Publication Date

May 21, 2020

Perspectives Section

Member Spotlight, Perspectives Daily



Sarah E. Patterson is a research historian at SNA International/Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. She lives in Bellevue, Nebraska, and has been a member since 2015.


Twitter: @SEPatterson1214

Sarah E. Patterson

Alma maters: BA (anthropology), University of Tennessee, Knoxville, 2006; BA (English), University of Tennessee, Knoxville, 2006; MA (anthropology), University of West Florida, 2013; MA (history), Florida State University, 2014; PhD (history), Florida State University, 2019

Fields of interest: American military, World War II, gender, sexuality

Describe your career path. What led you to where you are today?

My path to my current position was a bit unusual. I started in historical archaeology but discovered my interests focused more closely on the documentary aspects of the field. This led to a lot of soul searching and a change in trajectory. I started out very interested in gender history and that led me to the intersection of gender and military history.

What projects are you currently working on?

As a civilian contractor with SNA International, I am doing research for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency to assist in the identification of unknown individuals from past wars. It is an incredibly rewarding job. In my personal time, I am continuing my research on gender and the Marine Corps during the 20th century.

What’s the most fascinating thing you’ve ever found at the archives or while doing research?

One unusual thing I found at the archives was actually evidence of previous historians at work. While working on my dissertation research at NARA II, I found a 1966 pull slip copy from a researcher with my same last name and similar handwriting. It was a bit eerie.

Is there an article, book, movie, blog etc. that you could recommend to fellow AHA members?

I have received a lot of support and learned many new things from historians in the Twitter community. I would definitely recommend checking out Twitter. There are lots of interesting conversations to consider.

What do you value most about the history discipline?

History has tremendous value for its ability to illustrate the causes of contemporary phenomena, as well as showing the long-term impact of present-day choices. While the phrase “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it” is certainly an oversimplification, knowing history creates individuals who are more educated in the complex forces that shape current society. This is why teaching history is so important.

Why is membership in the AHA important to you?

AHA membership is important for the support and community it creates. The AHA provides a place for historians to find resources for research, job placement, and career advancement. I have received financial assistance from the AHA with attending meetings to present my research and taken advantage of resources for graduate students and young professionals which have greatly assisted me in my search for the right job.

Do you have a favorite AHA annual meeting anecdote you would like to share?

There is not really a single anecdote from the AHA annual meetings that stands out, but I would encourage graduate students who attend to take advantage of graduate student receptions and other events aimed specifically at them. It is a great opportunity to meet peers in the same place you are as well as to get important tips on being successful in history.

AHA members are involved in all fields of history, with wide-ranging specializations, interests, and areas of employment. To recognize our talented and eclectic membership, Perspectives Daily features a regular AHA Member Spotlight series.

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Matthew Keough
Matthew Keough

American Historical Association