Outstanding Achievement Award

The Outstanding Achievement Award recognizes the accomplishments of established leaders in the field of Slavic, East European and Eurasian women’s and gender studies. Their contributions have broken new ground in the discipline and laid the groundwork for others.

The committee is now accepting nominations for the 2021 AWSS Outstanding Achievement Award

The Outstanding Achievement Award recognizes the work of a scholar in the field of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies who has also served as a mentor to female students/colleagues in this field. To submit a nomination, please write a letter detailing what your candidate for this award has achieved in Slavic Studies in terms of scholarship or other professional accomplishment, as well as mentoring of female students/colleagues. In addition, please provide a short list of references with accompanying email addresses so that the committee can contact these referees directly for further information. The committee recommends that this list include both peers and students/staff. A list of past Outstanding Achievement Award recipients is available here.

Please email your letter and list by August 1, 2021 to: Dr. Melissa Bokovoy (president.awss@gmail.com) President, Association for Women in Slavic Studies.



2020 Award

The Association for Women in Slavic Studies is pleased to announce that the recipient of its 2020 Outstanding Achievement Award is Esther Kingston-Mann, Professor Emerita, University of Massachusetts-Boston.

After earning her PhD at Johns Hopkins University, in 1969 Kingston-Mann joined the History Department at University of Massachusetts at Boston, where produced path-breaking scholarship, worked tirelessly to make her institution a more diverse and inclusive place, and inspired successive generations of students.

Kingston-Mann’s foundational body of scholarship is empirically driven, meticulously researched, and elegantly written. She has been in the vanguard of research on Russian rural life, with particular attention to gender, family and economy. Her work bring the methods of social and economic history into dialogue with anthropology, philosophy, political theory and literature to offer readers a panoramic view of the peasantry. Kingston-Mann has authored three monographs and edited one book on Russian history. Lenin and the Problems of Marxist Peasant Revolution, 1893-1917 (Oxford University Press 1983) turned a sympathetic eye to the plight of the Russian peasant, emphasizing the possibilities that Lenin saw in the peasant commune. Her edited book (with Timothy Mixter), Peasant Economy, Culture, and Politics in European Russia, 1800-1921 (Princeton University Press 1991) offers a seminal chapter by her that one colleague in Russian peasant studies said he “turns first to … for inspiration and to set [himself] on the right path” every time he sits down to start a new project. Her second monography, In Search of the True West: Culture, Economics, and Problems of Russian Rural Development (Princeton University Press 1999) offers a sweeping reconstruction of ideas from the 19th through the end of the 20th centuries. Her most recent book, Women, Land Rights and Rural Development (Routledge 2017) demonstrates a scholar at the height of her interpretive prowess. This book offers a comparative study of rural women’s economic history in 17th century England, 20th century Russia/USSR, and 20th century Kenya. Moving beyond policies dictated by men, Kingston-Mann traces the role of women in rural development in these very different times and places, finding the kind of similarities that validate her comparative methodology.

Impressive as her track record is in Russian peasant studies, some of her Slavic Studies colleagues may not be aware that she has simultaneously made an extraordinary contribution to scholarship on diversity and inclusion in higher education. In addition to writing numerous articles and book chapters, Kingston-Mann has edited three books on this topic: A Diversity Research Initiative: How Diverse Undergraduate Students Become Researchers, Change Agents, and Members of a Research Community (Ford Foundation/UMB 1999); Achieving against the Odds: How Academics Become Teachers of Diversity Students (with Tim Sieber, Temple University Press 2005) and Transforming Classroom Culture: Inclusive Pedagogical Practice (with Arlene Dallalfar and Tim Sieber, Palgrave 2011).

