Photographer: Brad Chaffin
Aside from her professorial responsibilities, Katherine Jellison is active in the League of Women Voters, the Athens Reading Club and Philanthropic Educational Organization.
Photographer: Brad Chaffin
Nov 3, 2010
Citizens are frustrated with the state of our nation, and many are feeling hopeless. But that’s no excuse for Americans to take their right to vote for granted, according to OHIO history professor Katherine Jellison.
Since 1993, Jellison has been instructing Ohio University students on voting struggles of women, African Americans and college students, among other topics. This last group, in particular, occupied her conscience in the days leading up to Tuesday’s election.
“I’d like to encourage them to recognize that standing on the sidelines is not the solution to their frustrations,” said Jellison.
For college students, who will soon be entering the job market, the current economic situation is daunting. But they are not alone. Concerns over jobs and the economy have been top-of-mind for citizens across the country this election period.
The same is true for Athens County, said Jellison.
This fall, Jellison gathered and screened audience questions for candidates at local candidate forums hosted by the Athens’ County League of Women Voters (LWV). For more than ten years, Jellison has been a member of the organization in various forms, including president and secretary.
Rebecca Watts, chief of staff and special assistant to the president, first met Jellison at an Athens Town Hall Meeting that LWV was helping to organize. Watts said she got to know Jellison better when the two were on an OHIO committee to organize the addition of four new plaques to the West Portico Wall at Memorial Auditorium.
“Dr. Jellison … is a noted scholar and author, all while being a very active community member, good neighbor and great asset to the University community and the Athens community,” Watts said. “She does this all so humbly and with such principle. She is a great role model.”
For Jellison the joy of being a member of LWV is that it gets her involved in the community while also serving as an extension of her role as a women’s historian. LWV started out promoting women’s suffrage, and, after women were granted the right to vote in 1920, it became a voter education organization.
“To be involved in an organization that has this incredible history and to take its purpose beyond the classroom, into the community, it’s an important activity,” Jellison said.
The three organizations she has presided over in recent years each have a long history, an element that Jellison finds appealing. In addition to her activism with LWV, she is president of two other groups, the Athens Reading Club and Philanthropic Educational Organization (PEO).
The Athens Reading Club has been around since 1871 and is the oldest continuous reading club in this part of the country, according to Jellison. PEO began in the 1860s and raises scholarship money for female students while also encouraging women’s education.
Jellison is also a member the Agricultural Historical Society, the Rural Women’s Studies Association, and, most recently, the local chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.
And, still, she manages to find time to teach and does it well.
Since arriving at OHIO, Jellison has been honored with the University Professor Award and the Excellence in Feminist Pedagogy Award. She was also designated as a Fellow in the Charles J. Ping Institute for the Teaching of the Humanities from 1998 to 2006.
Jellison said the awards indicate that she must be doing something right. But it’s not the accolades that fuel her impassioned career.
“I like talking about issues that interest me and I’m passionate about, and I like having an influence on young people’s lives,” Jellison said.
Krystyna Chisholm, a senior majoring in chemistry and psychology, is currently taking Jellison’s American Women’s History before 1877 class.
“She is skilled at engaging students in thinking about the material, while still providing adequate background information,” Chisholm said.
Considering the amount of research Jellison has done over the years, she should have no trouble providing a wealth of information to her students.
She is currently writing her third book, which focuses on Amish farm women in Lancaster County, Penn., during the Great Depression. She said she enjoys the research that her writing requires.
“Some days I might not find much, but the days I did it was just like finding gold,” Jellison said.
Occasionally, Jellison travels to share her research, such as her recent trip to the University of North Dakota where she was keynote speaker for the 45th Annual Northern Great Plains History Conference.
“I like to visit other campuses and see how they do things,” said Jellison. “But I must say, this is still one of the most beautiful ones I’ve ever been to.”