Joan Nestle Prize

Joan Nestle

Joan Nestle

The Joan Nestle Prize recognizes an outstanding paper on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, transsexual, and/or queer history completed in English by an undergraduate student. It is awarded in odd-numbered years, for work completed during the two years.

The prize is funded through a special fund established by CLGBTH’s lifetime members.

To learn more about Joan Nestle, visit her website.


2013

Winner: Mark Mulligan,“Female Warriors and Victims of Circumstance: Male Impersonators in Early American Print Culture,” (Assumption College).

Mark Mulligan’s carefully crafted essay explores the evolution of narratives about male impersonators from the Revolution to the end of the Civil War. Based on a close reading of print sources from the American Antiquarian Society, Mulligan demonstrates that the Revolutionary-era discourse of the “female warrior” had origins in older European traditions. The discourse morphed during the years of the Early Republic to emphasize the male impersonator as a victim of circumstance. Yet the trope of the female warrior re-emerged by the time of the Civil War—“both a familiar and recognizable character and also a character …constantly reinvented.” Mulligan is sophisticated in his use of historiography and attentive to the sorts of questions that the print sources he has unearthed can and cannot answer. His essay shifts focus from the impersonator as exceptional to the impersonator as representative; Mulligan is less interested in the individual experience of any given impersonator than in the male impersonator as a “persona in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century consciousness.”


2011

Winner: Shelley Grosjean, “A ‘Womyn’s’ Work is Never Done: The Gendered Division of Labor on Lesbian Separatist Lands in Southern Oregon” (University of Oregon). Read online (PDF).*

Shelley Grosjean’s well-written and persuasive exploration of lesbian lands in Oregon makes imaginative use of a wealth of wonderful sources: images as well as texts. She locates these utopian experiments in the contexts of 1970s lesbian feminism and back-to-the-land movements, moving easily between the experiential details of daily life and labor and the larger political, economic, and social forces that gave them meaning. Her paper illuminates not only the visions of community that motivated so many women; it helps to explain why their practical efforts to realize those visions met so many obstacles. Grosjean is an undergraduate at the University of Oregon.

Honorable mention: Bradley Milam, “Gay West Virginia: Community Formation and the Forging of a Gay Appalachian Identity, 1963-1979” (Yale University). Read online (PDF).*

Bradley Milam tells a moving and emotionally rich story about Appalachia, a part of the United States that has, to date, been almost invisible in GLBT history. Relying on oral histories, Milam’s paper counters the urban bias of so many gay community studies. He suggests that the elements of gay life and consciousness in West Virginia emerged in a chronologically distinctive fashion that may be more typical of rural areas. Even more provocatively, he argues that many gays and lesbians in the state resolved their identities not by leaving home, but by doing exactly what they were raised to do: attend church, form families, and adhere to traditional American values. Milam is a 2010 graduate of Yale University.


2009

Winner: Ryan Darrow, “’A Great Surge of Purpose': Gay Persons with AIDS and Alternative Therapies” (Middle Tennessee State University, Professor Pippa Holloway). Read online (PDF).*

In “’A Great Surge of Purpose’: Gay Persons with AIDS and Alternative Therapies,” Ryan Darrow investigates the efforts of gay men in the 1980s to take control of their lives and their health. He explores a mostly forgotten, but at the time quite vital, aspect of the social history of the AIDS epidemic and the U.S. in the 1980s. This is a fine essay in the recent history of sexuality, medicine, and everyday life. A McNair Fellow, Darrow wrote this essay under the direction of Professor Pippa Holloway at Middle Tennessee State University.


2007

No prize awarded.


2005

No prize awarded.


2003

Winner: Gabriel Rosenberg, “Of Battles and Wars: Bowers v. Hardwick, The Advocate, and the Struggle for Gay Rights” (Grinnell College, Professor Russell Osgood)

A model paper on a very timely topic, it was carefully researched, clearly written, and carried its argument through from start to finish. Rather than interpret the Hardwick case as a moment in constitutional history, Rosenberg used it as a window into the state of gay and lesbian politics. He makes a persuasive argument that the Supreme Court decision to uphold the constitutionality of sodomy statutes had a galvanizing effect on the gay and lesbian movement of the mid-1980s. It helped revitalize a politics that had grown stagnant in the preceding decade. With the fate of the new Lawrence case hovering over us, Rosenberg’s essay suggests the usefulness of historical study as a way of gauging the impact of current events.


2001

Winner: Debra Michaud, “The Discursive Construction of the Lesbian Subject in Late Nineteenth-Century America: An Investigation into the Trials of Lillian Duer” (Hampshire College)

Honorable mention: Tim Retzloff, “‘Seer or Queer?’: Reflections of Race, Class, Sexuality, and Mass Media in the 1956 Arrest of Detroit’s Prophet Jones” (University of Michigan)


1999

Winner: Laura Ginsberg, “Sexual Identity and Democracy in Spain: Spain’s Gay Rights Movement and Poststructural Considerations for its Future” (Harvard University)


1997

No prize awarded.


1995

No prize awarded.

  1. * All essays are publicly archived here with the permission of their authors. Do not distribute, reproduce, or cite without appropriate attribution. [] [] []