Brigham Young University
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Capstone Conference

At the end of each Fall and Winter semesters, Global Women's Studies minors present what they have learned about synthesizing interdisciplinary studies of women using the knowledge and skills necessary for advanced study or work in the field. Each student seeks out and works with a full-time faculty mentor who oversees any research and writing for this senior capstone project requirement.

Winter 2019 Capstone Conference


Schedule of presenters & their topics:


Fall 2018


Winter 2018

Fall 2017

Victoria Willey

“Do No Harm”

Impacts of the Medicalization of Female Genital Mutilation on African Women

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is arguably one of the greatest human rights violations of our time. An estimated 200 million girls and women alive today throughout the world have been cut. In Africa, the occurrence of FGM is especially high, with over 80% of girls in some countries being cut despite laws that forbid the practice. For decades, attempts made to end FGM have been met with little success. Now, something is happening that will either bring an end to the practice or else propagate it further: medicalization. Medicalization occurs when a doctor or other medical professional begins participating in a practice that has historically been performed by untrained personnel. This is happening right now with FGM. By drawing from biographies of FGM survivors and modern research, a better understanding of the impacts of the medicalization of FGM can be found.

Tori Willey is graduating in December, majoring in Public Health and dual minoring in Women’s Studies and International Development. Having learned about FGM throughout her college experience, she is interested to see the impact on women and girls in Africa now that FGM is being performed more frequently in doctor’s offices than ever before. She plans to analyze laws, the frequency of medicalization, and the comparative impacts on women when FGM is performed by a doctor contrasted to when it is done in the bush. Examining this information will bring about greater understanding as to whether or not the change in the practice poses any benefit, especially when considering the long-term discontinuation of FGM.

Tori is very passionate about issues relating to women’s health and thinks it important to form a dialogue around those issues. She is currently performing research and investigating laws in the fifteen African nations with the highest rates of FGM, and will continue from there to look for correlations in medicalization, as well as how the laws affect that practice.

She will present her findings at the Women’s Studies Capstone Conference on December 14, 2014, 3:00-5:00pm.

kami Asay

"1920s: Descent of Morals. Mormon Adults Respond to the First Sexual Revolution in the 1920s"


Kami Dawn Merchant, is a senior minoring in Women’s Studies, and majoring in History. She spent her last semester interning at a Maple Mountain high school, where she had the opportunity to teach and observe a history class. She has taken a special focus on women in American society, and how women have been portrayed throughout American history. She is doing her research paper on the Sexual Revolution and how youth and adults responded to social changes. Her research focuses on how youth were more accepting of the Sexual Revolution than adults were.

Many historians have argued the following for causes of the Sexual Revolution: movies, prohibition, body image, cigarettes, women being able to vote, the automobile, magazines/advertisements, and the growth of youth culture.  Kami’s focus will take a different perspective on how society reacted to these causes that launched the Sexual Revolution. Her argument comes from other historian’s research, popular songs, movies, yearbooks, letters, advertisements, and magazines from the 20s. She will also take a look at how Mormon Culture responded to the Sexual Revolution, looking at published church writings such as The Improvement Era (Young Men’s Mutual Improvement, 1897-1970).

Kami is contributing to understanding the history of American women by looking at how the 1920s sexualized women. Looking at the first Sexual Revolution can give us a better understanding of why we still sexualize women today. It also reflects the social changes that shifted women out of the Victorian Women and into the Modern Women. As women explored the freedom to vote, they also explored their sexual freedoms, which dramatically changed American society.


“I can show my shoulders,

I can show my knees,

I’m a free-born American

And can Show what I please.”

Saturday, APRIL 8, 2017 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. 

Keep scrolling to read detailed descriptions of each paper.


Olivia Allred The Culture of Gender: A Review of Literature Demonstrating the Relationship of Gender from the Position of Multicultural Competency


Culture has a strong influence on all individuals and is an important part of how people understand the world and their place in society. The presence of various cultures with differing value systems and ideas can often create conflict, however, which has led experts to develop a common language of multicultural competency. Multicultural competency looks at the interactions between individuals from various cultures, seeking to create a deeper understanding of each culture and how it influences and guides individuals, and to allow people from different cultures to interact with one another across contexts with tools to support these interactions. In addition to an understanding of how to interact with people from other cultures influence intercultural relationships, multicultural competence may also aid in navigating relationships between men and women on individual and societal scales.

Olivia Allred, a senior minoring in Women’s Studies and majoring in Psychology at BYU, is excited to explore the complexity of gender in interpersonal processes through the lens of multicultural competency. Through an exploration of feminist and multiculturalist studies looking specifically at masculine and feminine cultures, she seeks to present an interpretation of how multicultural competency can inform gender interactions and communications. This will potentially lead to greater understanding of gender as a facet culture. Her project will consider how an understanding of the skills associated with multicultural competency, such as attitude toward and awareness of other cultures, can influence discussion between men and women. Since gender may occasionally act as a type of culture in and of itself, promoting certain values, customs, and ideals for individuals based on their gender, Olivia will look at how the components of multicultural competency can be applied to discussions of gender.    

Find out more about Olivia’s research by attending the BYU Women’s Studies Capstone Conference on April 8, 2017, from 10:00 am-4:00 pm.

