In a time period known for Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, a University of Toledo professor focuses on a little-known widowed woman.
Dr. Ami Pflugrad-Jackisch, associate professor of history and Humanities Institute Fellow, will present “The World of Westover: Gender and Slavery in Revolutionary Virginia” Wednesday, Feb. 24, at 5 p.m. in the Libbey Hall dining room.The free, public event will feature the research she’s conducted on Mary Willing Byrd, the owner of Westover Plantation in Virginia during the American Revolution era, for her manuscript, “The World of Westover: Mary Willing Byrd and Revolutionary Virginia,” as part of the Humanities Institute Faculty Fellowship she was awarded this year by the UT Humanities Institute.
“I am so grateful for this fellowship, because of the time and the funding it has offered me for my scholarly endeavors,” she said. “It’s given me a great opportunity to continue researching.”
Pflugrad-Jackisch will elaborate on Byrd’s story as a widowed woman running a plantation — a unique concept for the time period — when Gen. Benedict Arnold and Lord Charles Cornwallis overtook Westover. However, this talk will focus on Byrd’s interaction with her slaves, 49 of which escaped during the British invasion of her plantation during the Revolutionary War.
“I’m focusing on her role as a slave holder and her attempts to recover her lost slaves,” Pflugrad-Jackisch said. “She writes letters to anyone who will hear her to try to receive compensation for the loss of those slaves or get them returned if she can. I think this part of her life illustrates well both the limitations and the privileges of white women’s authority in an 18-century slave society like Virginia.”
The Humanities Institute in the College of Languages, Literature and Social Sciences serves as an advocate and support for the study of human culture at UT. The institute’s fellowship program was created to assist individual tenured faculty in humanities fields to make substantive progress on a project. Recipients receive a release from teaching one course and a $3,000 research grant to be used during their fellowship.
With the remainder of her time and funds, Pflugrad-Jackisch said she plans to visit the Library of Virginia and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where she will study firsthand documents relating to Byrd.
“The Humanities Institute Faculty Fellowship was created to help tenured faculty researchers in the humanities re-energize research that might have stalled because of the greater service burden that tenured faculty shoulder,” said Dr. Christina Fitzgerald, director of the institute and English professor.
The program is especially designed to help associate professors produce work that will qualify them for promotion to full professor, and to help both associate and full professors re-engage in professional activity. Fellows are then obliged to present their research.
“Dr. Pflugrad-Jackisch held her fellowship in the fall semester, so, in return, she is giving a public talk this semester on the research she completed,” Fitzgerald said. “Her work on Mary Willing Byrd and her world in Revolutionary America exemplifies the quality, relevance and importance of humanities research at UT, and I’m pleased she’s our first Fellow.”
Faculty members are encouraged to apply for next year’s fellowship by Monday, Feb. 29. For more information, contact the Humanities Institute at 419.530.4407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.