I’m Jessica Mills, an aspiring historian, museum professional, and lifelong learner. I research medieval saints and their networks of men and women. Specifically, my focus is Saint Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) and how her network helped authorize and give political power to her mission.
I have an interest in a wider range of historical periods and it is always changing. I believe there is something interesting to uncover in every period. New questions develop out of new discoveries about the past. This website is dedicated to such a question:
What role did Catherine’s network play in the political and social power Catherine wielded?
The first step to answering this question is understanding how large Catherine’s network was. Some questions guided my thinking: Who was the most important person to Catherine? How was everyone connected? Did one connection open the door for further connections in the 14th century? Was gender a significant factor?
Rather than follow the traditional thesis route to graduate with a Masters of Arts in Historical Studies from SIUE, I decided to create a digital humanities project to widen my skills. This web site is the finished product. Digital humanity projects are becoming more popular in academia, and I want this project to help push the acceptance of digital history forward.
Throughout my schooling, I have had the privilege of receiving funding as a Teaching Assistant, Graduate Assistant, and Research Assistant. I received a Newberry Renaissance Consortium Grant that enabled me to participate in a seminar at the Newberry Library entitled, “Gender, Bodies, and the Body Politic in Medieval Europe” led by Dr. Tanya Miller-Stabler from Loyola University. This class broadened my understanding of medieval life and how notions of the body affected behavior and beliefs of men and women. I also studied independently with Dr. Carole Collier-Frick, focusing on gender studies. Additionally, I had an independent study with Dr. Jessica Despain to understand digital humanities and how to make a successful website while upholding academic integrity. This project could not have been possible without the limitless meetings with my thesis committee chair, Dr. Katrin Sjursen, who pushed my ideas and arguments further than I ever dreamed!
I hope you enjoy this website and develop questions about the past and leave the website having learned something about the Saint Catherine.