Caroline Bailey Influence of Non-Intact Biological Households on the Early Onset of Sexual Activity Among Adolescent Girls

Caroline Bailey, a Women Studies minor and Sociology major, is finally able to construct a research project on thing things she is most passionate about. She will be conducting her own research project on the influence of non-intact biological households, meaning any family structure that does not consist of two biological parents, on the early onset of sexual activity among adolescent girls. She will also be looking at levels of self-esteem among adolescent girls to properly explain why this relationship may occur.

Caroline chose to work on this specific research because of her experiences while working at New Haven Residential Treatment Center. While working there, Caroline observed that several of the residents had experienced sexual activity at very young ages and this troubled her. After learning more about the girls and their stories, she began to recognize a pattern; those girls who struggled most with sexual activity at young ages were those from non-intact biological households. She also noticed that these same girls also struggled with crippling self-esteem issues. After seeing this relationship negatively impact such young girls, as well as suffering from herself with low levels of self-esteem, provoked Caroline to research this phenomenon herself.

As Caroline began to conduct this research, she saw that researchers have indicated that there is a relationship for adolescent girls between non-intact biological households and early onset of sexual activity, low levels of self-esteem and early onset of sexual activity, and non-intact biological households and low levels of self-esteem. However, this field seemed to lack research in how all these variables may connect and properly explain one another. Caroline hopes to identify that low levels of self-esteem properly explains why adolescent girls in non-intact biological households are more likely than those in two parent, biological households to experience early onset of sexual activity.



Holden Brimhall Historical & Contemporary Responses to Sexual Assault by the LDS Church: A Historical Review of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Women’s Studies minor Holden Brimhall has spent the last two years researching the mental and physical health impact of sexual assault on survivors. After discovering that a prominent early member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), Eliza R. Snow, was gang-raped by at least eight men while in Missouri, he started to wonder how the early LDS Church responded to survivors like Snow. That is why Holden is turning his studies to a historical review of the LDS Church response to sexual assault and abuse survivors for his capstone project. Holden’s paper will cover the 19th century, 20th century, and modern LDS Church official responses, as well as the responses provided by individual members of the LDS Church. The intent behind the paper and presentation is to show the progress of the LDS Church response to this sensitive, injured population over time. Suggestions will be offered for further improvements to the LDS Church response to sexual assault and abuse.


Lindsay Combs Brewer Chewed Gum and Women’s Worthiness: An Exploration of Latter-day Saint Cultural Teachings About Sexuality

Lindsay Combs is making a documentary for her Women’s Studies capstone project. As a journalism major, Lindsay has training in filming, lighting, editing, interviewing, writing, and story-telling. Lindsay will be combining this training with her women’s studies training in order to shed light on the ways in which we talk about sexuality in LDS culture.

This is a topic Lindsay has been considering for quite some time. She has encountered many LDS women (and even men) who have shared experiences that echoed her own. Lindsay believes that we speak about sexuality and the Law of Chastity in an unhealthy and shameful manner. She has noticed that this quite commonly shapes the way individuals view themselves and their relationships with others even throughout marriage.

“Chewed gum” lessons and misguided fear instilled in LDS youth create a deep-seeded attitude about sexuality that is difficult for many to overcome. Several apostles have cited issues with marital intimacy as the number one cause for divorce about church members. Lindsay believes a root of these problems can be found in the shameful ways in which we discuss these sensitive and very important parts of life.

Lindsay will be exploring both positive and negative experiences from church members. She plans to contrast the two in hopes of showing how important this topic is and additionally to enlighten members to healthier and more positive ways in which to talk about sexuality. In her research thus far, she has spoken with LDS sex therapists, LDS church ecclesiastical leaders, and several individuals who have dealt with this is one way or another.

The documentary will show three main topics that are all influenced by the way in which youth are taught about sexuality: self-esteem, marriage, and repentance/ church activity. Lindsay is still gathering interviews. If you have any experiences, thoughts or feelings about this topic, or know anyone that does, please reach out. You can contact her at:

Michaela Cottrell Letters of Immigration and Modern Human Trafficking in Mexico

I’m writing my Women’s Studies Capstone on border relations between the United States and Mexico, and the direct effect it’s had on human trafficking (especially domestic slavery among Mexican girls). I first became interested in this particular trafficking topic last year while reading Kevin Bales’ book The Slave Next Door, which spoke of the large number of Latin Americans who are trafficked into the United States every year. I’m looking forward to traveling to Mexico City and meeting the former Senator, Rosi Orozco, who has started her own foundation to combat human trafficking among the youth in her country. Along with Senator Orozco, I will be interviewing professors from the National Autonomous University of Mexico who are involved with the Latin American Studies Association panel in discussing “approaches to sex work in Mexico” this year. Although it’s vital to learn the perspectives of professionals who are using their time and efforts to help the youth in Mexico, I recognize it’s equally as important to learn directly from the victims of human trafficking. I will be gathering stories from Mexican survivors of human trafficking from Operation Underground Railroad, family detention centers in Texas, and from pro bono attorneys from the Reed Smith Law Firm in Houston who help with such cases for K.I.N.D (Angelina Jolie’s non-profit, “Kids In Need of Defense”).

Such a delicate matter will not be taken lightly, and I hope to offer my advocacy for youth and women as I compile their stories and help others around me become aware of this pressing issue around the world. I cannot yet predict how The Wall will play into my research, but I do hope that any further measures taken to strengthen border security will benefit citizens on both sides, and ultimately end human trafficking between the United States and Mexico.

