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Women Thus Educated

Aspiring Historian explores Women's Education

Honors student Miranda Jessop has established herself as an accomplished researcher. While she still claims to be an aspiring historian, she was just named the Department of History Valedictorian and will graduate from BYU in April with four published academic works (one in Spanish) and experience as an editing staff member of The Thetean, BYU’s student journal for scholarly historical writing. With her professional interest in women’s history, it is no surprise that Hatshepsut, the first female pharaoh, is her hero.

Jessop has also served in several leadership positions, including President of Phi Alpha Theta, where she organized the Dead Suffragist’s Debate and the Dead Soldier’s Debate, and member of the Family, Home and Social Sciences Student Council. She presented her paper ‘Our Daughters are Our Shields’: Autonomy, Agency, and Resistant Self-Direction as Wielded by the Women of the Mongol Empire” at the Phi Alpha Theta Utah Regional Conference, and won an award for exceptional undergraduate research. Her accomplishments recently earned her one of three Outstanding Student Awards from Phi Kappa Phi, the most prestigious honors society on campus. When she isn't researching and writing about women's history, she's likely to be found happily working on a jigsaw puzzle, lifting weights, practicing jiu jitsu, playing guitar, or hanging out with her four younger brothers.

Jessop's passion and previous research experience in women’s history was an impetus for her Honors thesis. “My Honors Thesis is about the intellectual history of proto-feminist thought in early modern England, particularly in relation to female authors’ arguments in favor of women’s education. Specifically, I sought to better understand the transnational elements of and influences on proto-feminist theorists’ arguments during this time period. I originally chose my topic because I wanted to learn more about the history of women’s education, and in my preliminary search for sources, I happened across a copy of Bathsua Makin’s ‘An Essay to Revive the Antient Education of Gentlewomen’ in the Harold B. Lee Library. I was impressed by how clever her arguments were and how blunt some of her language was, and decided I wanted to dig deeper.”

“While it is difficult to know whether or not these medieval and early modern female authors read one another’s writings, a careful analysis of their works reveals transnational connections in the development of proto-feminist thought regarding the expanded education of women.” Jessop states that proto-feminist scholars “pointed out that the cultural and ontological metaphysics of womanhood were, in fact, in conflict and ought to be brought into alignment by extending educational opportunity to women. Scholars stated this education would be accompanied by religious, economic, and societal benefits.”

Jessop is now working on publishing her research. “Overall, researching, writing, and editing my Honors Thesis was a rigorous, ten-month project that stretched me as a scholar and as a writer and allowed me to create meaningful connections with other professors and students.” Her advice to other students working on their Honors thesis is to “Plan ahead! Good research, writing, and editing takes time – usually more than you think it will. Take advantage of the community of scholars around you and edit, edit, edit.”

In reflection, Jessop feels the Honors Program provided an essential part of her BYU education. “I signed up for Honors 120 my first semester at BYU because it seemed like the natural next step after AP and IB classes in high school. Honestly, I stuck with the Honors Program because I heard about the Cambridge Direct Enrollment Programme (which I would highly recommend) in that first Honors class. The Pembroke-King’s Programme in Cambridge was undoubtably my favorite part of the Honors experience, but I am also fascinated by what I learned in my Unexpected Connections class on ‘Representations of Nationalism.’ I continue to reference and think about the ideas introduced to me in that class, perhaps more than any other I’ve taken at BYU. It was a total paradigm shift for me.”

Miranda Jessop will graduate April 2020 with a double major in History and Spanish Studies, and a minor in German. Jessop’s Honors thesis, “‘Women Thus Educated’: Transnational Influences on Women’s Arguments for Female Education in Seventeenth-Century England,” will be available on BYU’s ScholarsArchive.