Belmont University Assistant Professor of Global Leadership Studies and Honors Dr. Mary Ellen Pethel was recently named the 2022 Tennessee History Book Award recipient for her book “Title IX, Pat Summitt, and Tennessee Trailblazers: 50 Years, 50 Stories.” Sponsored by the Tennessee Historical Commission and the Tennessee Historical Society, the award program is in its 25th year.
“Writing this book was a labor of love, but more importantly it was a chance to share the stories of so many unsung heroes in Tennessee,” said Pethel. “I am grateful and humbled by this honor and thank the award committee and the Tennessee Historical Commission and Tennessee Historical Society. Most importantly, this award affirms the 50 women trailblazers and torchbearers in the book—including Belmont’s Betty Wiseman and Renee Schultz.”
The book, published by University of Tennessee Press, celebrates 50 female athletes whose lives and careers shaped women’s athletics in both Tennessee and throughout the United States. Stories detailing their dedication, passion and hard work provide a deeper understanding of these impressive individuals and give insight into the history of women’s athletics before and after Title IX’s passage.
Education combined with sport, Pethel said, is a powerful combination in the lives of young women. “I hope this book provides cause for both celebration and inspiration. We celebrate the past 50 years of progress made for women and in women’s sports. But we should be inspired to keep going, to keep pushing for equity and inclusion. Title IX was the start; it is up to us to finish the race.”
Pethel is also the author of other books, including Athens of the New South: College Life and the Making of Modern Nashville. She is currently working on a history of the life of Sarah Cannon, better known as Minnie Pearl.
“We’re happy to join THC in congratulating Dr. Pethel on this well-deserved honor. Dr. Pethel’s skill in combining oral histories with archival research presents the story of Title IX, using Tennessee as the focus,” said Tennessee Historical Society Executive Director Jennifer C. Core.
Three other books were in the running for the award that were judged by a panel of historians representing Tennessee’s grand divisions including “To Care for the Sick and Bury the Dead: African American Lodges and Cemeteries in Tennessee;” “James K. Polk and His Time: Essays at the Conclusion of the Polk Project;” and “Following the Drums: African American Fife and Drum Music in Tennessee.”
The award will be presented at the Tennessee Historical Society’s Annual Meeting on June 8, via Zoom.