Memories of Phyllis Palmer

As we mourn the loss of our esteemed colleague Dr. Phyllis Palmer, we invite you to share your memories and photographs of Phyllis here. The reflections and photographs will be posted here (on the home page) over the next few weeks. 

Remembering Phyllis

“What I remember most fondly about Phyllis is her directness. She was outspoken, freely shared her opinion, and told you as it was. She was a great role model for me. We will miss you greatly Phyllis. Rest in peace.”

-Dr. Nema Blyden

“Phyllis's energy was part of building this vibrant intellectual community, which has been filled with integrity, a commitment to social justice, and mutual respect and support--one that I will always be proud to call home.”

-Dr. Julie Elman (read full memory here)

“Phyllis was chair of American Studies when I arrived at GW in 1996. I knew immediately that I had landed someplace very special, just from the energy and enthusiasm she emanated.”

-Dr. Melani McAlister (read full memory here)


Jacqueline Drayer wins the Luther Rice Fellowship!

Congratulations to Jacqueline Drayer (BA '15), who was recently awarded a Luther Rice Undergraduate Research Fellowship

Jacqueline describes her research plans: "I plan to explore the relationship between old alley and tenement housing and modern day micro apartments and tiny houses. Although the specific architectural forms have changed, minuscule dwellings are again popping up in cities like New York City, San Francisco, Washington DC, and London. Yet the homes' occupants and surrounding culture, as well as the architecture itself, has changed drastically. The image of micro housing previously and currently provides an alternate lens for viewing contemporary urbanism, and perhaps a glimpse of things to come."

About Us

The Department of American Studies at The George Washington University is one of the nation's most rigorous and intellectually innovative departments devoted to the interdisciplinary study of American culture and society. Internationally recognized for its research, our faculty is also committed to fostering a dynamic learning environment where undergraduate and graduate students work together with faculty to better understand the culture, politics and history of the United States and its role in the world. 

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In Memoriam: Phyllis Palmer

Dr. Phyllis Palmer, Professor Emeritus of American Studies and Women’s Studies, died quietly in her home on April 13th, after a year-long battle with cancer. Phyllis was a valued and committed faculty member at GWU from 1977 to 2009. She was deeply interested in issues of race, gender, and social justice, both in her writing and her teaching. Phyllis authored many articles and two books, Domesticity and Dirt: Housewives and Domestic Servants in the United States, 1920-1945 (1990) and Living as Equals: How Some White Americans Created Interracial Connections during the Civil Rights Era (2008). In addition, she was a pioneering member of the Urban Food Task Force at GW.  Phyllis was also an extraordinary colleague and leader. She directed the Women’s Studies program for more than ten years, from 1977 to 1989, and served as chair of the American Studies department from 1994 to 1999, and again 2002-06. As chair of American Studies, she transformed what had been a small unit of accomplished scholars into a significantly larger program that became one of the most successful American Studies departments in the country. She also served the university in numerous ways, chairing the steering committee of GW’s Decennial Middle States Accreditation Review in 1995, and acting as interim dean of CCAS in 1995, among other contributions. Most importantly, Phyllis was a mentor and advisor to several generations of students, and a friend and ally to her colleagues. Her energy, generosity of spirit, and commitment to social justice, as well as her honesty and courage in the last year of her life, remain an inspiration to those who knew her. 

Mergen-Palmer Distinguished Lecture

This annual lecture is named in honor of Professors Bernard Mergen and Phyllis Palmer. Barney and Phyllis are both professors emeriti of American Studies, and each played a major role as a scholar and teacher at GW. These two scholars shared a broad interest in American Studies as a field, and specific interests in sustainability, food studies, and the environment.

Read more about the lecture series here.

Donate to the fund here

Alumni Highlight: Amber Wiley

Dr. Amber Wiley, an American Studies PhD graduate of 2011, has been awarded the 2013 H. Allen Brooks Traveling Fellowship from the Society of Architectural Historians. This fellowship will allow her to travel abroad for one year in order to observe, read, write, and sketch. Dr. Wiley has also been awarded the 2014 Catherine W. Bishir Prize for her excellent article "The Dunbar High School Dilemma:  Architecture, Power, and African-American Cultural Heritage,” and her ability to contextualize material and architectural history in broader urban and African-American history, as well as her insightful and complex treatment of preservation issues. Congrats Dr. Wiley!