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Union University Dept of History

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Union History Major Wins Top Prize in Phi Alpha Theta National Paper Competition

Sep 24, 2013

Patricia Dawson, a member of the Delta-Psi chapter of Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society and a 2013 graduate of Union, won Phi Alpha Theta’s Lynn W. Turner Prize of $500 for submitting the best undergraduate research paper in the society’s 2013 nationwide history paper competition. Dawson’s paper was titled “The Weapon of Dress: Identity, Acculturation, and the Transition of Cherokee Clothing, 1794-1838.” The paper she used for the competition was a revised version of a senior seminar paper she wrote under the supervision of Dr. Keith Bates in the fall of 2012. Dawson is the first member in the 60-year history of the Delta-Psi chapter to win a national Phi Alpha Theta award for undergraduate papers.

Dawson’s paper showed how the Cherokee people used clothing to respond to the increasing influence of Euro-American civilization on their nation between 1794 and 1838. While a number of Cherokees believed that acculturation was critical to the survival of their nation, others argued that such an approach would compromise their identity. As a result, the Cherokees created apparel that found approval in the Euro-American community, but they also developed clothing that was distinctly Cherokee, using it as a weapon to help maintain their nation’s identity. Dawson made extensive use of primary sources in writing her paper, and she demonstrated a solid mastery of the secondary literature related to her topic.


Patricia Dawson holds a copy of her winning Phi Alpha Theta paper on the Cherokee people and dress, while Dr. Keith Bates, Patricia's senior seminar professor, displays a copy of the e-mail attachment that on September 24 announced the winners of the national Phi Alpha Theta paper competitions in 2013.