These publications on diversity and inclusivity grew out of work begun in the classrooms of UMB, but which expanded to encompass several significant administrative roles and research projects. Kingston-Mann’s commitment to diversity and inclusion was evident early on in her creation of UMB’s first ever modern world history class, which challenged a Eurocentric curriculum. She later authored the university’s first sexual harassment guidelines. In the early 1990s she chaired a two-year-long student, faculty, and staff Diversity Working Group, which led to the establishment of a university-wide diversity curriculum requirement. From 1991 to 2000, Kingston-Mann served as director of the Center for Improvement of Teaching (CIT), securing a $750,000 Ford Foundation grant to fund and sustain the Center’s faculty seminars on diversity and inclusion. She led a Ford Foundation-funded, UMB-based Diversity Research Initiative (1998-99) to foster research skills among undergraduate students. From 2003 to 2005 she served as a principle investigator on a Ford Foundation-supported effort to create the New England Center for Inclusive Teaching, Scholarship and Curriculum Change (NECIT). Supporting faculty seminars based on UMB’s CIT model, the consortium drew together seven New England colleges and universities. Also in 2003, Kingston-Mann received a Ford Foundation grant to create a student-scholars award program. Since 2005, this program has been known as the Kingston-Mann Awards for Student Excellence in Diversity/Inclusion Scholarship and embraces undergraduate students in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire.

This illustrious resume speaks to a profound concern with forging a fair and welcoming environment for students who, for a range of reasons, felt that the university classroom was not a place where they were welcome or belonged. A testimonial from one of Kingston-Mann’s students, now an Associate Professor of US history, illustrates how a pedagogy of empathy animated Kingston-Mann as a teacher and mentor. Thirty-five years after sitting in Kingston-Mann’s classroom, she writes that “the biggest impact she had was in her ability to see an individual (shy) student among the crowd.” Inviting this student, far from home and a bit adrift, to a holiday dinner at her house, Kingston-Mann’s kindness demonstrated, in this former student’s words, “dedication to teaching, not just to convey information, but as a holistic vocation meant to shape and improve lives.”

Though a kind, generous teacher, Kingston-Mann was not one to shy away from a fight. Some fair, but pointedly worded letters to the editor are out there for those inclined to track them down. They combine a rapier wit with precise, evidence-based arguments. No doubt these same qualities—intellect and humour, but also open-heartedness—proved to be the secret ingredients to Kingston-Mann’s efficacy on multiple fronts. Both Slavic Studies and, more broadly, the tertiary sector are better for having had Ester Kingston-Mann in them. It is with gratitude that we recognise her accomplishments with the 2020 Outstanding Achievement Award.

2019 Award

Over more than three decades, Irina Reyfman has been a role model as a dedicated scholar-teacher. After receiving her PhD in Slavic Languages and Literatures from Stanford University, Professor Reyfman joined the faculty of Columbia University in 1986. She has also held visiting appointments at the University of California at Berkeley, Yale, Harvard, and Princeton. A specialist in eighteenth-century Russian literature, Reyfman has published four single-authored monographs, two co-edited volumes of essays and, most recently, co-authored a comprehensive history of Russian literature. This body of work, along with an outpouring of support for her nomination from students past and present, speaks to the synergy between her research agenda and her work in the classroom.

If there is one word that comes through loud and clear among those who know her it is care—care for the work, and care for those around her. I hesitate to call them “students”, as she is quick to treat them as something more than that. They are colleagues, fellow travelers into the joys of Russian literature. Her former and current students alike praise her for her genuine interest in their insights and her ability to spread an infectious passion for Gogol, Radishchev, and Trediakovsky. Eschewing shame or competition as motivational tools, Reyfman leans instead on the intrinsic delights of literary discovery to inspire curiosity. As one student wrote, “whenever she asked whether we had read some lesser-known literary work and we said no, she would let out a sigh of happiness, smile, and say, ‘u vas vse vperedi!’ [you have everything ahead of you!].”

Reyfman’s passion is paired with rigor. Apparently, she is known as a “velvet fist in an iron glove,” a description that captures with affection and humor the fact that she is a demanding, but fair advisor. She is “direct and assertive, but never harsh.” She turns around drafts with a speed that makes one’s head spin—sometimes within a mere day—and does so while providing detailed feedback on the ideas and the writing. Reyfman has supervised fifteen dissertation and been a second reader on many more; the research of these students span the eighteenth through twenty-first centuries. Budding scholars seek out her service on their committee because they know she brings an encyclopedic knowledge of Russian literature and a keen eye from which their work will benefit.