Myrtle Dalumpines Family Laws and Practices: Do They Matter in Women’s Lives?

Myrtle Dalumpines is a senior minoring in Women’s Studies and majoring in Psychology. She works for the WomanStats Project, which is a database that collects qualitative and quantitative data about the status of women around the world. Myrtle recently completed the WomanStats Inequitable Family Laws and Practices Scale (IFL Scale) with her co-worker McKinzie Davis and gender and political science expert Dr. Valerie M. Hudson. The IFL Scale examines the equal or unequal treatment of women in family laws and practices throughout the world by looking at marriage, age of marriage, polygyny, marital rape, access to divorce, land ownership, and abortion laws and practices. Analyzing whether women are treated equally to their male counterparts in laws and practices with each country may shed light with what really affects women’s day-to-day lives.

Although what are often used as measures for equality and development are education, literacy rates, employment wages, and governmental representation of women, Myrtle and McKinzie believe family laws and practices show what personally impact women’s lives. They believe the family is the fundamental unit of society and because of this foundation, family laws and practices have shown to be near intractable to change in almost every country. Myrtle and McKinzie are researching to see if perhaps the true measure of a woman’s status is through how she is treated within the walls of her own home. They believe that fairness and peacefulness of nations may be linked with fairness and peacefulness within families of every nation.

Myrtle and McKinzie are currently rescaling past IFL Scales to provide a consistent measure of family laws and practices through time. After statistical regressions, they hope to learn what makes the most significant differences to women’s lives. Myrtle will present their findings at the Women’s Studies Capstone Conference on April 8. 2017, 10:00am-3pm.


Hannah Hagee Shopping is Not My Happy Place: The Consumer Experience of Intimate Partner Violence Vicitms

Consumer behavior is the study of individuals, groups, or organizations and the processes they use to select, secure, use, and dispose of products, services, experiences, or ideas to satisfy their needs and wants. Women dominate in the field of consumerism, influencing nearly 85 percent of all purchase decisions. Unfortunately, women also comprise the majority of domestic violence victims, with national statistics indicating that 1 in 4 women are victims of abuse within the home. Because of these high percentages, a surprisingly high amount of consumers are victims or survivors of domestic abuse.

Hannah Hagee, a Women’s Studies minor, majoring in Marketing, has combined her two interests of gender studies and consumer behavior to produce research concerning the purchase process decision of intimate partner violence victims. Hannah’s research first recognizes and establishes the correlation of consumer behavioral differences of domestic violence victims in relation to brand loyalty, involvement in purchase decisions, shopping enjoyment levels, and the need for touch (of products when shopping). The research expands beyond the correlation to identify the psychological factors contributing to the differences in consumer behavior. Hannah’s research focuses on four psychological responses: self-esteem, loneliness, interpersonal trust, and internal control. The measurements of these four internal elements explain why intimate partner violence victims behave differently than other consumers.

Hannah’s research uncovers the long-term psychological effects of intimate partner violence and its impact on consumer behavior. This issue has yet to be addressed by any previous research, yet has powerful implications for women throughout the world. Hannah’s analysis of this data further identifies what can be done to help female victims navigate and enjoy the purchase decision process.

Learn more about Hannah’s research by attending the BYU Women’s Studies Capstone Conference on April 8, 2017, from 10:00am to 4:00pm.


Annaliz V. Lopez Altamirano When a Woman’s Heart Bleeds Tears. Healing Tears: A Balm of Gilead for Myocardial Reconstruction

Anneliz V. Lopez Altamirano is an international student from La Paz, Bolivia. Three of her main passions, women’s health promotion, women’s empowerment and science are combined in her research on the healing power of tears for the healing of a woman’s broken heart. Although much has been written about the power of tears for healing, why is it discouraged? Much research into this phenomenon has been fragmented, uncoordinated, and inconclusive. Through a research of substantial amount of literature across multiple disciplines addressing the subject, both directly and indirectly, Anneliz has come up with a solid conclusion: When a woman’s heart bleeds tears, healing tears are as a Balm of Gilead to reconstruct her broken heart. Tears are an expression of emotion. They are neither sad nor joyful but they are manifestations of a shift from a state of high tension to a period of recalibration and recovery. Indeed, when a person cries for emotional reasons, they are involved in a healing process.


Anneliz wants to show that although we have been raised to believe that crying is unacceptable with messages such as “big girls and boys don’t cry”, it is a natural expression of emotion that not only makes one feel better, but it is healthy. Anneliz has found that, failing to cry in very difficult conditions or at the height of a crisis can be dangerous, leading to a heart attack or a shock as one’s brain is subjected to too much stress with minimal relaxation, but these findings also raise questions about women who fail in dealing with the negative feelings that often accompany crying episodes which can be emotionally damaging and could lead to a diversity of mental illnesses, a heart disease, or even death. Anneliz is pleased to contribute with her research to studies of women’s healing process from a broken heart as well as to women’s empowerment through understanding that crying is a sign of strength not a weakness and that it is okay to cry even if you are a “big girl”.


Find out more about Anneliz’s research by attending the BYU Women’s Studies Capstone Conference on Saturday, April 8, 2017, from 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. in the Special Collections Classroom of the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University.

