Sophomore’s History Essay Advances to State Final

Recently, sophomore Lily Moss completed a research paper as part of her Sophomore Seminar class with US History teacher Susan Elliott. However, this time the paper’s journey didn’t end with a grade designation. “Lily wrote her paper on Oscar Wilde’s trial, and she did such an outstanding job that I recommended she participate in the competition,” Elliott shared.

The competition in question was the Illinois History Day Competition (IHDC), which invited students to submit papers based on the theme “Communication in History,” and Moss, after that encouragement from Elliott, decided to submit her paper—“Hidden and Open Communications: The Case of Oscar Wilde in a Society that Criminalized Homosexuality”—to the first round, the Metro Chicago History Fair. After assessment through multiple rounds, only about 20 to 25 papers advance to the State Final. And our very own Lily Moss made it!

While impressive, Moss earned this accolade after some seriously tough work. “I started with lots of research and reading primary sources, such as [Wilde’s] private letters, plays, essays and poems,” she stated. “My secondary research helped me understand how to work the primary research into the history day theme. I began my writing process with an outline and worked steadily on it over a week and a half. I had many drafts, along with many people who made editing suggestions to my essay along the way.” As to why she chose the trials of Oscar Wilde, she thought it seemed like a good fit for the IHDC. “While focusing on the theme, I categorized Wilde’s communications into two sub-categories evident in his works: his open communication about his homosexuality and his hidden communication about his sexual orientation.”

Although the competition is ongoing, Moss has already gained a lot through this process. “This was the first big essay project that I have done relating to one common theme, along with my first time needing to include mandatory primary sources. Using primary sources taught me how to better do a deep dive into a topic and how important and helpful it is to get information directly from the first source itself. Doing this reveals more than just information in secondary sources; it also allowed me to pick up subtleties that I would have missed by only reading those secondary sources.”

As Moss’ paper enters the final stages of competition, Elliott is keeping her thoughts bright for her student’s chances. “I am hoping she does well at the state competition. I think her insights are really sophisticated for a high school student, and she has a real shot!” Regardless of the outcome, Moss reflects positively on the experience. “Knowing that only two papers get to advance to the National History Day Competition, I am feeling happy with how far my essay has gotten and thank Ms. Elliott, for introducing me to this competition and encouraging me to enter my essay in the first place, and Mr. Greenstone and Mr. Bigelow, for their suggestions. I also thank Mr. Mahany for his amazing editing suggestions and the idea of introducing Polari (a secret language that allowed gay men in Wilde’s time and after to communicate safely, even in heterosexual company) into my essay.”

Join us in congratulating Moss on advancing through the Metro Chicago History Fair, and wish her luck as she advances to the State Final!

Click here to view her essay!
Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.