Her generosity toward students extends well beyond the classroom. Reyfman was an early and important supporter of the relaunch of the Columbia graduate student journal, Ulbandus: The Slavic Review of Columbia University. She led a semester-long exploration of Radishchev’s Journey from Moscow to St. Petersburg with students who met weekly, voluntarily, just out of sheer love for and curiosity about the text. On another occasion, unfinished business from a Russian stylistics class one semester continued informally the following semester with a discussion in Reyfman’s home about Pelevin’s “Nika.” A monthly kruzhok in her home brought together students of Slavic literature, history, and comparative literature to present work-in-progress. Those events were marked by their egalitarian ethos, which erased any hierarchy between students and teachers for the sake of a rigorous and stimulating exchange of ideas. These efforts, taken together, show Reyfman to be an unsung architect of intellectual community, above and beyond the call of duty.

When praised for her tireless efforts, with characteristic modesty Reyfman is quick to dismiss this work as “just doing her job.” But anyone would recognize this level of effort and devotion as beyond the bounds of what is typical and thus worthy of recognition. As one of her supporters wrote, Reyfman “sees her work with her students, above all, as her ‘imperishable’ contribution to the field.” For more than thirty years, she has worked toward this distinguished legacy.

Reyfman is, of course, not just an effective, respected, exceptional teacher and mentor. She is also a distinguished literary scholar. Her scholarship across all her publications builds on the tradition of Tartu cultural semiotics so as to preserve that theory’s search for invariants. She balances that structuralist impulse with careful attention to literary history, an awareness of the nuances of individual texts and authorial careers, and a profound study of literary institutions. To touch on just a few highlights of her writings, her first book, Vasilii Trediakovsky: The Fool of the “New” Russian Literature (1991) earned accolades as “inspired,” “pioneering,” and “ambitious,” with significant methodological implications for the study of eighteenth-century literature broadly. Her 2012 Rank and Style: Russians in State Service, Life, and Literature enjoyed similar praise for its blend of historical and literary studies, and heralded by one reviewer as “an impressive testimony to [Reyfman’s] range and conviction that a sympathetic understanding of the social framework underpinning Russian noble culture enriches our appreciation of Russian literature”—a description that could apply equally to her teaching philosophy. Further elaborating on her explorations of literature, literary culture, and professionalization, How Russia Learned to Write: Literature and the Imperial Table of Ranks (2016) received praise for its elegant writing, persuasive argumentation, and nuanced reading of canonical eighteenth and nineteenth century writers. It is no coincidence that a scholar of this profound erudition has co-authored Oxford University Press’s History of Russian Literature (2018), a work that is destined to become a classic in the field, turned to by students and scholars for many years to come.

For these many achievements and more as a teacher, mentor, and scholar, AWSS is pleased to bestow its 2019 Outstanding Achievement Award on Irina Reyfman.

2018 Award

The Association for Women in Slavic Studies is extremely pleased to announce that Rochelle Goldberg Ruthchild is the winner of the 2018 Outstanding Achievement Award. One of the founders of our organization and first president, Rochelle has been a critical leader throughout its 30-year history. She is an exemplary scholar, a champion of women’s studies and women’s achievements, as well as a mentor to colleagues and students in the US and abroad. Moreover, her activism in the Boston feminist community and support for feminists around the world has made a significant impact. The selection committee makes this decision based not only on Dr. Ruthchild’s long-standing service and scholarship but on the testimonials of multiple other senior colleagues, who often stated their astonishment that Rochelle had not received this honor already. In this 30th anniversary year of AWSS, we are therefore correcting this oversight and acknowledging the numerous contributions Dr. Ruthchild has made to our field, to our profession, and to feminist communities all over the world.

Many, many senior scholars and AWSS past presidents wrote in support of Rochelle’s nomination, speaking to her integral role in AWSS, her record of excellent scholarship, and her mentoring of students and colleagues, among other achievements. For one thing, without Rochelle, AWSS simply might not exist, at least not in its current incarnation. As one nominator wrote, “we think of AWSS as an organization that still functions because of the combined work of many people. While that is true, I also know as a member and past-president of AWSS that the very existence of AWSS from a logistical, financial perspective, is entirely due to the diligence of Rochelle Ruthchild since the founding of AWSS in 1988.” Especially in her long-term role as Clerk (and now Investment Officer), she has spent countless hours working on behalf of the organization, especially in such unglamorous but critical aspects as maintaining its 501-c-3 status. Rochelle’s deep knowledge of AWSS history, finances, and governance has made it possible for AWSS to not only survive but thrive over the years. Another past president writes: “For Rochelle, the purpose was not merely to keep AWSS viable, but most important of all, to support and strengthen research and scholarship in women’s and gender studies.” Thus there was always a larger purpose to the sometimes tedious work of filling out the paperwork and monitoring the budget.

