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University of Iowa News Release

April 15, 2004

UI Historian Berman Wins Guggenheim Fellowship

Constance Berman, a professor of history in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has won a 2004 Guggenheim Fellowship. The prestigious award will support her continued research and writing for a book on, "Women's work and European Economic Expansion, 1050-1250."

The book examines the impact of women on the economic expansion in Western Europe during the Central Middle Ages. During that period, population grew, city life revived, and specialized classes of artisans, builders, clerics, and scholars created the texts and edifices of a "Twelfth-Century Renaissance." But economic historians' explanations for this sudden upturn in the economy have been incomplete, primarily because they have taken little account of how women's work contributed to that growth.

Berman says her book will "put women back into the larger story of medieval economic history." The advent of water-powered mills, for example, dramatically reduced the amount of time women had to spend in food preparation, allowing them to turn to spinning wool into yarn and other textile work. Textiles were the largest export to the East at the time, and women's contributions were crucial to that engine of economic growth.

Berman was one of 185 U.S. and Canadian artists, scholars, and scientists selected by the Guggenheim Foundation from more than 3,200 applicants. The amount of the award is $38,000, which will pay for a replacement while she is on leave during calendar year 2005 to continue research and begin writing.

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation was established in 1925 by United States Senator Simon Guggenheim and his wife as a memorial to a son who died in 1922. The Foundation offers Fellowships to further the development of scholars and artists by assisting them to engage in research in any field of knowledge and creation in any of the arts. The Fellowships are awarded to men and women who have already demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Mary Geraghty Kenyon, 319-384-0011,