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Distinguished Master's Thesis Award

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2018 Robert and Kathryn Augustine
Distinguished Master's Thesis Award Winner

Monica Burney, Master of Arts in History, earned EIU's top research honor for her master's thesis titled, The Meaning of a Woman's Work: Refugees, Statelessness, Nationality, and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, 1918-1931.

Sace Elder, Ph.D., professor of history served as the faculty mentor.

The award is named for, and supported by, former dean of the Graduate School, Dr. Robert Augustine, and his wife, Kathy, an EIU alumna.

Thesis AbstractMonica Burney

This work analyzes how the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) sought to influence how the League of Nations approached questions of nationality and statelessness between 1918 and 1931. Especially important were the WILPF's efforts to aid women and children who remained in Turkey following the Armenian genocide, as well as the organization's efforts to address the statelessness crisis that arose following the dissolution of Austria-Hungary. Their activism helped to pressure the League of Nations into creating the Commission of Enquiry on Deported Women and Children in Turkey and Asia Minor. Their efforts to end statelessness culminated in the creation of a 1930 Convention on Statelessness, which brought together members from a number of international organizations. Though the WILPF's efforts met with limited success, their activism shows that women viewed their voices as necessary in debates over nationality. Additionally, their activism suggests early continuity between the collective right of national self-determination and later twentieth-century conceptions of individual rights. The thesis thus demonstrates that the WILPF's expansive understanding of peacemaking blurred the distinction between social reform and international politics. It furthermore argues that the WILPF should be properly understood as an early human rights organization.

Full thesis may be accessed at Booth Library's The Keep