Meghan Maddock Women’s Mobility in Practice and Sexual Assault

Women around the world often experience restricted mobility and are unable to access public spaces in the same way as their male peers. In some countries, women and men are legally segregated in public places. In others, women are legally forbidden from leaving home without an escort. In some cultures, both men and women believe that a man is justified in beating his wife if she goes out without asking her husband for permission. In almost every country, women face significant street harassment. Frequently, restrictions on women’s mobility are justified as protections from rape. For example, in South Africa parents often restrict their daughters’ mobility more than their sons’ mobility, because they fear that their daughters might be raped. South Africa has the highest rape of rate in the world, at 132.4 rapes per 100,000 people. Is this relationship between restrictions on women’s mobility and high rates of sexual assault true throughout the world?

In order to examine the worldwide relationship between women’s mobility in public and rates of sexual assault, I will use statistical analyses. I will use the WomanStats Mobility in Public Scale, which I helped to create and which will soon be available at as a measure of women’s mobility. The scale measures women’s mobility in 176 nations on a scale from 0 to 4, with “0” indicating no restrictions on women’s mobility, and “4” indicating significant legal barriers to women’s mobility. I predict that my analyses will indicate a statistically significant relationship between women’s mobility and rates of sexual assault, and that restrictions on women’s mobility and rates of sexual assault will be positively correlated. In other words, the more a nation restricts women’s mobility, the more likely that nation is to have high rates of sexual assault.




Hannah Manning A State by State Comparison on the Status of Women and Trends of Rape in the U.S

Hannah Manning, a senior majoring in Public Health: Epidemiology Emphasis and minoring in Women’s Studies, is combining her two passions to create a capstone project centered on Women’s Health here in the United States.

While there are thousands of state level policies affecting the daily lives of women in the U.S., it can be hard to quantify their overall affect on the status of women in each state. Focusing on five categories of policy, Hannah will use a data analysis from The Institute for Women’s Policy Research to score individual states on whether or not they are “women friendly”.  Twenty-five separate policies ranging from the Political Power, Sexual Health, Maternal Health, Economic Power, and Overall Health of women will be used to scale the equality of women in each state. Hannah looks forward to linking the policy trends in her data to the status of women in each state and furthermore rates of rape across the country.

Adam McLain

Consent and Pseudo-Consent in The Handmaid’s Tale

Adam McLain, a senior minoring in women’s studies, communications, and editing, and majoring in English literature, is ecstatic to be concluding his undergraduate career with a study on consenting relationships in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

The Handmaid’s Tale provides readers with a stark realization of what a world without women’s rights and freedoms would look like. The Republic of Gilead is a nation that has risen from the ashes of the United States after a terrorist attack killed the former US government’s leaders. The leaders of the revolution utilize Christianity to guide their new republic to form a new hierarchy based on sexual reproduction: most women who can reproduce are caste into roles as servant-like Handmaids with the singular goal of creating children. In this world, we are introduced to Offred and her time in the Commander’s household as the Commander attempts to impregnate her so he and his wife can have children and the human population can continue.

Adam will investigate what Offred gains and loses as she consents to illicit affairs masterminded by the Wife of the Commander to help her have children. Ultimately, Adam is seeking to find the answer to the question: What does consent gain someone when they are locked into a certain hierarchy?

Adam is excited to share his findings with you at the Women’s Studies Capstone Conference on April 8, 2017, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.


Tara Neuffer

Using a Woman’s Perspective to Understand Undernutrition:Ethnographic Research on the Diet of Pregnant Women in Malawi

Tara Neuffer, a senior majoring in Public Health and minoring International Development and Women’s studies, recently conducted research in Malawi on the diet of pregnant women. Malawi has the highest incidence of preterm birth in the world and extremely high levels of maternal mortality and undernutrition. Causes for such a staggering statistics are dependent on social factors, such as poverty, and maternal factors, such as undernutrition during pregnancy. Tara’s research aimed to understand the cultural factors influencing a woman's level of nutrition during pregnancy besides levels poverty and food insecurity; she conducted more than 30 interviews with healthcare personnel, mothers and pregnant, asking questions about local food taboos, traditional medicinal practices and the common practice of geophagia (the consumption of earth) during pregnancy.

This research is important because it aims to improve the nutritional status of pregnant women, which will not only fuel fetal development, but also increase the quality of life of women and their children. The research also contributes a unique perspective to the conversation of undernutrition among women in Malawi; current nutrition programs implemented by the Malawian government, private NGOs and world organizations like UNICEF spend millions of dollars each year towards improving the nutritional status among vulnerable groups such as children and pregnant women. However, these efforts will only be as effective as their ability to create lasting, sustainable change in the people they aim to serve. By understanding local practices among pregnant women, such as adherence to traditional food taboos, the usage of traditional medicine and the practice of geophagia, nutritional programs can better serve women and create the lasting change they hope for.

Find out more about Tara’s research by attending the BYU Women’s Studies Capstone Conference on Saturday, April 8, 2017, from 10:00-4:00 in the Special Collections Classroom of the HBLL.



Brindisi Olsen How Family Friendly Are We?: Analysis of BYU's Current Accomodations for Students with Young Families


With the council from BYU to its students to “not put off having a family” and “get as much education as you can,” my capstone project will test whether or not BYU’s campus and employees facilitate these principles. As a mother, I have had BYU organizations explain to me that children can be “planned for” and that specific BYU organization was not willing to work with me because of it. While this contradicts BYU’s previous statements of “not putting off a family” and “get as much education as you can,” this belief that a family can be planned for is not supported by BYU’s healthcare policies, which do not cover any form of contraception that would allow couples to “plan” their families.

