Essay on how water shaped rural women’s experience wins Mike Smith Student Prize

Karen Twigg’s background growing up on a farm underpins her interest in the historical experience of rural women.

Karen Twigg has won the 2019-20 Mike Smith Student Prize with an essay exploring how water availability shaped women’s experience in rural Australia in the 1950s.

Ms Twigg’s work was commended for its creative topic, strong analysis and skilled presentation. “All credit goes to Joan [Bennet née Corbett], a deeply reflective and eloquent rural woman, whose experience forms the central focus of my essay,” she said.

“My own background growing up as one of three daughters on a farm in rural Victoria underpins my interest in the historical experience of rural women.”

With a first prize award of $3000, the Mike Smith Student Prize recognises the work of students in the history of Australian science or Australian environmental history. It is awarded by the Academy’s National Committee for History and Philosophy of Science in partnership with the National Museum of Australia once every two years. The judging panel also includes an Editor of the Academy’s journal, Historical Records of Australian Science.

“I am in awe of Dr Mike Smith’s work and his skill in integrating archaeological and environmental material, so winning the prize that bears his name is very significant,” Ms Twigg said.

“The award has also encouraged me to continue to explore gender assumptions and how they shape the ways in which the environment was experienced, imagined and changed.”

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Ms Twigg could not be presented with her award at a conference. It is hoped that her award may be presented at a future event. Her essay may be published in a book or journal in the future.

The judges of this competition thank all those who submitted essays to the 2019-20 Mike Smith Student Prize. Entries for the next round will open in late 2021.

Students thinking of preparing an entry for the next Mike Smith Student Prize may like to consider the events of 2020. How have Australian scientists handled epidemics in the past?

However, the judges will welcome any topic in the history of Australian science and in Australian environmental history.

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