Torrah Giles, MA, UCCS MA Alumna, recently published an article drawn from her research paper written for Professor Jimenez’s City and Citizenship course.
San Francisco, 1906: The Law and Citizenship in Disaster
By Torrah Giles, MA
UCLA Historical Journal, December 2017
Abstract: Using the city of San Francisco and the earthquake and fire of 1906 as a case study, this paper examines the use of violence to impose public order, while seeking to show that disaster can affect the laws of a community. In San Francisco, the belief that martial law was in effect led to a power shift. The confusion created a unique situation in which city leaders contradicted the very law they were seeking to enforce, and obliterated the rights of citizens in the name of protection and public order.
In the scholarship of the 1906 disaster, most works that consider the military involvement in disaster tend to downplay the events, which so many memoirs, eyewitness accounts, and newspaper reports described from that year. This paper uses those primary sources to show how Mayor Schmitz and the military leaders directly affected the scale of the urban disaster that followed the earthquake by essentially seizing power through the military. The mayor’s illegal declaration and actions caused confusion in the city and altered the parameters of citizenship. Secondary research in both the field of history and the field of disaster studies will allow this paper to explicate the laws of the federal, state, and city government, which will explain the extralegal and illegal activities of the leaders of San Francisco and the effect those actions had on the catastrophe.
We asked Torrah to describe the process of submitting and revising for publication. Here are her reflections:
I published my first graduate thesis on something of a whim. I had discussed the idea of publishing the paper with Dr. Jimenez and my peer reader, but had heard so often about the brutal editing process that many experience when publishing a paper that I did not feel particularly motivated to put my work out there. But, the seed was planted and I was very curious and knew that it is a vital part of the career path I have chosen. I researched journals for a while. I looked at journals that accept work from American history, more broad journals that do not specify a field or era, and journals that accept graduate student submissions only. I finally chose the UCLA Historical Journal because it is a graduate student publication and has no particular field. I went that route because I wanted a journal that would consider my article even if it didn’t fit into a certain box.
In order to submit my paper, I had to pare it down quite a bit—by about 12 pages. The original paper was much longer so removing so much of the paper was honestly the most difficult part of the whole experience. I ended up breaking the paper down into sections within sections and rewriting some parts in order to make them make sense without all the other information that I needed to cut. I had to meet some formatting requirements as well. All of this took me about four hours on a Sunday. And then I waited. And waited. I heard back from the editor after about three months, explaining that they had just completed their journal for 2015 and were slating articles for the 2017 journal if I wished to wait, otherwise I could withdraw my article. I wasn’t sure that that meant they had accepted my submission, so I asked Dr. Harvey who explained to me that my article was going to be published!
Then I waited again. I didn’t get edits back until about nine months ago. The most difficult edits I needed to do were to rework some of my interpretation of my primary sources. When I wrote the paper for class, I had not yet developed a strong voice in my writing yet. Reading back over it, I could see where I needed to believe in my own argument. About three months after the first round of edits came the second, that time it was more clean up and formatting rather than any additional writing. Then about a month before publication I received a proof, which I was asked to review, and finally the notice that the journal edition was live.
I am not sure how typical my experience was, but the process was certainly very exciting. I learned a few things from the experience. Mostly that my voice should be the strongest in the paper, that I am the expert and have permission to make a strong argument. I wished that I had kept better electronic notes. I am a hands on person, so a lot of my notes were written and stuck into library books that I had long since returned. Revisiting a source after so much time away was challenging; if I had written some of my notes into a file I could have more easily remembered where my work was headed as I reviewed that source. The greatest takeaway that I have found, though, is that being published is extremely validating. I enjoy writing so much, and knowing that others enjoy reading what I’ve put out into the world makes me feel like I’m on the right path and I am so glad I gave it a try.