Sheena Finnigan

PhD student, History

Faculty advisor: Marc Kleijwegt


Sheena FinniganSheena’s research focuses on the history of motherhood among non-elite women in classical Rome. She argues that traditional ideas about Roman women as wives and mothers are often incorrect. Many women were not and did not seek to be wives and mothers. A wide variety of circumstances affected women’s decisions about their reproductive lives, including their occupation, class, status, and personal relationships.

Studying these ideas and misconceptions positively impacts the women’s rights movements today by demonstrating that traditional ideas about womanhood and motherhood are rooted in false notions of the classical past, Sheena said. “Much of what modern Americans, especially those who consider themselves to be traditional, base their ideas of traditionality on is classical antiquity,” she said. “It is important to revise those notions by showing that Roman women were not defined only by marriage and childbearing.”

Sheena has received a Graduate School Fellowship and a Mellon-Wisconsin Fellowship, as well as the Doris G. Quinn Dissertation Fellowship and conference travel grants, to support this work. She said this support has made it possible to spend more time working on her writing, as both she and her partner have full-time jobs and are raising three children.

“Thank you for supporting my work,” she said. “It is rewarding to know that others appreciate the work I am doing and are willing to validate it by offering tangible resources that make the work possible.”