My project will capture the relationship between education and motherhood. With studies
that show the success of a family directly correlates with the education of the mother, it’s
important that an education is accessible to women, whether or not they have children. However,
the certain unsupportive structures of BYU’s campus facilities, policies, and employee attitudes
can potentially impede a mother’s ability to gain an education, therefore affecting generations to
come. Brigham Young is quoted to have said, “You educate a man; you educate a man. You
educate a woman; you educate a generation.”

You can learn about Brindisi’s findings by attending the Women’s Studies Capstone Conference on Saturday, April 8th, 2017 from 10a.m. to 4p.m. in the Special Collections Classroom of Brigham Young University’s Harold B. Lee Library.

Helen Perkins “If It’s Not Right, You Have to Put It Right”: Women and Children in the Text and Context of Matilda the Musical

Kristin Perkins is a senior majoring in Theatre Arts Studies and minoring in Women’s Studies, and, for the past year, she has been listening to a lot of show tunes, in particular, Matilda the Musical. Based on the beloved children’s book by Roald Dahl, Matilda opened on the West End in 2011 before transferring to Broadway in 2013. It has found both critical and commercial success and is part of a rich history of female-led musicals in a medium too often dismissed.

Using the scholar Stacy Wolfe’s work compiling a feminist history of Broadway, Kristin demonstrates how Matilda is part of a tradition of strong women singing their hearts out on the musical stage. Matilda’s three identifiable leads, Matilda, Miss Honey, and Miss Wormwood, are all dynamic female characters, and yet, Matilda, Kristin argues, is uniquely (and excitingly!) feminist beyond its representation. Matilda, a young girl, openly advocates not just for resistance but for disruptive resistance throughout the musical. Indeed, the musical presents such revolution as justified in the face of oppressive systems, in this case, both familial and institutional. Matilda terms this “being naughty” and resists marginalization based on her gender and age. In the climactic moment of the play, Matilda leads her classmates in a violent protest against the headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, as they sing “Revolting Children.” Kristin identifies this textual evidence and draws on feminist theories of disruption and protest to argue that Matilda is remarkably subversive. While this claim is complicated by the use of magic, drag, and the musical’s production practices, Matilda is worth examining for the space it opens to discuss girlhood, revolution, and representation.

Kristin’s work is grounded in an understanding that “the popular” demands study. In the broad world of academia, scientific study is often privileged; even in the smaller discipline of Theatre and Media Arts, Shakespeare and Schaffer are deemed more worthy of scholarship than Liza Minelli and Cats. Kristin draws on the theories of David Savran to justify an analysis of the popular as key in both revealing societal shifts and influencing them. Further, the project of studying the popular is feminist in how it seeks to break down academic hierarchies that are gendered in nature. In the end, Kristin hopes her analysis will contribute to the project of addressing the popular and encouraging representation of women and girls on stage, as well as opening up a space to discuss what revolution looks like, who participates, and what is justified under oppressive regimes— a question that is becoming more and more relevant.

Kristin will present on Matilda the Musical and revolution at the capstone conference on April 8, 2017 from 10am to 4pm.


Kimberly Sagers

Enduring It Together: Healing the Trauma of Miscarriage Using Family Theories

Miscarriage of a baby is something many women struggle talking about. Perhaps this struggle partially arises from our cultural inability to know what to do about miscarriage--should we treat it like a death? Should we tell her she can always have another baby? Should we give her space to get over it? In this ambivalent area, a woman who miscarries can feel alone in her grief. However, many women have a built-in support system that may be underutilized: their family. Can family ties help women emotionally heal after miscarriage? How does the family grieve a miscarriage? Is there a “right way” to deal with a miscarriage?

Kimberly Sagers, a Senior studying Family Life and Women’s Studies at Brigham Young University, hopes to find answers to these questions. Kimberly’s passion is helping women after traumatic experiences, such as miscarriage, and she believes that family can be a crucial support in these traumatic moments. In order to more fully understand a family’s role after miscarriage, Kimberly is currently conducting a literature review focused on the relationship between miscarriage and the family. Using a family theories viewpoint, Kimberly will evaluate hundreds of miscarriage studies done in the past decade. She hopes to find common conceptions about how to heal from miscarriage what family theories and practices have proven useful in this healing, and where research could delve deeper into the relationship between miscarriage and family theories. Kimberly anticipates that her findings will tie the topics of healing after trauma and family studies closer together than they ever have been before, leading to the improved healing of individuals and families after miscarriage.


You can learn about Kimberly’s findings by attending the Women’s Studies Capstone Conference on Saturday, April 8th, 2017 from 10a.m. to 4p.m. in the Special Collections Classroom of Brigham Young University’s Harold B. Lee Library.


Avery Taylor TINY MADONNAS: The Prayers of Women    



Fall 2017 Capstone Conference Summary
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 8 from 3-4 pm
LOCATION: 4010 JFSB (Dean's Conference Room)

3:00 pm


Are Airports Really
Breastfeeding Friendly?

An Assessment of Public Lactation Facilities in Mid-to-Small Level Airports in the U.S.

