Nicholas L. Syrett wins Fass-Sandin Prize

Robin Bernstein (committee chair), Melissa Klapper, and Pamela Riney-Kehrberg unanimously selected Nicholas L. Syrett’s article, “‘I did and I Don’t Regret It’: Child Marriage and the Contestation of Childhood in the United States,” to receive the Fass-Sandin Prize for the best article (in English) on the History of Children and Youth published in 2013. Twenty articles were submitted for the committee’s consideration.

Syrett’s essay, published in the Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth (vol. 6, Spring 2013), uses an exceptionally rich and multi-dimensional field of evidence, including legal cases, archival newspapers, and census data, to argue that at the turn of the twentieth century, some minors used early marriage as a way to gain agency over their own lives and in some cases to contest the state of childhood itself. This is an original, counter-intuitive argument that challenges the received dogma that child marriage is by definition exclusively oppressive to youth. The Prize Committee particularly admired the way that Syrett used legal evidence to unearth youths’ perspectives on—and manipulations of—the law. Syrett’s essay is a significant and unforgettable work of scholarship. Syrett is an associate professor of history at the University of Northern Colorado.

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Guest Post: Helle Strandgaard Jensen on Kermit’s Chubby Danish Cousin

Helle Strandgaard Jensen recently graduated from the European University Institute in Florence, Italy with her PhD entitled Defining the (In)appropriate: Scandinavian debates about the role of media in children’s lives, 1950-1985. She has written a number of articles on the history of children’s media and the epistemological failures of ‘moral panic’ theory. She starts as assistant professor of Film- and Media Studies at University of Copenhagen 1 February 2014.

At the small and narrow desks in the old buildings of the Danish National Archives, it is virtually impossible to avoid peeking at your neighbors’ documents. In this way I discovered that, unlike me, most of the archives’ users come there to study their own ancestry. Personally, family history never excited me much until recently when I discovered a very peculiar kinship relation between two TV-star hand-puppets!

What I found as I went through the archive’s documents was evidence that a very popular Danish TV hand-puppet, a little chubby frog named Kaj, was made with direct inspiration from Sesame Street’s Kermit. At first I just thought it a funny fact. Lately, however, my mind keeps returning to the kinship between the two frogs and the story it relates of transnational transfers, and the tension between globally-marketed children’s media and local demands of enculturation.

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