Christy Pottroff, a PhD candidate in American literature has been awarded a Predoctoral Lapidus–OIEAHC Fellowship in Early American and Transatlantic Print Culture. The Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture awards up to eight predoctoral fellowships annually throughout the US and abroad. The small but very competitive and prestigious fellowship is for Pottroff's work on her dissertation “The Mail Gaze: Early American Women’s Literature, Letters, and the Post Office, 1790-1865,” which investigates the fascinating and overlooked influence of the USPS on women’s participation in early national literature and politics. Pottroff writes:
For women writers, a letter sent by mail meant direct access to the public sphere of national politics. I argue that writers like Anne Royall, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Harriet Jacobs use letters and references to the postal system in their literature to explore the crucial question: how will we be united? During this period of nation building, the postal map evolved from a sparse constellation of drop-points to an intricate web of private and affordable communication. Unlike other contemporary institutions, the United States Post Office never barred participation based on gender or race. The postal service connected all people—slaves, slave owners, mothers, children, soldiers, and the elite—in a private network of exchange under the auspices of the national government. The postal system enabled women to write their way into the public sphere of politics and literature.
The Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture supports research on the history and cultures of North America from circa 1450 to 1820 and includes related developments in Africa, the British Isles, the Caribbean, Europe, and Latin America. They offer fellowships, support publications, and coordinate collaboration among junior and senior academics. It's housed at the University of William and Mary and is supported, in part, from NEH and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.