Margaret Melville is a senior minoring in Women’s Studies and majoring in Business Strategy. Her life has been centered on equality and empowerment for women. Margaret has worked as a researcher for the WomanStats Project where she filled critical gaps in sex-disaggregated data. She served as a United Nations Representative for the WomanStats Project where she attended the 59th Commission on the Status of Women and trained Ambassadors, Delegates, and NGO leaders on the importance of sex disaggregated data and how to use the WomanStats database. Margaret has also served as the Women’s Services and Resources representative on the Student Advisory Council at Brigham Young University. In that position, Margaret conducted research among women on campus and to identify the lack of (and the difficulty of finding) places to breastfeed on campus. Margaret worked with the Women’s Services and Resource Center and BYU Office of IT to develop a feature on the BYU App to locate mother’s lounges. This summer, she worked with mothers and newborns in Iganga, Uganda where she started a social venture to adapt neonatal and maternal health technology for the developing world.

Margaret’s research brings to attention the lack of breastfeeding and lactation facilities in domestic airports. Though many airports and state governments are redefining their commitment to encouraging breastfeeding, such as adopting a legislative means of improving circumstances to promote lactation, such as the Friendly Airports for Mothers Act in Illinois (which legislates that a private lactation room must be provided in every terminal of an airport), the vast majority of airports still trail in  providing a place for a mother to nurse or pump breast milk for her child. While most airports have designated smoking and pet-relief areas, they still deny mothers and infants a sanitary location for this most essential need. Therefore, lactation facilities in airports are an issue of dire need and consideration.
3:30 pm Whitney

Why Animal Agriculture is a Feminist Issue:

The Intersectionality of Sex and Species in Body Objectification 

Whitney Petersen, a Women’s Studies minor and Advertising major, is thrilled to combine her passions of media, feminism, and animal rights in her research.

Feminist theorist Carol J. Adams writes that the “science of animal agriculture has gone exactly where dominance goes – manipulating sexuality.” Animals raised for human consumption and profit are possibly the most oppressed beings on this earth, and Adams’s statement defines a major segment of their abuse. Livestock used for breeding are forced to reproduce constantly, the female reproductive systems of cows and hens are exploited until collapse, offspring are taken from mothers, and most parents will not even meet each other. They exist for what they give to humans, or rather, what is taken from them. They are valued simply for their bodies.

Often, women are also viewed and treated as nothing more than a subject for domination, or as some may say, “like a piece of meat,” a phrase which denotes the casual degradation of an intelligent and sentient individual. Here lies the problem, as no living being should be treated solely as an object for another’s consumption. Unfortunately, women and animals are often the targets of media objectification in a consumer-driven patriarchal society. As a vegan feminist, Whitney will be offering a unique perspective as she presents her analyses of 21st century food advertisements that showcase the debasement of both women and non-human animals. She will argue that because species is a major dividing line among living beings, and because gender further stratifies populations within species, it is not surprising that our exploitation of animals strengthens other systems of oppression, especially human sexism. 


Spring 2016

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 6 from 3-5 pm
LOCATION: DeLemar Jensen Lecture Room, Special Collections Library, 1131 HBLL


Winter 2015

April 1, 2015; 2:00-4:00pm; Location B094 JFSB; 

2:00 pm

Regan Cook Mulleneaux


“Effect of Media on Disordered Eating in Women”


My name is Reagan Cook Mulleneaux. I am a senior studying Family Life with an emphasis in Human Development and Women’s Studies minor. My Women’s Studies capstone project will be on the effects that media can have on disordered eating in women. I will collect research articles on eating disorders- what they are, what research suggests may cause them, potential risks involved, etc. I will also collect articles on theories concerning the effects of media as they are related to disordered eating, particularly the internalization of the thin ideal in American society.  I will compare both longitudinal and cross sectional studies on disordered eating in women and the media, and I will carefully consider potential moderators such as race, age, and SES. My capstone project will also consider what we can do to help those that may suffer from an eating disorder. Comparing the effectiveness of interventions and preventions, and particularly which forms of either intervention or prevention are most effective in treating disordered eating. I have been interested in eating disorders for most of my life, because I have known several people that have struggled and continue to struggle with them. I can still remember when I learned what an eating disorder was as a woman that I know nearly lost her life to anorexia and bulimia. I was nine years old at the time. I feel that eating disorders and those that have them do get a bad wrap in our society, mostly because people just don’t understand the psychology of what an eating disorder really is. The media contributes so much to that lack of understanding, and that is why I chose to do my capstone on the effects of media on disordered eating in women. 

2:30 pm

Sarah Morris

“‘Well Done, Sister Suffragette’: To the Lighthouse and Virginia Woolf’s Mental Emancipation of Women” 

My name is Sarah Morris and I am an English major and a Women’s Studies minor from Orem, Utah. If you had asked me a year ago what I would have been writing my capstone paper on, Virginia Woolf would have been the furthest thing from my mind; however, because of an enlightening course taught by Dr. Jarica Watts, Woolf is the central figure of my capstone project. For my project, I am researching the connections between the women’s suffrage women in Great Britain and Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. Although Woolf did not write extensively on the subject of women’s suffrage, To the Lighthouse takes place during some of the major pushes for women’s suffrage. Through the female characters, this novel shows not a political emancipation, but an mental and emotional emancipation as women came to view themselves as independent creatures. The character of Mrs. Ramsay, representing the old Victorian perception of women, must die in order to make way for the newly emancipated woman, as represented in the young painter Lily Briscoe.

