History Graduate Wins Research Paper Award

A study of midwifery in the U.S. South has earned a UT Arlington graduate first prize in a national competition.

Jenny Luke, who earned her master’s degree in history in 2013, recently won the 2013 W. Curtis Worthington Jr. Research Paper Competition from the Waring Historical Library at the Medical University of South Carolina. She will be honored at UMSC in a Nov. 13 awards ceremony.

Luke’s winning paper is based on her master’s thesis, “Catchin’ Babies: African American Midwives, Maternity Care, and Public Health Debates in the Jim Crow South, 1920-1970.” The former nurse and certified midwife said she was drawn to the topic through her coursework and with encouragement from History faculty members such as Associate Professor Stephanie Cole.

“I took several of Dr. Cole’s race and gender classes,” Luke said. “I found the topic relevant because so many poor women in America don’t have access to quality maternity care.”

History graduate Jenny Luke (MA, '13), center, poses with members of her thesis committee: Associate Professor Elisabeth Cawthon (left) and Associate Professor Stephanie Cole (right). Luke recently won an award for a paper based on her thesis. (Photo by James Dunning/COLA Communications)

History graduate Jenny Luke (MA, ’13), center, poses with members of her thesis committee: Associate Professor Elisabeth Cawthon (left) and Associate Professor Stephanie Cole (right). Luke recently won an award for a paper based on her thesis. (Photo by James Dunning/COLA Communications)

Born in England, Luke began her nursing career in 1983 and joined Parkland Hospital in Dallas in 1990. She took time off to raise her family before pursuing a history degree at UT Arlington just a few years ago.

She said her thesis topic raised several race and economic issues.

“Midwifery in America was seen as something to be eradicated. It’s always been a central and highly regarded part of health care in Britain,” Luke said. “And in some parts of the South, during the mid-twentieth century, impressive improvements in maternity care were centered on maintaining and upgrading a midwifery service.”

For the Worthington award, Luke will receive $1,500 and see her paper printed in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the South Carolina Medical Association. She said she is currently negotiating with a university press in the South to publish her thesis as a book.

As a graduate student, Luke was named a University Scholar and received the 2012 Wolfskill Award for Excellence in Master’s Studies in History.

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