New York University Historian Linda Gordon has been named a winner of the 2010 Bancroft Prize for Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits (W.W. Norton & Company, 2009), a biography on the Depression-Era photographer.
The Bancroft Prize is awarded annually by the trustees of Columbia University to the authors of books of exceptional merit in the fields of American history, biography and diplomacy. The 2010 awards are for books published in 2009. This marks the second time Gordon has received the Bancroft Prize. In 2000, she was recognized for The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction (Harvard University Press, 1999).
Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits charts Lange’s journey from polio-ridden child to wife and mother, to San Francisco portrait photographer, to chronicler of the Great Depression and World War II. Behind the lens, Gordon finds a complex individual—driven, but exquisitely sensitive, passionate and businesslike, who was demanding of herself and others, but a generous mentor and devoted friend.
“Lange was by no means the saintly, self-effacing personality that many had assumed, extrapolating from her photography,” Gordon says. “On the contrary: she was driven by ambition, sometimes irritable, often demanding—yet uncommonly sensitive and generous. In short, a personality of intensity and complexity and, therefore, a particularly fascinating subject.”
The New York Times named the work one of its “100 Notable Books of 2009.”
Columbia Provost Claude M. Steele will present the awards at a formal dinner on Wednesday, April 21, at the university’s Low Memorial Library. The Bancroft Prize, which comes with an award of $10,000 to each author, is administered by James Neal, Vice President for Information Services and University Librarian.
“Over 200 books were nominated for consideration by the Bancroft jury this year,” said Neal. “Once again, we were very impressed by the number of excellent submissions covering a broad range of themes, and are proud to honor this year’s winners. The Bancroft Prize is a celebration and affirmation of historical scholarship, the library, the book, the academic press, and the reportedly threatened scholarly monograph.”
This year’s other winners are Woody Holton, author of Abigail Adams (Free Press, 2009), an associate professor of history and American studies at the University of Richmond, and Margaret D. Jacobs, author of White Mother to a Dark Race: Settler Colonialism, Maternalism, and Indigenous Child Removal in the American West and Australia, 1880-1940 (University of Nebraska Press, 2009), an associate professor of history and director of women’s and gender studies at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.
The Bancroft Prize was established at Columbia in 1948 with a bequest from Frederic Bancroft, the historian, author and librarian of the Department of State, to provide steady development of library resources, to support instruction and research in American history and diplomacy, and to recognize exceptional books in those fields.