Although there has obviously been volumes written on Virginia Woolf and her writings, I was interested to see that there wasn’t a lot of research directly connecting Woolf’s writings to the women’s suffrage movement. Hopefully through this project, I will able to illuminate the connections made between the push for women’s rights in early twentieth century Britain and the change of thinking shown in To the Lighthouse. Specifically diving in the characters of Mrs. Ramsay and Lily Briscoe will make this project both focused and interesting, and this project will contain references to the original texts as well as modern criticisms surrounding Virginia Woolf and her various works. Additionally, I plan to rely heavily on Woolf’s nonfiction book A Room of One’s Own to highlight her personal opinions on women’s suffrage and women’s rights issues in the early twentieth century. 

3:00 pm

Hannah Kroes

"The Womb as a Loom: Byzantine Images of the Virgin Mary Spinning"


Textile making has been traditionally thought of as a female occupation—but why? Though we know that through time and place both women and men have been involved in spinning and weaving in the marketplace, the ideological construct behind textile making has cast it as a feminine pursuit, especially when done domestically. This paper will analyze some of the Marian rhetoric and images fueling that ideology in Byzantine times. Proclus, a 4th century philosopher in Constantinople, likened the Virgin Mary’s womb to a loom on which she wove the body of Christ, in an effort to prove Christ’s corporeality. Proclus’ metaphor is echoed in the visual arts, particularly in the Sinai Annunciation, which depicts the spirit of God descending onto Mary’s womb, where she is holding a spindle and red wool. Above the spindle is a homunculus of Christ’s body in a light varnish. This suggests that Mary’s action of spinning was not simply a good and industrious activity for her to be doing during the Annunciation, but that it came to signify the incarnation of Christ. A metaphor this powerful had the potential to imbue textile making with a religious significance unto the greatest act a woman had ever performed. I will argue that the ideological weight that promoted textile making for women stemmed in great part from Marian imagery, and that rather than oppressing women by emphasizing the virtue and domesticity inherent in textile making, this metaphor instead empowered women as valuable producers, asserting that they too could create the presence of Christ.

3:30 pm

Kyrie Dangerfield

"Why Your Mom Goes to College: An Indicator for Childhood Vaccinations"

There are many benefits for women who gain a higher education. One of these being better health and well-being. Kyrie Dangerfield, a Psychology Major and Women Studies Minor, will give a presentation that will focus on the health benefits that result from higher education for women. She will discuss why education makes an impact on health, the many of the health benefits that result from gaining higher education, and how health and education can have impacts on families. Higher education is an important step for women educationally and for their health in the United States. Some explanations for this are the higher income they receive by attaining higher education and the knowledge acquired from their education. Research shows that higher income women are less likely to have obesity than low income women. Possible explanations of this could be that they have more time and money to take care of themselves. Other findings report a trend between the amount of education a woman has and how likely she is to have obesity. This could possibly be because of way she has been taught to think critically and how she applies it to her life. Regardless of the explanation, it is apparent that education is correlated with health and well-being of women. The correlation between education and obesity shows one example of how education is beneficial to women. But what are other health benefits that result from a higher education? Can these benefits be passed on to children? Kyrie hopes to contribute her knowledge on the connection between women with higher education, the benefits that result and the impact they can have on their families. 

April 8, 2015; 2:00pm-4:00pm; Location B094 JFSB

2:00 pm Anna Banks "Being Accountable: College Campuses and Sexual Assault" Throughout American history, sexual assault has not been much a focus in the legislative world. Women were often left to be victims with no physical or legal protection. However, in more recent history, sexual assault has become more of a focus in the political arena than it had been in the past. Most recently, acts such as Title IX and the Cleary Act have brought more focus on sexual assault on college campuses specifically. The current acts that are in place have begun to require that college campuses offer more services to victims of sexual assault and that colleges report statistics regarding sexual assault on their campus. Such a requirement would have been almost unheard of thirty years ago. But how did this change come about? Anna Banks, a psychology major and women’s studies minor, seeks to uncover the history behind the women’s rights movement’s involvement in moving along this legislation, shed light on the development of this movement, and discover which techniques were most effective in bringing about these legislative changes. The focus on this research will be on campus sexual assault specifically. After this discovery, Anna hopes to look more closely at campus sexual assault legislation and how it has brought about change on Idaho college campuses. Anna then hopes to implement some of the more effective techniques in her conservative home state of Idaho, whose representatives have often voted against bills having to do with sexual assault protection for women. 
2:20 pm Zoe Brimhall "Prisoner or Preacher?: Examining the Relationship between Female Latter-day Saint Missionaries and Perceptions of the Church in Victorian England" Zoë Brimhall is a senior studying Interdisciplinary Humanities and Women’s Studies. Her capstone project is titled Prisoner or Preacher?: Examining the Relationship between Female Latter-day Saint Missionaries and Perceptions of the Church in Victorian England. It will examine the anti-Mormon culture of Victorian England and examine the roles that female missionaries played in helping to change negative perceptions of the Church. In 2012, Latter-day Saint Prophet Thomas S. Monson announced that the age requirement for male and female missionaries would be lowered—from nineteen to eighteen for men and from twenty-one to nineteen for women. Since that decision more women have gone on missions than ever before and Zoë thinks it has started to change the cultural ways we think and talk about women in the Church.  Yet, despite the renewed public attention toward contemporary female missionaries, there is still a lot of historical work that needs to be done about Mormon women missionaries throughout history. The historical narrative about Mormon missionaries mostly focuses on male missionaries and their efforts to spread the Gospel, but ignores the similar efforts of female missionaries. Although women served missions on a case-by-case basis before 1898, it was in that year that it became official policy to send out single female missionaries to preach the gospel. Inez Knight and Lucy “Jennie” Brimhall were the first two women to go out. They served in Great Britain with a unique purpose to not just spread the gospel, but to help change negative perceptions and associations that some of the English had about Mormons—largely a result of anti-Mormon propaganda and fears about polygamy. In her paper, Zoë will examine these issues and ascertain to what extent female missionaries were able to change perceptions of the Church. In addition, she will examine how women practiced missionary work and how it differed from male missionary work. She hopes that eventually the stories of these women will become better known and that they will continue to influence generations of missionaries to come.
2:40 pm Abby Christiansen "Rape as a Weapon of Warfare: a survey of sexual violence in warfare and global policy surrounding it."

