What’s in a name?

My dissertation has reached a crisis point.

Okay, not really. That’s just me being melodramatic. But really, I do have a teensy problem: my title. It seems to need a complete overhaul.

Back in 2007, I came up with the title “America’s Finest Ladies” in part because I liked the sound of it, and it fit with my research at that point, and I could’ve sworn I saw it on a recruiting ad from the 1950s. At my qualifying exams in 2008, however, two professors criticized the title because of the way it defines servicewomen as “ladies”.

Well, that was the way the armed forces defined servicewomen – and actually, the way more than a few servicewomen defined themselves (I’ve spoken with and read interviews with women who say they liked that the military defined women as “ladies first”). But the phrase probably does privilege the military’s definition a little more than I’d like, and it doesn’t QUITE work for my period as a whole (by the 1970s, in particular, this image starts to disappear).

So I’m in the process of trying to workout a new title. I’d love to have one figured out before I start sending out cover letters and CVs for jobs, but I’m sort of at a loss. I could change it to “America’s Finest Women,” which is the more prominent recruiting phrase from mid-century, at least. Or I could think about whether there’s anything catchy in my many, many sources.

I’m not sure where to go with this. My advisor suggested I take a day to think about it – something I haven’t yet had time to do. Maybe next week. But if anyone has recommendations on how to think about coming up with a title, please – let me know!

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4 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. Put on music, light incense, have a glass of wine. Going away from your usual working spot and using a pen instead of the keyboard may help break you out of your usual left brain state. Now brainstorm: writing as fast as you can list every title idea that comes into your head. Be as crazy as you can. I filled three pages with bizarre ideas before Battle Cries and Lullabies popped up for me. You don’t have to do this all in one session. Start the “crazy title ideas” list and add to it over a few days, reviewing what you’ve written and you go so you can milk the earlier ideas for new inspiration.

  2. I still don’t know what to call my dissertation-cum-book. I began with a great title (Crisis of Faith: —) on the prospectus, etc., which everyone loved – but turns out it didn’t suit the diss. I wrote, in fact, it may actually be the opposite. . .

    so, I settled for something for the diss. “Conflict and Compromise: —” but hate it.

    currently, the ms goes by the name “The Sky Pilots: —” but I think I hate that even more than C/C.

    I think all the “good” names have been taken . . . God and Country, Faith for the Fight, Soldiers of God. . . and so on and so forth. and I’d really *love* it if the title hinted at the argument. . .

    so I still don’t have a title. lesson: at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you call your diss., editors for the ms will have their say – and in the words of Rob Citino, who swears his editors force him to put Nazi or Blitzkrieg in the title of anything he writes, it’s out of your hands, eventually.

  3. Put the original title (or the “Finest Ladies” bit) in quotation marks, then append a colon and something more descriptive :).

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