Marie Kelleher, an associate professor of history at Cal State Long Beach (CSULB), has been selected as the recipient of the 2012 Premio del Rey Book Prize by the American Historical Association (AHA) for her book titled "The Measure of Woman: Law and Female Identity in the Crown of Aragon."
The AHA awards the major book prize biennially for a distinguished book in English in the field of early Spanish history. Kelleher will receive the award this week at the 127th Annual Meeting of the AHA, which is being held in New Orleans Jan. 3-6.
“I’m a bit overwhelmed to have been selected to join the amazing group of scholars who have been awarded this prize in the past,” said Kelleher, whose book was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 2010. Books published between May 1, 2010 and April 30, 2012 were eligible for the 2012 award.
“I’m especially pleased to be representing CSULB in this honor, and to draw attention to the fact that committed teaching and quality scholarship are not mutually exclusive,” Kelleher said. "I hope that the university continues to support the programs that enabled me to complete this book, as well as the teacher/scholar model that makes our campus unique among the CSUs.”
The Premio Del Rey Book Prize was endowed by a gift from Robert I. Burns S.J., from his Llull and Catalonia prizes. The terms of the prize include works on Hispanic history and culture, including the Islamic and Jewish communities of medieval Spain as well as early New World topics prior to 1516.
In "The Measure of Woman," Kelleher looks at the relationship between women and legal culture in Spain’s Crown of Aragon during the late medieval period. The courts at that time measured women according to three factors: their status in relation to men, their relative sexual respectability and their conformity to ideas about the female sex as a whole. In spite of the situation, however, Kelleher notes that women were able to play a crucial role in shaping their own legal identities while working within the parameters of the written law.
Through the book, Kelleher points out that the women were not passive recipients—or even victims—of the legal system. Rather, they actively used the conceptual vocabulary of the law, engaging with patriarchal legal assumptions as part of their litigation strategies. In the process, these medieval women played an important role in the formation of a gendered legal culture that would shape the lives of women throughout Western Europe and beyond for centuries to come.
A resident of Long Beach, Kelleher earned her bachelor’s degree from Lewis and Clark College in Portland and went on to the University of Kansas at Lawrence, where she received both her master’s degree and Ph.D. After completing her Ph.D. in 2003, she joined the faculty at CSULB.