Abby Christiansen is a political science major and women’s studies minor from Idaho Falls, Idaho. Her travels over the last two years of her life have given me the chance to understand the world in a whole new way. After spending time in Rwanda and learning more about how the lives of the women are impacted there, she became interested in learning more about women in times of war. There are a variety of problems women face in times of conflict, most notably sexual violence and rape. This served as my inspiration for my capstone project. For her capstone she is studying the impact of United Nations involvement in reducing sexual violence during times of war. In the year 2000, the United Nations passed Resolution 1325 which singles out sexual violence as a war crime and describes measures that countries in conflict must take to ensure the protection of women. She will be using a series of case studies from before and after the year 2000 to establish how effective these UN resolutions have been at preventing and handling sexual violence during times of conflict. This project will study these conflicts using each of the four components of implementation outlined by the United Nations (prevention, protection, participation, and relief and recovery). These components will be used so that the efficacy of the Resolution can be evaluated by the stated goals of the document, instead of an outside measure. The goal of this project is to provide a unique look into how gender issues are handled by the United Nations and offer insights into changes and improvements that could be made the better the lives of women when countries are at war. This project will incorporate examples from all parts of the world in order to provide broad context for an important issue that often is overlooked and develop solutions that have a global reach.

3:00 pm Emily Thorn

“Who Will Run in 2016?: Gender Bias in Potential Political Candidacy”

The United States is arguably the most developed nation in the world with the most influential economy, the most powerful military, and the longest standing unbroken democratic tradition. So why is it, that when it comes to gender equality in the political spectrum, America is so far behind? The United States is currently ranked 90th among countries in the world in terms of women’s representation in government (Sedghi).. The United States is also well behind many nations, like Great Britain and Germany, by never electing a woman into executive office. Currently women make up approximately 51% of the population of the United States (Representation 2020). Despite these statistics, women only comprise 18% of Congress, 24% of State Legislators, and 10% of Governors (Representation 2020). Cynthia Terrell, chair of Fair Vote’s “Represent 2020” project estimates that at current rates, “women will not achieve fair representation for nearly 500 years.” Rumors have began to circulate around potential female candidates running for president in the coming 2016 presidential election. I believe the question for American citizens to answer is not whether they are ready for Hilary Clinton or Elizabeth Warren, but rather are they ready for a female in that type of leadership role? 

3:20 pm Danielle Leavitt

"Creating Socialist Superwomen: Depictions of the Ideal Soviet Female in USSR Propaganda Posters between 1925-1950"

The use of propaganda to transmit social and political values was one of the great successes of the Bolsheviks in the early twentieth century. The Soviet Union’s utilization of various forms of propaganda remained in force until the dissolution of the Union in 1991, and throughout the twentieth century, the state relied heavily on methods of propaganda to affect people’s attitudes, thinking, and behavior. In 1936, the second most authoritative Soviet newspaper, “Izvestia,” asserted: “In no country in the world does woman enjoy such complete equality in all branches of political, social and family life as in the USSR. In no country in the world does woman, as a mother and a citizen who bears the great and responsible duty of giving birth to and bringing up citizens, enjoy the same respect and protection from the law as in the USSR.” Soviet propaganda posters from the early to mid 20th century offer a peek into this Soviet woman. In posters from the late 1920s, we find the steel-like and unfeminine Soviet woman contributing to industry, politics, and agriculture. However, a decade and a half later, we find posters propagating a very different image. In the late 40s and early 50s, the ideal Soviet woman is supple, soft, and domestic. Her glory is her children and her home. What do these changes in imagery indicate and how did they affect women? Fluctuating alongside Soviet political agendas, the USSR’s characterization of the ideal woman proved less to be a mark of female emancipation, and rather a barometer for the current political climate. Danielle Leavitt, a Russian major and Women Studies minor, explores these vacillating images through examination of Soviet poster propaganda produced during the Stalin era, analyzing the stylistic development of such posters, what the posters’ messages meant for citizens and families in the USSR, and what they suggest about the Soviet government. Dr. Jeff Hardy, a professor of history who specializes in Russia and the Soviet Union, mentors the project. 

December 2014 Poster

April 2014 Poster