Equally important is Rochelle’s role in the founding of AWSS. As one supporter wrote: “Having defended a dissertation on “The Russian Women’s Movement, 1859-1917” in 1976 at a time when few in the Slavic field were engaged in research, writing, and teaching on Slavic women’s history and literature, Rochelle was instrumental in creating the first network of scholars pursuing an interest in Russian women’s history. A roundtable on “Retrieving Russian Women” at the 1986 AAASS convention in which Rochelle participated attracted an audience of at least 30 people. When many of those in attendance expressed a desire to keep in touch and exchange ideas, it was decided to form a Women’s Studies Caucus that would meet at the annual AAASS convention. People wishing to join the group were asked to contact Rochelle. This initiative was followed by the founding of AWSS at the AAASS convention in Boston in 1987; Rochelle, as a founding member, was its president from 1988 to 1990, and has been a member and clerk of the AWSS Board of Directors from 1990 to the present [currently under the honorary title of Investment Officer]. At one time or another, she has participated in just about all AWSS’s programs and committees and has been a longtime staunch advocate for advancing the status of women in the Slavic profession, especially encouraging and mentoring younger scholars.”

Rochelle has produced some of the most important work on Russian feminists, has influenced scholars and students around the world, and is widely considered to be the world’s leading authority on the topic. That work first appeared in countless seminal articles and book chapters. Her award-winning book, Equality and Revolution: Women’s Rights in the Russian Empire, 1905-1917 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010), is a landmark in women’s studies, challenging Soviet (and other left-wing) dismissals of feminism as inherently bourgeois with her close analysis of a successful class-diverse women’s movement emerging in early twentieth-century Russia. (If only Aleksandra Kollontai could have read Rochelle’s monograph....) Rochelle has continued her trenchant revision of implicitly misogynist Soviet “women’s history” with her individual and comparative studies of such political figures as Anna Filosofova, Nadezhda Stasova, and Maria Trubnikova; her survey of feminist publications and publishers in prerevolutionary Saint Petersburg; and her analysis of feminist dissidents’ activism in the late Brezhnev period. Dr. Ruthchild’s scholarly corpus is extraordinary in its intelligent revisionist zeal. Her productivity is also remarkable in light of the fact that she never benefited from the perks of a tenure-track position, with regular sabbaticals and financial support for field research and conference attendance.

Rochelle has also been the major book reviewer in Russian women’s and gender studies in the prestigious Women’s Review of Books and is an editor of Aspasia, the first journal dedicated to Russian, Eastern European, and Eurasian women’s and gender studies. In 2008 Rochelle was the plenary speaker at the conference in St. Petersburg celebrating the centenary of the First All-Women’s conference and since that time has served in that function many a time, including at the AWSS Conference in Alexandria in 2017.

Given her positions at Norwich University and Union Institute and University, where she spent most of her career between 1981 and 2007, she did not train her own graduate students in the field of Russian women’s history. Rather, she mentored generations of scholars in the U.S. and Russia with generosity and patience, without collecting much (or any) institutional visibility.  Because Rochelle is someone interested in results and not titles.  She simply wants to share her passion and her insights with anyone and everyone who will have them. One recommender was at the 2008 St. Petersburg conference and “witnessed firsthand the adoration and respect that our Russian colleagues have for Rochelle. It is clear that she had reached out to all of them as a mentor, giving them advice about how to navigate the challenges of introducing their work to academics in the West and encouraging them to present their work at AAASS, now ASEEES. In addition, Rochelle spearheaded a campaign within AWSS to raise money to help some of our Russian and Ukrainian colleagues to come to ASEEES and to travel within Russia itself to attend scholarly conferences.” Such commitment to the education and professional development of scholars, combined with her patience and generosity, is a rare find in our professional world.

More recently, Rochelle’s service has extended into new areas. She co-coordinates a working group on gender, socialism and post-socialism at Harvard’s Davis Center and continues to work in various capacities (grantwriter, fundraiser, producer) on the 888 Women’s History Project, which financed the excellent documentary, Left on Pearl: Women Take Over 888 Memorial Drive, Cambridge, and publicizes the history of feminist activists in 1970s Cambridge.