our world today.

“Oregon Native Son,” June 1899. Image courtesy of Internet Archive.
In the Summer 2020 issue of the “Oregon Historical Quarterly,” author Marc Carpenter examines the efforts of late-nineteenth-century heritage groups and fraternal orders to reshape historical memory with narratives that valorized pioneers and the violence inflicted on Native people during wars and resettlement. The “Oregon Native Son,” a publication created by the Indian War Veterans, Oregon Pioneer Association, and Oregon Historical Society is an example of those efforts. Image courtesy of Internet Archive.
Cheryl D. James, January 4, 1971. OHS Research Library, OrHi 104453.
Cheryl D. James is pictured here in her 1970 high school portrait. James was arrested on January 4, 1971, for allegedly assaulting an FBI agent who entered her home. She was not allowed a jury trial and was sentenced to eighteen months in jail, a harsh treatment that was not uncommon for young Black women in Portland during that time. OHS Research Library, OrHi 104453.

This year’s first-place prize goes to Jane Cigarran’s article, “The Case of Cheryl D. James: Institutionalized Racism and Police Violence Against Black Women in Portland, Oregon (1968–1974),” published in the Spring 2020 issue. In voting for this article, one member of the editorial board noted:

Cigarran has written a history of the highest caliber. The author humanizes historical figures and untangles the web of their personal lives and the even more complex web of the society in which they lived. Moreover, through an impressive set of sources, Cigarran seamlessly brings together the local and the national, the personal and the political, along with the past and the present — clearly conveying why history matters to our society and why Oregon matters in the national narrative.

One of the two honorable mention prizes is awarded to Marc Carpenter’s article, “Pioneer Problems: ‘Wanton Murder,’ Indian War Veterans, and Oregon's Violent History,” published in the Summer 2020 issue. One board member included this comment with their vote:

I found it a fascinating treatise from beginning to end and not only does the author discover a new source of data that researchers should be aware of (i.e., pioneer archives and organizations’ meeting notes such as the Indian War Veterans of the North Pacific Coast), he also highlights the serious impact early war veterans had on how our state’s history was sanitized for popular consumption, while not offering the authentic voice they espoused.

The second honorable mention prize is awarded to Kristin Mapel Bloomberg’s article, “Clara Bewick Colby and the Oregon Woman Suffrage Campaign of 1905–1906,” also published in the Spring 2020 issue. With their vote, one of the journal’s board members commented:

Poster featuring Clara Bewick Colby, ca. 1905. OHS Research Library, Scrapbook 88.
Clara Bewick Colby is featured on this poster as a lecturer and organizer for the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Kristin Mapel Bloomberg documents Colby’s work as one of Oregon’s primary fieldworkers during the state’s 1905 to 1906 woman suffrage campaign. OHS Research Library, Scrapbook 88.

It was so interesting to read about her pro-suffrage campaign field worker experiences and the strategies she used to reach a variety of audiences — and to learn about the anti-suffrage campaign she and others were up against. As the author states ‘the significance of individual campaign workers [can]not be underestimated’. . . I really appreciated the deep-dive into one woman’s story that was part of the multi-layered and hard fought foundation the built up over the decades in support of women’s suffrage.

Please join us in congratulating these three authors for their work and contributions to Oregon history. All three articles are now available to read on our website. The Oregon Historical Quarterly is the journal of record of Oregon history and a benefit of OHS membership. Join today to start receiving the journal, which OHS has published continuously since 1900, or purchase single-issue print copies in the OHS Museum Store.

Author biographies

Kristin Mapel Bloomberg is a professor of women's studies at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she also holds the Hamline University Endowed Chair in the Humanities. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and her research interests focus on the history, culture, and literature of Midwestern women in the long nineteenth century. She has published on topics such as women's social and civic organizations, woman suffrage, women and early co-education, and women-authored journals and novels. She is currently at work on a biography of woman's rights advocate Clara Bewick Colby.

Jane Cigarran is an executive assistant an NuScale Power in Corvallis, Oregon, and is working toward a degree in history at Oregon State University. Her article grew out of a research paper she wrote in 2018 as a student in Marisa Chappell's Racial Politics in the United States class, and it was the 2018 recipient of the Barbara Bennett Peterson History Award.

Marc James Carpenter is an assistant professor of history at the University of Jamestown. His primary research interests involve the memory, celebration, and erasure of settler violence in the Pacific Northwest. He holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Oregon, an MA in history from Penn State University, and a BA in history from Portland State University. He has given public talks on pioneer monuments and violence across Oregon and Washington. His co-written monograph on the history of the Oregon state parks system, So the Future Will Have a Place, will be published in 2022.

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