Meet the Fellows: 2017 Women’s Studies Fellow Rosie Bermudez
The Woodrow Wilson Dissertation Fellowship in Women’s Studies supports the final year of dissertation writing for Ph.D. candidates in the humanities and social sciences whose work addresses women’s and gendered issues in interdisciplinary and original ways. The 2017 class of Fellows include Rosie Bermudez, a doctoral candidate in Chicana and Chicano studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her dissertation, Doing Dignity Work: Alicia Escalante and the East Los Angeles Welfare Rights Organization, 1967–1974, was inspired by Ms. Bermudez’ personal experience:
My dissertation on the struggle for human dignity waged by single Chicana poor welfare mothers in East Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970 seeks to contribute to progressive change. I was drawn to this research topic because, like Alicia Escalante, the founder of the East Los Angeles Welfare Rights Organization, I grew up in poverty and witnessed the indignities my mother endured. These connections are testimony to the realities that continue to face poor people across the generations. Poverty and economic inequality, which contribute to the stripping away of poor people’s humanity, have persisted and accelerated in the 21st century. This reality has instilled in me a sense of determination and dedication to complete a dissertation which I believe has the potential to produce progressive political change in our society. I am committed to this because of the transformation that I personally experienced as a working poor first-generation college student when I read Escalante’s life history, as she recounted it. In the Chicana feminist journal Encuentro Femenil, Escalante detailed the discrimination she faced in the welfare system, the formation of her political consciousness, and her commitment to fighting for poor women’s human dignity. I thought, finally, here is a historical figure who reflects my experience, but, more importantly, who represents a legacy of resilience and resistance to social inequality. It is my goal to make Escalante’s story of social and political change accessible to wide audiences, who will, in turn, be motivated to carry on her legacy.