Kansas Native Benjamin Goossen '13
Publishes Article in Home State's History Journal
by Mariam Zakhary '13
Benjamin Goossen '13, an honors history and German studies major from Topeka, Kan., recently published an article in the most recent issue of Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains. The journal is issued quarterly by the Kansas Historical Society.
In his article, "'Like a Brilliant Thread': Gender and Vigilante Democracy in the Kansas Coal Field, 1921-1922" [pdf], Goossen examines issues of gender and politics in southeast Kansas in the 1920s. Specifically, he describes the 1921 coal mine strikes that protested poor working conditions and focuses on the role of women in this traditionally male environment. For about two months, several thousand women took up arms to ensure the success of the strikes. They went to the coalfields, shut down operating mines, and intimidated miners that did not participate in the strikes. Focusing on the political dimensions of the march, Goossen argues that the women's vigilantism constituted a radical and unorthodox form of democratic participation.
Goossen's interest in this topic developed while he researched a paper for his First-Year History Seminar on the American West. "I had no idea that Kansas, my home state, had such a vibrant mining history," says Goossen. " I became really interested in questions of gender and participatory democracy relating to the march. I kept finding facts that pointed in different directions than earlier scholarship."
Goossen notes that his Swarthmore experience has taught him more than the basics of archival research and historical composition. "More importantly, my classes have taught me that history is as much about the way you tell it as about what actually happened," he says. In particular, he credits Professor of History Allison Dorsey for her guidance and advice. "She taught me not to fear contradictions and anomalies in the historical record," he says, "but instead to see them as the richest possibilities for analysis."
Goossen will spend this coming summer in Germany researching his honors senior thesis on German nationalism and minority religious groups. He then plans to attend graduate school to study Central or Eastern European studies.