Christine Stansell

Stein-Freiler Distinguished Service Professor Emerita in United States History and the College
PhD 1979 Yale University

Christine Stansell has retired and no longer directs BA theses or accepts new graduate students.

Field Specialties

Women's and gender history; Antebellum U.S. social and political history; American cultural history; History of human rights and post-catastrophic societies


Christine Stansell is a leading historian of American women, with interests in women's and gender history, antebellum US social and political history, American cultural history, and how societies reconstruct themselves after catastrophes. After graduating from Princeton University (1971), she earned a PhD in American studies at Yale University (1979) and joined the Princeton History Department in 1982. She will begin teaching at the University of Chicago in 2007. Beginning with her years as a graduate student at Yale in the early 1970s, Professor Stansell helped to establish and further the "second wave" of women's history and gender studies. Her first book, City of Women: Sex and Class in New York 1789-1860 (1986), explored the streets, tenements, dance halls, and sweatshops of antebellum New York City to reveal the central role working-class women played in the city's history. At the same time she worked in the new field of the history of sexuality, collaborating with Ann Snitow and Sharon Thompson to publish the groundbreaking collection Powers of Desire: The Politics of Sexuality (1983). Her most recent book, American Moderns: Bohemian New York and the Creation of a New Century (2000), weaves together the lives of the influential group of writers, artists, and political radicals who lived in Greenwich Village in the years between 1890 and 1920 to deliver a wide-ranging account of left-wing politics, avant-garde art, intimate relationships, and American social history at the opening of the twentieth century. Professor Stansell writes and reviews widely for The New Republic and other journals of opinion on subjects ranging from African Americans in New York City and the painter James McNeill Whistler to Theodore Roosevelt, the history of love, and 1960s feminism. Her writings on the election of 2008 appeared in DissentNew York Magazine, and the Huffington Post. Most recently, she published a piece on the fifteenth anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda for The New Republic. She had been the recipient of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship (1993-94), a Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study (1990-91), and the Mary Bunting Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study (2006-07).

Her book The Feminist Promise, 1792 to the Present was published by Random House/Modern Library in April 2010. Future projects will focus on social and political activity across the color line in antebellum America and England, the history of motherhood, the home front in World War II, and post-catastrophic societies.

Teaching Interests

Professor Stansell has taught courses for undergraduates on American women from the sixteenth to the early twentieth century; the history of feminism; motherhood; and the history of sexuality. She has offered graduate seminars on gender history, the post-Civil War period, the history of sexuality, and metropolitan life; the latter is a writing/research workshop that trains students to write about cities.


American Moderns: Bohemian New York and the Creation of a New Century. New York: Owl Books, 2000.

City of Women: Sex and Class in New York, 1789–860. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987

(Coedited with Ann Snitow and Sharon Thompson). Powers of Desire: The Politics of Sexuality. New York: Monthly Review Press, New Feminist Library, 1983.