The Sidney Prize and Other Literary Prizes

The Sydney Prize is a monthly award honoring outstanding socially-conscious journalism that fosters social and economic justice. It is named in honor of the vision of Sidney Hillman, president of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (ACWA) and longtime advocate for a more progressive industrial democracy. The Hillman Foundation was established to carry on this work, and has for six decades illuminated critical issues facing working people while pursuing equitable solutions to help them.

The Sidney Prize is also a reminder of the ways that the scholarship can be used to encourage women in engineering, a field that still has a long way to go. In the past, students have been able to use their scholarship to take part in a leadership program that helps them build their network of professional contacts, and gain an opportunity to learn from some of the industry’s top engineers. The scholarship is also available to support students who want to attend a technical college and develop the skills they need to become a successful engineer.

In addition to the annual award for distinguished scholarship, the Society also awards the Sidney Hook Memorial Award, which recognizes national distinction in undergraduate teaching, a major contribution to liberal arts education and leadership in the cause of higher learning. There is a call for nominations a year and a half in advance of the Triennial Council meeting, published in the Key Reporter and in the general newsletter.

All literary prizes require the submission of written work, usually an essay or poem, on a specified subject. Applicants typically submit their work under a pseudonym, and all entries are judged by a panel of experts.

Some of the more prestigious literary prizes are awarded to writers and journalists, for pieces that explore topics relating to social, political or environmental issues. The New York Times columnist David Brooks has been bestowing Sydney Prizes since 2004, and recently awarded one to Amanda Hess for her piece on online sexism, and to George Packer’s profile of Angela Merkel for the New Yorker.

Other literary prizes are dedicated to specific genres of writing. For example, the Neilma Sidney Short Story Prize is open to short stories that feature a character whose experience or voice comes from a marginalised identity, such as a disability, race, sexual orientation or gender identity. The competition is run by the magazine Overland, which offers subscribers a discount on their subscription rate to enter the prize.

The Sidney Lanier Prize is for writing about the South, and is named after a 19th-century Southern poet. The prize was established in 2000 by alumnus Sidney Iwanter, who secretly recorded the lectures of his history professor at UW-Madison and later donated them to the university. In 2022, Mercer University’s Spencer B. King Center for Southern Studies will award the prize to Ron Rash, a poet and short story writer who teaches at Western Carolina University. The prize is accompanied by a $30,000 stipend to aid the winner in their research.