Anne Firor Scott Awarded 2013 National Humanities Medal

The historian will receive the award during a White House ceremony on Monday, July 28

Anne Scott

The esteemed Southern historian Anne Firor Scott (pictured), the W.K. Boyd Professor of History Emerita at Duke, has been awarded a 2013 National Humanities Medal. The awards were announced Tuesday by President Barack Obama.

Scott, who taught in Duke's history department from 1961 until 1991, was selected for "pioneering the study of southern women. Through groundbreaking research spanning ideology, race, and class, Dr. Scott's uncharted exploration into the lives of southern women has established women's history as vital to our understanding of the American South."

Scott was one of five academic award winners: The others were M.H. Abrams, a literary critic who taught at Cornell University; David Brion Davis, a Yale University historian; William Theodore de Bary, an East Asian scholar and Columbia University professor; and Darlene Clark Hine, a Northwestern University historian.

The medal honors individuals whose work has deepened the nation's understanding of the humanities, broadened citizen engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand access to important resources in the humanities.

Scott will receive the medal during a ceremony at 3 p.m. Monday, July 28, at the White House; the ceremony can be viewed at

"This is one of the highest honors a scholar can receive, but I am not surprised," said John Jeffries Martin, chair of Duke's history department. "Anne is not only an amazing scholar whose work did much to shape the field of women's history, she is also an amazing person, full of curiosity and insight about the world. And, of course, it is wonderful to see Duke recognized in this way for its leadership in the humanities."

Born in Georgia, Scott earned a master's degree in political science and a doctorate in history from Harvard University (then called Radcliffe College). Her 1970 book, "The Southern Lady: From Pedestal to Politics, 1830-1930," is a seminal work in the field of Southern women's history. She taught at Haverford College and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, before joining the faculty at Duke, where she became the first female chair of the history department.

Her accomplishments are many. In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson appointed her to the Citizen's Advisory Council on the status of women. In 1984, she was named president of the Organization of American Historians, and later, the Southern Historical Association. The Lerner-Scott Prize, named for her and historian Gerda Lerner, is awarded to the best doctoral dissertation on the subject of U.S. women's history by the Organization of American Historians. In addition, an endowment in her name supports students pursuing independent research in women's history.

She has been the recipient of many fellowships, prizes and honorary degrees, including a University Medal from Duke in 1994, a Berkshire Conference Prize in 1980, and honorary degrees from Queens College, Northwestern, Radcliffe and the University of the South. The Anne Firor Scott papers, which include correspondence, subject files and videos from 1963-2002, are housed at the Duke University Libraries.

For more information on the 2013 medals, visit the National Endowment for the Humanities website.

Photo by Les Todd/Duke University Photography