Student Spotlight: Madeleine Gillman presents honors thesis at two different conferences


Andrew Paisley

Madeleine Gillman, a senior English major with minors in women’s, gender and sexuality studies and sociology, presented her honors thesis “Everything Stays the Same: Women’s Autonomy in America” at two conferences this year.

Andrew Paisley , Campus Reporter

Madeleine Gillman, a senior English major with minors in women’s, gender and sexuality studies and sociology, presented her honors thesis “Everything Stays the Same: Women’s Autonomy in America” at this year’s Sigma Tau Delta Conference, held in March, and at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, held this month.

Gillman, assisted by her thesis adviser and English professor Marjorie Worthington, chose to do her thesis based on English studies and literature.

The thesis brings together novels from three different genres that were published within seven years of each other in the 1980s, and looks at what was happening socially and politically in the United States regarding women’s reproductive rights.

The texts that Gillman worked with are “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood, “The Xenogenesis Trilogy” by Octavia Butler and “Beloved” by Toni Morrison.

“I wanted to look at what the similarities between the political and social contexts of the 1980s and our present day are and what is making these texts resonate so strongly with people again,” Gillman said. “I wanted to compare the issues of feminism that occurred during these times and the feminism issues that are occurring in the world today.”

Gillman did her thesis for English studies but was able to incorporate her background in women’s, gender and sexuality studies based on the context of the novels.

“The top issue of the texts was bodily autonomy, or the right to have control of one’s body,” Gillman said. “I also touched a lot on the feminist movements that have occurred throughout the years, specifically the second-wave feminist movement which occurred in the 1980s with the issues of abortion and such.”

The thesis compares not just the issues between each novel but also the issues in the novels and the issues that are occurring with women’s rights in society, Gillman said.

Gillman’s first chapter of her thesis was about the novel “The Handmaid’s Tale.” She applied to present the chapter to both conferences and was accepted to both.

Gillman, who received 40-hour training in dealing with sexual assault and domestic violence in her Women, Gender and Violence class, was able to earn an internship last spring working with Sexual Assault and Counseling Information Service in Charleston.

“I learned a lot of training on empathy and how to address situations working on hotlines, and just how to be a good advocate,” Gillman said.

Gillman is graduating in May and plans on attending graduate school at the University of Louisville in Louisville, Ky., where she will pursue a master’s degree in women’s and gender studies and work in a teaching assistant position with women’s studies.

“I know for sure that I want to be involved with advocacy after graduate school,” Gillman said. “I am not sure if I will end up attending law school or get my Ph.D., but I know I want to make a difference in the world and be a good advocate to women.”

Gillman said she is open to possibly teaching women’s studies in the future, but right now she wants to work on dealing with issues such as sexual assault, domestic violence and other issues that women have to deal with.

Andrew Paisley can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]