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Part One Southern Roots

TIMELINE

  • Jody giving a speech at the unveiling of a historic marker in Washington, AK in 1937. She says of the photo, “I think I was always meant to be a lecturer!”

  • Jody around the age of three or four.

  • Jody in her junior year of college

  • B.A. History

    Jody graduated with a B.A. in History Henderson State Teachers College in Arkansas

  • Faculty Photo

    Jody’s faculty photo from Sheridan High School

  • M.A.

    Jody on graduation day from her M.A. program at LSU (1956

  • M.A.

    Jody on graduation day from her M.A. program at LSU (1956

  • 20160820

    Ph.D.

    Outside LSU History Department prior to graduation ceremony.

  • Jody and her mother, Lucile, sitting outside of the library on graduation day

Jody was born and raised in a small town called Washington, Arkansas, which had been the Confederate capital of Arkansas after Little Rock was taken over by the Union forces. She grew up “in the midst of history,” hearing stories from her grandmother about the Civil War and the Reconstruction era. Having enjoyed history from childhood, she had a good high school history teacher who turned her on to being an historian. She eventually decided to make history her focus of study during undergraduate school.

Jody graduated in 1953 with a B.A. in history from Henderson State Teachers College in Arkansas. With enough education hours to be certified to teach in Arkansas, she took a job teaching at Sheridan High School. Her salary was quite good for that time, as she recalls, $2,000 for nine months of work. Only twenty years old while most of her students were around seventeen, Jody had some trouble being a disciplinarian. Once during her homeroom, the school superintendent walked by and heard two boys squabbling in the back of the room. He walked in, went straight to the boys and paddled them both. Before he left, he put the paddle on Jody’s desk and told her to start using it. In Jody’s words, “the struggle to keep order takes away from the pleasure of imparting knowledge.”  Rather than take up the paddle, she applied to graduate school and accepted an assistantship at Louisiana State University (LSU) and left for Baton Rouge in 1954.

Jody went to LSU wanting to study southern history about which she had heard so much as a youngster, such as stories of the Civil War and Reconstruction. In a colonial history course from Dr. John Duffy, she was introduced to a different type of history: medical history. At the time, most medical history was written by medical doctors interested in biography, technical advances, and medical institutions. Duffy was more interested in the social history of medicine and epidemics. Intrigued by the topic, and encouraged by Duffy, Jody went on to write her master’s thesis on a handwritten medical manual that had been passed down in her family, containing a mixture of folk remedies and regular medical advice.

Jody continued her study of medical history at LSU where she wrote her Ph.D. dissertation on the history of yellow fever in New Orleans. Many years and much research later this revised and expanded study became her book The Saffron Scourge: Yellow Fever in Louisiana, 1796-1905. This isn’t the dry technical account that one might expect. In fact, one reviewer wrote that “the book is surprisingly readable, considering the scholarly nature of the material.”

 

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Part Two Gender Bias in Academia

When Jody graduated with Ph.D. in 1961, most university history departments were not hiring women and were very open about their wish not to. Jobs were usually obtained through word of mouth, and thankfully, Jody had two prominent historians working on her behalf. Even with their help, she didn’t find a job that year, but was awarded a one-year Andrew Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh in 1961. When a position in state history opened up back at LSU the following year, she was hired because they knew she could handle it.  Although temporary initially, it became a tenured post.

Jody has spoken often about the difficulty that existed for women trying to work in academia in the sixties and seventies, claiming that rejection based on someone’s gender is far more devastating than rejection on the basis on one’s