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Sociologist Awarded Wilson Book Prize

By Alessandra M. Galloni

One of Harvard's most distinguished sociologists received a prestigious political science award this month for her latest book on early 20th century American social welfare policy.

Theda Skocpol, professor of sociology, was awarded the American Political Science Association's 1993 Woodrow Wilson Foundation prize for Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: The Political Origins of Social Policy in the United States.

The Wilson Award is given to "the best book published in the United States during the prior year on government, politics or international affairs," and is selected from about 50 entries, a representative of the Association said yesterday.

Discussion of Welfare Programs

The book, which was published and submitted for the prize by Harvard University Press, discusses pre-New Deal efforts to develop social welfare programs including the political factors that led to the termination of Civil War pensions.

Skocpol said she was "pleasantly surprised" about winning the award, especially since her book deals with history--not current political and social experiences for which the distinction is usually reserved.

"It was wonderful," said Skocpol. "It's the first time since I've been at Harvard that I have received such appreciation of my accomplishment."

Skocpol, who also teaches in the Women Studies' Department, said she formulated the idea for her book at the University of Chicago, where she began teaching sociology and political science in 1981, after Harvard denied her tenure.

In the years since she returned to the University as a tenured professor in 1986, she finished her research, developing the theme of mothers' roles in formulating the country's social policy. The birth of her son helped this aspect of the book, Skocpol said.

Sociology Department Chair Peter V. Marsden said it is not unusual for a sociologist like Skocpol to win a political science award, since the two fields are interdisciplinary.

"We're very pleased that she won the award," said Marsden yesterday.

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