History in the Making

As Caitlin McGeever (’12) was researching colleges, CNU made the list when her high school counselor told her about the nearby Historic Triangle of Yorktown, Williamsburg and Jamestown and the unique opportunity the University offered history majors — an opportunity not available in her home state of New York. “CNU was the first school I visited, and from the moment I walked on campus I knew it was for me,” she says.

McGeever’s interest in Quaker women and their spiritual lives was piqued during her first class with Dr. Amanda Herbert, Assistant Professor of History. She had long been interested in gender studies and religion, and in Herbert's Tudor/Stuart Britain class, she learned more about the rise of Quakerism and decided to pursue the topic for her senior seminar. While interning at Colonial Williamsburg, she came upon more sources that inspired her to continue her inquiry. “This research resonates with me professionally because I am interested in studying how religion, especially the change in religion, affects the daily lives of common women,” she says.

For the project, McGeever examined pamphlets and letters written by Quaker women on spirituality and their right to speak and preach in public. The women risked severe punishment in 17th-century Britain for speaking out, but persisted in their beliefs and writings nonetheless. Herbert knew working with such old source material would be a challenge but believed McGeever was up to it. “Caitie really immersed herself in these difficult but rewarding primary sources, deciphering, transcribing and finally analyzing them to find evidence of women who lived and wrote 400 years ago,” she says. “Her genuine enthusiasm and historical curiosity for this topic were exciting to see.”

McGeever was active outside the classroom as a member of the President’s Leadership Program, vice president of the Feminist Alliance and vice president of CNU’s chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the international history honor society. She was also managing editor of the Mid-Atlantic Leadership Review, an online, peer-reviewed, leadership studies journal based at CNU. It publishes articles written by students from around the country. In her leadership role at the journal, McGeever managed article submission and review and worked with writers through the revision process. “This was definitely a great exposure to the submission and revision process and experience in a teaching capacity,” she says.

Her research and work in the area of female empowerment and leadership resonated for McGeever in and out of the classroom and made for a powerful and lasting experience. Even though such extracurricular involvement requires a lot of time management and sacrifice, it was central to her success. “By either joining a group or establishing your own, being involved introduces you to so many people and friends who enhance your college experience,” she says.

She recently graduated from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County with a master’s degree in historical studies. She works as a coordinator for the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute, and hopes to ultimately teach at a university. -- Brian McGuire

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