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Philip L. Carret Thomas Jefferson Essay Competition

This is a guide to the Philip L. Carret Thomas Jefferson Essay Competition. The essay competition was endowed in 1997 and was designed to have students reflect on the principles and ideals in Thomas Jefferson's life and career.

2008 Carret Essay Prompt

In the heady years during and after the American Revolution, citizens rallied increasingly to the idea that all men were created equal, yet it was clear that this sentiment had limits when it came to who was truly equal.  Women in Jeffersonian America (1774-1826) understood this especially well; in their own households many of the founding fathers showed the limits of their conceptions of social and political equality.  Yet Jeffersonian America was a moment in our history when women of all classes and groups began to forcefully debate ideas about gender in ways that shaped the rest of the nineteenth century.  Abigail Adams, for example, famously reminded her husband John to "remember the ladies" during his service in the Continental Congress.  Judith Sargent Murray was somewhat less deferential when she observed that "The idea of incapability of women is . . . totally inadmissible."  Some embraced an identity as "Republican Mothers," entrusted with special roles in the new nation but still not granted the full rights of citizenship.  Still others in the early republic envisioned a renewed emphasis on decorum and behavior that confirmed a woman's traditional role as a symbol of docility, virtue, and obedience.  How did women conceive their role in the new nation?  How did they begin to articulate new and important ideas about human equality?  Or, conversely, in what ways did women in Jeffersonian America counter those new ideals by appealing to older, more traditional ideas about hierarchy?

2008 Essay Winners

Name Award Title
Lauren Marie Eleuteri First Place "Patriots in the Kitchen: The Role of Republican Motherhood in Jeffersonian America"
Olivia Marie Hubert-Allen Second Place "Battle Lines of the Home"
Jenna Danielle Stout Third Place "Women in Jeffersonian America: What Rights Did They Have?"