Leigh Ann Wheeler
Ph.D., University of Minnesota
- Specialties: Twentieth-Century United States, especially Women, Gender, Sexuality, Law, and Reform, and Social Movements
- Distinguished Lecturer, Organization of American Historians
- Senior Editor, Oxford Research Encyclopedia in American History
- Editorial Board, Journal of American History
- Co-editor: Journal of Women's History ('10-'15)
Office: LT 717
Phone: (607) 777-2631
Binghamton University's History department combines the best of what I most value professionally — excellent, student-oriented teaching and rigorous, high-quality scholarship. Like my colleagues here, I consider teaching and scholarship to be mutually reinforcing activities. Preparing courses, facilitating discussions, and interacting with students stimulates my thinking and my enthusiasm for history in ways that more solitary work cannot. Moreover, the dynamic interplay among students and between myself and students, the clever questions and creative responses that make me think in new ways while demonstrating that my students are doing the same, the spontaneous retorts and thoughtful reflections, the moments of illumination when a student figures something out—all remind me how and why the work we do in and out of the classroom really matters.
My scholarly work revolves around one key problem—understanding the gendered and changing nature of sexual culture in the twentieth-century United States. How Sex Became a Civil Liberty, my most recent book, shows how the American Civil Liberties Union profoundly changed the ways Americans think about, legislate, and adjudicate sexuality. The ACLU did so by developing and promoting new constitutional rights, including the consumer's right to speech and privacy. Like my first book, How Sex Became a Civil Liberty is a people-driven story. It relates private lives to public activism to explain ACLU leaders' internal debates, evolving policies, changing strategies, and relationships with individuals and institutions outside the organization. Sexual issues considered by the book include: birth control, nudism, obscenity & pornography, abortion,sterilization, gay rights, rape, and sexual harassment.
Media Coverage of How Sex Became a Civil Liberty
Also, see reviews in:
American Historical Review
First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life
Harvard Law Review, Indiana Journal of Law and Social Equality, Law and History Review
Journal of American History
Journal of American Studies
Journal of Women's History
Oral History Review
Reviews in American History
Tulsa Law Review
Western Legal History
Women and Social Movements in the United States
Against Obscenity: Reform and the Politics of Womanhood in America, 1873-1935, my first book, shows how women reshaped the ways Americans thought about and adjudicated obscenity. They did this by refocusing debates about the harm of obscenity around children and presenting explicit sex education as an antidote. Against Obscenity also shows how the right to vote—not having it and then getting it—affected women's reform in unexpected ways. Readers will be surprised to see how movie moguls and burlesque theater owners in the early twentieth-century bowed to but also strategized around women's demands.
See also reviews in the American Historical Review, Women and Social Movements Website, Journal of American History, Journal of Popular Culture, American Quarterly, Journal of American Studies, and Journal of Social History
Leigh Ann's Op-Eds
Journal of Women's History
With my colleague, Jean Quataert, I co-edited the Journal of Women's History for one term between 2010 and 2015. With Elisa Camiscioli (book review editor) and Benita Roth (associate editor), we are working to raise the Journal's visibility and enhance its presence on the internet while further developing the Journal's contributions to the ongoing project of internationalizing women's history.
Graduate students who work with me pursue a wide range of research interests in the modern U.S. My students win national grants and fellowships, present at national conferences, publish in peer-reviewed journals and first-rate university presses, and obtain tenure-track positions. Their projects include the following topics:
- "Making Connections in Viet Nam: Transnational U.S. Women Activists and the Meanings
of Race, Gender, and Revolution, 1965-1975," (2013), Jessie Frazier, University of
New book out: Women's Anti-War Diplomacy During the Vietnam War (University of North Carolina Press, 2017)
- "Embryonic Policies: Reproductive Technology and Federal Policy," (2012), Erin McKenna Mignin, St. Louis Community College
- "Second-Wave Feminism and Pornography: Playgirl and Porn for Heterosexual Women, 1973-2006," (2011), Chadwick Roberts, University of North Carolina, Wilmington
- "Expertise at War: The National Committee on Education by Radio, the National Association of Broadcasters, the Federal Radio Commission and the Battle for American Radio," (2006), David Haus, Husson University
Other Dissertations in Progress:
- Women and Work in Detroit, Michigan During World War II
- American and Russian Women's International Activism During the Progressive Era
- Movie Censorship
- Celebrity Activism and Anti-Vietnam War Protest
- Gender as Political Strategy in the American Woman Suffrage Movement
Sex Education, Public Schools, and Eugenics
- Modern America
- Women in the Modern U.S.
- Research Seminar: Social Movements in the Twentieth-Century U. S.
- Research Seminar: History of Sexuality in the Twentieth-Century U.S.
Sex and Law in the Modern U.S.
- Women in the Modern U.S.
- Civil Liberties in the Twentieth-Century U.S.
- History of Sexuality in the Modern U.S.
- History of Media Censorship in the U.S.
- Readings in the Twentieth-Century U.S.
- Social Movements in the Twentieth-Century U.S.
Selected Scholarly Articles and Book Chapters:
“Inventing Sexuality: Ideologies, Identities, and Practices in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era,” in Christopher McKnight Nichols and Nancy C. Unger, eds., A Companion to the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (Wiley-Blackwell, 2017).
- "Publicizing Sex: How the American Civil Liberties Union Liberated Media, 1965-1973," in Eric Schaefer, ed., Sex Scene: Media and the Sexual Revolution (forthcoming, Duke University Press).
- "Where Else But Greenwich Village?: Love, Lust, and the Emergence of the American Civil Liberties Union's Sexual Rights Agenda, 1920-1931" Journal of the History of Sexuality 21, 1 (January 2012), 60-92.
- "Rescuing Sex from Prudery and Prurience: American Women's Use of Sex Education as an Antidote to Obscenity, 1925-1932," Journal of Women's History, 12 (Fall 2000), 173-195.
- "Battling Over Burlesque: Conflicts Between Maternalism, Paternalism, and Organized Labor, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1920-1932," Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, 20 (Special Issue: Motherhood and Maternalism, Fall 1999), 148-174.
- "From Reading Shakespeare to Reforming Burlesque: The Minneapolis Woman's Club and the Women's Welfare League, 1907-1920," Michigan Historical Review, 25 (Spring 1999), 44-75.