Get to Know the 2017 History Scholars: Melanie Sheehan

Melanie Sheehan is a 2017 Gilder Lehrman History Scholar. These 15 exceptional college students were in New York City, June 49, learning from eminent historians and exploring New York City through a historical lens. Here Melanie describes highlights from the program.

Melanie Sheehan (center) gets a close look at the first draft of the US Constitution at the Gilder Lehrman Collection.As a Gilder Lehrman History Scholar, I had the opportunity to meet with some prominent historians and to hear them discuss their current research. Because some talks covered a large swath of American history, I was able to connect discussions with professors like Ken Jackson and Thomas Heinrich with my own research interests in the New Deal. At the same time, I learned a great deal about people and events that I had previously known relatively little about, such as women in the American Revolution, from Carol Berkin.

I also very much enjoyed seeing historical documents and artifacts in the Gilder Lehrman Collection and the New-York Historical Society. Few moments compare to hearing the words, "This is James Madison’s hair." Additionally, the professors and the Gilder Lehrman staff showed a real interest in supporting my ventures as a historian going forward, and the connections I made both with these accomplished professionals and with my peers in the program will prove invaluable in the future. 

The program also gave me, as a lifelong resident of the New York metropolitan area, an incredible opportunity to view New York City in a different light. For instance, during our walking tour of lower Manhattan, I realized that everyday sites like churches, cemeteries, and taverns, which I might have walked past to catch a subway in most circumstances, had served significant purposes during the American Revolution. My appreciation for the city deepened not only during organized events but also in the evenings, when fellow History Scholars and I had the opportunity to explore the city on our own. Seeing the reactions of my peers to Central Park and Rockefeller Center helped me to experience the city through the eyes of people who had never been to New York. And, of course, I enjoyed introducing them to Ray’s Pizza.    

Melanie is a 2017 graduate of Fordham University with a double major in history and American studies and a minor in economics. She will be starting a doctoral program in American history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill this fall.