Two Wilton High School seniors recently qualified to compete in the National History Competition after placing second at the CT History Competition at the end of April. PJ Seelert and Skyler Addison will bring their project, Mad Women:  Gender in the Workplace in the ’60s and Beyond, to the nationals being held at the University of Maryland in June.

According to the National History Day website, more than half a million middle and high school students participate annually, conducting original research on historical topics of interest. Students present projects at the local and affiliate levels. Top entries are invited to the state/affiliate level contests. The top two entries in every category at the state/affiliate level are then invited to the National Contest.

Addison and Seelert were inspired to pursue their topic by the 2016 presidential election, “particularly the difference in divisive rhetoric that was used by male and female candidates,” notes PJ.

Skyler says watching how Hillary Clinton was treated was motivation.

“Witnessing one of the most well-qualified presidential candidates in history often be demeaned down to her appearance and lack of feminine mannerisms instead of focusing on her policies ultimately raised the question of sexism within the professional realm. We wanted to explore the idea of women who trailblazer throughout history to break through glass ceilings, specifically in the realm of corporate advertising, using the show Mad Men as an inspirational baseline,” she says.

They competed against 15-20 other entries in their senior group exhibit category, and were excited when they heard their names called at the State level competition.

Both students say studying history has been worthwhile. For Seelert, “Studying history allows one to understand the mistakes of the past, comprehend the current events of today, and the gravity of their effects on the future.”

Addison says what she’s learned by studying history has given her not only an ability to analyze critically, but it has also influenced her emotionally.

“A lot of the skills PJ and I incorporated into our project–such as synthesizing themes of feminism throughout history by tracking advertisements depicting women in the domestic professional realm–were all learned through our history department at WHS, specifically in AP US History with Mr. [Kenneth] Dunaj. Speaking from a creative perspective, I’ve always loved reading biographies and watching documentaries because history is rife with interesting characters. Empathy is definitely characterized by a broader perspective, something of which is culminated by understanding the themes of the past and present.”

After graduation, she plans on attending Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, CA and will study English, Government, or Media Studies. Seelert is headed to Bowdoin College in Brunswick, ME, and is undecided on a major.