Bancroft Prize Winners Announced

David M. Darlington, April 2010

Columbia University announced the 2010 winners of the prestigious Bancroft Prize on March 17, 2010. The three historians named were AHA member Linda Gordon (NYU), Woody Holton (Univ. of Richmond), and Margaret D. Jacobs (Univ. of Nebraska). The Bancroft Prize is awarded annually by the trustees of Columbia University to the authors of books of exceptional merit in the fields of American history, biography, and diplomacy. The 2010 awards are for books published in 2009.

Linda Gordon won for Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits, published in hardcover in October 2009 by W. W. Norton. The book is a biography of the Depression-era photographer Dorothea Lange and a social history of 20th-century America—in particular of San Francisco, the Dust Bowl, and Japanese internment camps. Gordon previously won the Bancroft Prize for The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction (2000).

Woody Holton was awarded for Abigail Adams, released in November 2009 by the Free Press. This sweeping biography reinterprets Adams and women’s roles in the early Republic. Holton finds Adams far more charismatic and influential than previous historians have realized, and, using documents previously overlooked, examines her relationships with husband John Adams and other Founding Fathers.

Margaret D. Jacobs was awarded for White Mother to a Dark Race: Settler Colonialism, Maternalism, and Indigenous Child Removal in the American West and Australia, 1880–1940 (Univ. of Nebraska Press, July 2009). The book examines indigenous communities in the United States and Australia and the removal of their children to institutions in the name of assimilation and protection. These government policies often inflicted great trauma on indigenous families and ultimately served the settler nations’ larger goals of consolidating control over indigenous peoples and their lands. White Mother to a Dark Race examines the key roles white women played in these policies of indigenous child-removal. Jacobs is professor of history and director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at the University of Nebraska.

The Bancroft Prizes will be presented at a formal dinner on April 21, 2010. The prize was established in 1948 and comes with a $10,000 cash award.