Salem College Faculty Member Nora Doyle Receives Mary Kelley Prize

Salem College Faculty Member Nora Doyle Receives Mary Kelley Prize

Press Release For Immediate Release
July 31, 2019

WINSTON-SALEM, NC (JULY 31, 2019)— Nora Doyle, Ph.D, Chair of the Department of History & Political Science at Salem College, recently was awarded the Mary Kelley Prize from the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic for her book “Maternal Bodies.”

Each year, the Mary Kelley Prize honors the best book published on the history of women, gender, or sexuality in the Early American Republic.  The award is named in honor of Mary Kelley, the Ruth Bordin Collegiate Professor of History, American Culture, and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan, who has produced path-breaking work on gender and intellectual history, the history of reading, and the history of education.

“The Mary Kelley Prize is a coveted award for history scholars and is presented each July for a book that is a landmark work,” said Salem College Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs and Dean of the College Susan Henking.  “I’m thrilled that Dr. Doyle is the recipient of this year’s honor. She certainly is deserving of it. Her incredible book about history and women serves as a tremendous learning tool for not only our students here at Salem College but across America.”

“Maternal Bodies” is reflective of the second half of the 18th century, a time when motherhood came to be viewed as women’s most important social role, and the figure of the good mother was celebrated as a moral force in American society.  Dr. Doyle’s book shows that depictions of motherhood in American culture began to define the ideal mother by her emotional and spiritual roles rather than by her physical work as a mother. As a result of this new vision, lower-class women and non-white women came to be excluded from the identity of the good mother because American culture defined them in terms of their physical labor. 

Dr. Doyle also shows that childbearing women contradicted the ideal of the disembodied mother in their personal accounts and instead perceived motherhood as fundamentally defined by the work of their bodies. Enslaved women were keenly aware that their reproductive bodies carried a literal price, while middle-class and elite white women dwelled on the physical sensations of childbearing and childrearing. Thus, motherhood in this period was marked by tension between the lived experience of the maternal body and the increasingly ethereal vision of the ideal mother that permeated American print culture.

About the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic

Established in 1977, the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic (SHEAR) is an association of scholars dedicated to exploring the events and the meaning of United States history between 1776 and 1861. SHEAR’s mission is to foster the study of the early republican period among professional historians, students, and the general public. It upholds the highest intellectual standards of the historical profession and encourages the broad diffusion of historical insights through all appropriate channels, including schools, museums, libraries, electronic media, public programming, archives, and publications. SHEAR cherishes a democratic ethos in scholarship and cultivates close, respectful, and productive exchanges between serious scholars at every level of experience and recognition. SHEAR membership is open to all; most members are professional historians employed in colleges, universities, museums, and historical parks and agencies, as well as independent scholars and graduate students.

About Salem Academy and College

Salem Academy and College is the oldest educational institution for girls and women in the United States. With more than 18,000 alumnae who serve as entrepreneurs, physicians, researchers, artists, lawyers, teachers, community volunteers, and corporate executives, Salem Academy and Salem College continues to educate the next generation of global leaders. For more information about Salem Academy, please visit For more information about Salem College, please visit