Teresa Prados-Torreira is Associate Professor of American History in the Department of Humanities, History and Social Sciences at Columbia College Chicago. She received her B.A. in History from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in American Intellectual History from the University of Missouri at Columbia. Her classes include: Cartoons and Satire in American History, American Cultural History, and Letters from the American Past. She is the creator and organizer of the annual Paula Pfeffer Political Cartoon Contest for Columbia College students. Her areas of study are the United States and Cuba. Her research interests include women’s history, cultural history, and political satire. She is the author of Mambisas: Rebel Women in Nineteenth Century Cuba (University Press of Florida, 2005).
Teresa Prados-Torreira’s Fellowship project examines the image of American women in history through the lens of political cartoons. Cartoons are filled with information about the society in which they were created and first read. As such, they contain a rich array of clues that help us understand the past. We find in them information about family life, racial conflict, gender roles, attitudes towards work, religion and many other aspects of society. She is interested in analyzing the multiple roles women have been made to play in political cartoons from the Colonial period to 9/11. Throughout American history, cartoonists have used images of womanhood as both symbolic and specific references to political and cultural conflicts their society encountered. Her research aims to use cartoons to illustrate ways in which the notion of womanhood was politicized and perceived throughout history.
Since cartoons are not as intimidating as many other historical sources of information, they are the perfect medium to illuminate major events in history. Prados-Torreira teaches a history class on this subject called “Cartoons and Satire in American History” and has found that students easily relate to the visual elements and the humor of cartoons. She also teaches courses on Women in U.S. History. This Fellowship allows her to combine two of her areas of scholarly interest. By selecting cartoons whose meaning still resonates with a contemporary audience and captures specific significant aspects of a given society, she hopes to create a tool that will help students decipher the past.
Prados-Torreira recently presented a paper on the panel “Cartoons, Caricature and the Imperial Grotesque” at the American Studies Association in Puerto Rico in November, 2012. Her review on Michele Vazquez-Reid’s The Year of the Lash: Free People of Color in Cuba and the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic World (University of Georgia Press, 2011) was published in the December 2012 issue of the American Historical Review. In the Fall 2101, she created a new class—The Nineteen Twenties and the Birth of Modern America—which has now been incorporated to Columbia College’s history offerings. In Spring 2013, she oversaw the Paula Pfeffer-Cheryl-Johnson Odim Political Cartoon Contest for Columbia College students; Also in the Spring she was on the judging panel selecting this year’s Fischetti Awards for professional cartoonists.