Stories Archive

UW History Alum Tells Why, in the Soviet Union, it was "Everyone to Skis!"

1944 Soviet poster that inspired Frank's title: "Everyone to Skis!"

Winter is nearly upon us, and in the Pacific Northwest that means it time to break out the skis. And if you’re looking to relax with a hot chocolate and a good book after a long day on the slopes, check out Everyone To Skis!: Skiing in Russia and the Rise of Soviet Biathlon by UW History PhD recipient W. D. Frank.

The history of skiing and biathlon in Russia has intrigued Frank since long before he began his studies as a historian. During the 1970s and ‘80s, Frank was a competitive biathlete, training with the U.S. national team and even qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Trials in 1980. “The Americans against whom I competed were talented athletes,” Frank recalls, “and yet, they would get trounced at international races at the hands of the Russians. I could never understand why.” Having looked high and low for a book that could explain this puzzle, Frank finally decided that he would have to write it himself. He began his research on the history of biathlon in the Soviet Union as part of his dissertation work at UW. “I was very fortunate to have an excellent group of area advisors in the Department of History. The Russian courses in the Department of Slavic Studies were also phenomenal,” he notes.

The finished book, published in 2013, charts the complex story of how popular recreation, political culture, government programs and historical experiences all came together to create the Soviet biathlon juggernaut. And although the center of the biathlon universe has since shifted to Germany, Frank’s story remains resonant. ...

Graduate Student Profile: Josué Estrada

Josué Estrada

Josué Estrada recently earned his master’s degree in history, and is moving full speed ahead with his doctoral work. His dissertation will expand on themes he explored in his MA research: internal migration in the U.S., the complex formation of rural Mexican American communities, the dynamics of voter suppression among Mexican Americans, and the Mexican American movement against voter literacy tests.

“Meet me with a shovel!”: The Legacy of Edmond Meany’s Trees

A recent lightning strike forced the removal of the grand old sequoia near the northeast corner of Smith Hall. The tree was known to many as the “Meany sequoia,” after the man believed to have planted it, Edmond Meany. In truth, it is difficult to document the tree’s connection with Edmond Meany, but the attribution is widespread and entirely credible. In fact one of Meany’s great legacies to the university is the variety and richness of the campus’s trees. A count of the rings indicates the sequoia was about 104 years old, confirming that it was planted at the height of Meany’s time as the university’s unofficial chief arborist.

Edmond Meany was a polymath, perhaps best remembered as the founding father of the UW Department of History. He began his UW career as an undergraduate in the class of 1885, and over the years earned multiple degrees and occupied a number of positions at the university. In 1897 he was appointed as the university’s first professor of history and head of the nascent Department of History. From then until his death in 1935, Meany was a UW fixture, beloved as a teacher and respected as a trailblazing historian of the Native Americans and pioneers of the Northwest. Always an advocate for the importance of history, his leadership laid the foundations upon which the UW would build the department into a world-class program.

Edmond Meany was not simply a man of letters, however. He was just as fascinated by the region’s natural history as by its human history...

The “Chicano Experience” from Family Memory to Senior Seminar

Three generations of Lindsay Little's family

Sometimes history is about the grand sweep of events, but at other times it can be very personal. Last fall, senior history major Lindsay Little was worried that a piece of history was in danger of being lost—the history of her own family. “On my mother’s side we have a huge family. My grandmother, Maria Cornelia Crisantos, was the eldest of twelve children. She came to the U.S. from Mexico, and for many years lived as a migrant farm worker in California.

Slideshow: "Ever Closer to Freedom: The Work and Legacies of Stephanie M. H. Camp"

The conference "Ever Closer to Freedom: The Work and Legacies of Stephanie M. H. Camp" was held at the University of Washington on May 7th and 8th. Professor Camp was a beloved member of the history faculty, as well as a widely-admired and influential historian of African American slavery, the American South, women and gender. She passed away in 2014.

In 2002, Camp organized a conference entitled "New Studies in American Slavery." A watershed event, that conference sparked tremendous energy in the study of slavery, gender and black history. Among its results was an edited volume, New Studies in the History of American Slavery, edited jointly by Camp and Ed Baptist of Cornell University. Together, the conference and book inspired a generation of researchers in these fields to embrace new ideas, interpretations and methods.

The 2015 conference sought to build on this legacy. The emotional and intellectual energy at the various panels and talks was palpable, creating many memorable moments. A particular highlight was the keynote lecture by UCLA Professor Robin Kelly. In his talk, Kelly underscored the many ways that Camp had advanced the study of slavery in America, while also emphasizing the great relevance of Camp's work to the events which have shaken America's cities in the last year. And, like the 2002 conference, this event is also expected to lead to the publication of an edited volume.

The conference served to advance the fields of study that had inspired Stephanie Camp, but it also allowed those who knew her an opportunity to reflect on her passionate spirit, eloquent scholarship, and warm affection. In this, participants were aided by a pair of special guests, her parents Don and Marie Camp, who attended from Philadelphia.

Click to see conference slideshow

In Memoriam: Jon Bridgman, 1930-2015

The Department of History was saddened to lose one of its leading lights, Emeritus Professor Jon Bridgman, on March 9th, after more than five decades of teaching at the University of Washington. Bridgman joined the university in 1961, as a specialist in modern European history. After his retirement in 1997, he continued to be an active participant in the life of the university and the department through teaching courses and giving public lectures.

History in Action: Department Supports Ferguson Teach-In

Organizers Stephanie Smallwood (right) and Ralina Joseph

Department of History faculty, staff and students played an important part in a one-day teach-in event on the University of Washington campus, entitled “Ferguson and Beyond: Race, State Violence, and Activist Agendas for Social Justice in the 21st Century.” History Professor Stephanie Smallwood took a leading role in organizing the event, in conjunction with Professor Ralina Joseph of the Communications Department, and with the assistance of many units and individuals across the university and beyond.

The teach-in, held January 23rd, drew a crowd of two hundred and seventy people from throughout the Seattle area to the university’s Ethnic Cultural Center. The aim of the event was to connect past, present and future in order to address the pressing issue of racial and state violence in a constructive way. The morning session, “The Past is Always Present,” sought to look back in time and contextualize current events by reference to historical experience. The afternoon portion turned toward the future, by emphasizing the urgent imperative for universal social justice, encouraging student and youth activism as an engine for change, and ending with an open-ended discussion of “The Way Forward.”

Professor Smallwood explained that the format grew out of her own experience attending teach-ins as an undergraduate. “In hindsight,” she said, “those events turned out to be the rare moments to engage faculty outside the classroom, as real people.” A faculty member herself now, Smallwood saw that “we scholars of race, of U.S. history, had something to say, that needed to be said, and wasn’t being said.”