Department of English Department of English College of Arts and Sciences
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Department of English Research Award


Cynthia Grant Tucker earned her doctorate in Comparative Literature at the University of Iowa in 1967. She began her career at the University of Memphis that same year, andCynthia Tucker moved from Assistant Professor to Associate Professor in 1975, and achieved full Professor in 1982. Over the course of her career she has cultivated an acute interest in women’s studies and the voices of individual women, fueling her outstanding scholarship in biography, Women’s Studies, and American cultural heritage. She has been a visiting faculty member at the Graduate Theological Union at UC Berkley, and at the University of Iowa Summer Writing Festival.

            Her achievements in scholarship, specifically in biography, are particularly noteworthy. Soon after finishing her doctorate she became interested in the untold story and thus began a long and rewarding career of biographical scholarship which gives voice to the voiceless. Her interest shifted from comparative literature to biography, according to Tucker, because she took a job in the mid-south in the midst of the civil rights movement. This tumultuous period inspired her to seek out stories that have been traditionally glossed over or ignored in the traditional presentations of history.

            Her first book, Kate Freeman Clark: A Painter Rediscovered was published in 1981 in conjunction with a traveling exhibit of Clark’s art. The project was meant to bring this southern female artist out of obscurity and give her the recognition that she deserves. Her second book A Woman’s Ministry: Mary Collson’s Search for Reform, first published in 1984 and republished as Healer in Harm’s Way in 1994, which followed the life of Mary Collson as a social and political activist. Mari Jo Buhle said in the American Historical Review that “Tucker has created a biography that extends well beyond its subject. Her well-written study offers a sweeping interpretation of American liberalism, of the dilemmas of a special generation of women, and, ultimately, of their chronic disappointment.”

            Cynthia’s third book, Prophetic Sisterhood: Liberal Women Ministers of the Frontier, 1880-1930 (1990) chronicled the lives of a group of women who left their homes to minister to people on the frontier. Rosemary Keller declared that the work “fills a major gap in the study of women and religion in America.” In 1997 she published her fourth book, Spirited Threads: The Writing and Art of Patricia Roberts Cline. In this book Tucker has arranged Miss Cline’s journals alongside vivid pictures of her fabric art. Last, but certainly not least, No Silent Witness: The Eliot Parsonage and their Unitarian World was published in July of 2010. This book follows three generations of women in the Unitarian church, whose attempts to reconcile social ideology with their daily lives is met with resistance. This book received the Frederick G Melcher Award for “outstanding contribution to the history of religious liberalism” from the Unitarian Universalist Association.

            Throughout her career Dr. Tucker has been recognized with awards, grants and fellowships. Starting in 1980 she has earned awards on four different occasions from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Most recently, she has been recognized by a number of Unitarian organizations including a Unitarian Universalist Women’s Federation grant in 2009 and a Ministry to Women award in 2010. She also earned the Arts and Sciences Distinguished Research Award from the University of Memphis (2010) and the Memphis Women of Achievement Award (2011).           In addition to her sterling reputation as a biographer she also has served as the secretary of the faculty senate at the University of Memphis since 2009 and has been a devoted Affiliate Faculty member of the University of Memphis center for Research on Women.

Remarks presented by Dr. Eric Carl Link at the Department of English Fall 2012 Faculty Meeting

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Last Updated: 10/31/12