Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



Hill, Michael R. 1988. “Research by Bureaucracy: Hattie Plum Williams and the National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement, 1929-1931.” (Special Issue on the History of Nebraska Sociology). Mid-American Review of Sociology 13 (2): 69-84.


Copyright 1988 Michael R. Hill


This paper explores the bureaucratized research activities (1929-1931) of the National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement (NCLOE) from the perspective of Hattie Plum Williams' sociobiographical experience. Williams was a doctoral student of George E. Howard and earned her Ph.D. in 1915 -- the ftrst doctorate in sociology awarded by the University of Nebraska. That same year, she joined the Nebraska faculty and eventually became Chair of the Department (1922-1928).2 In 1931, at age 53, this full professor was called upon be an unpaid fieldworker, gathering data according to rigid protocols stipulated by the NCLOE. Archival reconstruction of Williams' "view from the bottom" of the university and NCLOE bureaucracies is the special focus of this paper. This perspective purposefully opens the disciplinary record to examine a neglected woman's work in sociology (Long 1987).