Sunday, September 23, 2012

Halpern Award Recipient Reports on Her Summer Research

Kate Beach, a senior Religious Studies major, was awarded a 2012 Halpern Award. She offers these words about her experience:

"In late August 2012, I had the opportunity to travel to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and examine the Phoebe Yates Pember letters, part of the University of North Carolina’s Southern Historical collection. Through the generous gift of the Halpern family, I was able to spend several days working directly with Mrs. Pember’s letters and documents, giving me a unique perspective on the life of a Jewish woman during the Civil War. Mrs. Pember’s letters spanned nearly sixty years, beginning with the years before the war and her work with the Chimborazo Confederate Hospital in Richmond, Virginia, and ending with the final months of her life. Her documents touched on countless topics, problems and events, and painted a compelling portrait of a strong Jewish woman living in times of vast change and upheaval.

"By the end of my visit, I felt that I knew Mrs. Pember. I read long exchanges between Mrs. Pember and siblings, friends and even potential suitors. I held a rejection letter from a literary magazine and felt her disappointment. I celebrated the acceptance letters that followed. I was given a very private look into a real woman’s life, lived over a century before mine, and was able to gain a new perspective on life for Jewish women both during and after the Civil War.

"I began to research Mrs. Pember for my capstone paper in religious studies. As I continue my research on Jews in the Confederacy and explore the role of Jewish women specifically during this time of unrest, I will carry Mrs. Pember’s letters with me. She has provided me with an invaluable primary source that goes far beyond any information I could have found today. The Halpern Award made my trip possible, and has given me an opportunity that I was proud and honored to receive."

For more information on last year's Halpern Award competition, see here.

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