Celebrating Our Contributors #3

Throughout March, we have been publishing a series of posts to showcase the work and celebrate the accomplishments of nine EHN contributors who graduated in the past year. This month marks one year since lockdowns started happening around the world, so it seems only fitting to mark that hard anniversary with a celebration of perseverance in the face of it. Every couple weeks has featured three grads (see #1 here and #2 here). Today, in our last post, let’s toast to Tiffany González, Katrin Kleemann, and Claire Perrott!

Dr. Tiffany González

Graduated in August 2020,
PhD in History earned at Texas A&M University.

Dissertation titled: “Representation for a Change: Women and the Chicana/o Civil Rights Movement in Texas.”

Give us your elevator pitch. What was your thesis/dissertation?
My dissertation argues that Texas has a long history of Mexican American women in government well before the twenty-first century. During an era of social and political transformation, Chicanas actively built networks with other Chicanas across the country to respond to social challenges in the late twentieth century. The networks helped usher in Irma Rangel, the first Mexican American woman to the Texas State House of Representatives in 1977. My work allows us to understand the structural inequalities that have positioned Chicanas/Mexican American outside of spaces of power.

What was one thing that stood out to you, a cool find you came across, or something that surprised you in the course of your research?
When I started the research process for my dissertation, I realized that Irma Rangel had connections to Chicanas involved in the Chicano movement and the women’s movement. Chicano movement histories have been written as historical actors fighting against mainstream party politics. So in my work, I show how Chicanas were actually fighting to become part of the system because they had been excluded from it. I believe this is important because it adds to why the 1970s was a critical time period for advancing Mexican American women in public life.

Tell us a little bit about your process. Was there anything unique about how you did the work?
I often heard that I wouldn’t find anything at National Archives. That assumption often shaped my energy in wanting to do research in presidential or government-run archives. The first time I set foot in a presidential archive I went in with the mindset that I was wasting time. However, I did end up finding breadcrumbs – names and organizations – that validated my own theories about the important work that Chicanas conducted to advance representation in government and electoral politics. 

It was an extraordinarily rough year to complete a degree. What kept you going?
I recognize that I am fortunate to have landed a position after graduating in August 2020, but my future insecurity looms large in my mind. This insecurity has also affected my self-confidence in wanting to continue to refine my research. Through all the self-doubt and external judgment, I owe it to the women to bring their stories to light. That is what has kept me going this last year.

Dr. Katrin Kleemann

Graduated in July 2020,
PhD in History earned at the Rachel Carson Center / LMU Munich.

Note: turn on closed captions.

Dr. Claire Perrott

Graduated in May 2020,
PhD in History earned at the University of Arizona.

Dissertation titled: “A Cultural and Environmental History of Paricutin: Volcano in a Cornfield.”

Give us your elevator pitch. What was your thesis/dissertation?
I study a volcano that emerged out of a cornfield in Mexico in 1943. This volcano, named Parícutin, erupted for nine years, covered two villages with lava, and spewed ash as far as Mexico City, about 200 miles to the east. Despite the small size of the volcano, it drew national attention and became a reflection of Mexican national identity in the mid twentieth century. My research looks at how different groups interacted with and interpreted the volcano. My project begins with a chapter on those who were most severely affected for the longest: the indigenous villagers. In the following chapters, I examine how outsiders like scientists, artists, and tourists perceived the volcano during their visits.

What was one thing that stood out to you, a cool find you came across, or something that surprised you in the course of your research?
As a true Minnesotan and avid scrapbooker myself, my favorite find during my research was one of the scientist’s scrapbooks. Unfortunately, the creator did not include any fun stickers or colorful paper, but the album does contain pages and pages of captioned images. One page shows several pictures of young men, part of the “Parrot Club of Mexico.” This mysterious young men’s adventure club is of particular interest to me because of my last name.

Acervo Histórico del Instituto de Geología, Ezequiel Ordóñez Álbum “Paricutin,” page 72 Verso.
[Image description: an upheld photo album to show three pictures next to each other on a page. Each black-and-white paragraph, held in place with mounting corners, depicts 2 or 3 people standing on a volcanic landscape. Under each photo, a description: from right to left, these read: “492 – Otros muchachos del Parrot’s Club de Mexico que subleron al cratar del volcan, Mayo 24 de 1944” / “493 – El Piloncillo mostrando su cratercito ebierto al S.W. por donde salia una diminuta correntita de lava en movimiento, Mayo 24 de 1944” / “496 – Dos muchachos del Parrot Club de Mexico que subleron al crater del volcan, Mayo 24 de 1944”]

Tell us a little bit about your process. Was there anything unique about how you did the work?
One of my aims through this work is to contribute to the methodology of using visuals and objects as primary sources. I include an array of visual sources in my work, from photographs, to film, as well as illustrations and artwork. I also use the landscape itself. These sources allow me to bring out stories that have previously been left out of the history of this volcano, like the experiences of local indigenous people as well as women visitors.

It was an extraordinarily rough year to complete a degree. What kept you going?
There’s nothing more motivating than having a job waiting for you on the other side. I was fortunate enough to secure a job at Auburn University in the last few months of putting together my dissertation, and this served as the motivating light at the end of the tunnel.


*Cover image: A feeling of hope. Artwork by EHN contributor Kate McNally.

[Cover image description: painting of a mountainous landscape in different shades of blue. Two trees leaning toward each other in the front, and a lake with mountains in the background.]