Jennifer W. Reiss


Ph.D. Student

Jennifer W. Reiss is a Ph.D. student working on the North Atlantic in the long eighteenth century. She is particularly interested in women and gender, early modern medicine and disability, and British and early American legal history. Her dissertation project, provisionally titled Undone Bodies: Women and Disability in Early America, combines these themes by exploring the layered relationship between womanhood (with its attendant social and legal disabilities) and corporeal disability in eighteenth-century British North America and the early Republic.

For the 2021-2022 academic year Jenny is serving as co-convener of the History Department’s Graduate Colloquium and as the History Department’s representative to the Student Government of the School of Arts and Sciences.

As an undergraduate, an internship in the Penn Archives led to her B.A. thesis, “The Schemes of Public Parties:” Provost Smith, Dr. Franklin and the Struggle for Control of the University of Pennsylvania, which questioned the University's hagiographic elevation of Benjamin Franklin in light of evidence he worked to undermine the institution in its early years. Her M.Phil. dissertation, entitled By My Own Experience:” Women, Medicine and Knowledge in the Eighteenth Century Anglo-Atlantic World looked at eighteenth-century female-led domestic medical practice in the context of globalization, Enlightenment learning, and ideas of authority in the British Atlantic.

Jennys first research project in the Ph.D. program, titled “Pity That So Fine a Man Should Have Lost His Leg:Gouverneur Morris and the Nuances of Physical Disability in Early America, attempted to understand how Morris, the early American statesman and diplomat, negotiated his multiple physical impairments alongside class and gender expectations in the early Republic. Her second project, Property, Propriety, and Publicity: A Different Look at Pope v. Curll (1741), which built on initial research she conducted as a J.D. / LL.M. student, excavated an early modern discourse of publicity rights (i.e. rights to ones name, image and likeness) from eighteenth-century British copyright litigation.

Jenny has presented her work at the Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife, the American Philosophical Society, the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, Temple University, the University of Cambridge, Penn’s Carey Law School, and at public history programming sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute. In August 2020 Penn Today interviewed her about her research on Gouverneur Morris, the complexities of impairment in the eighteenth century, and how she discovered American history:

Prior to embarking on a career in history, Jenny practiced as an attorney in New York and London, including as an associate at the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at New York University School of Law, where she supervised students in NYU Law’s international human rights clinic, and worked on the Center’s initiatives on corporate human rights abuses and racial profiling. On a pro bono basis, she worked with a Council of Europe legal team on the reorganization of the European Court of Human Rights and has represented asylum seekers in both the U.S. and UK. She has published articles on European law, human rights law and intellectual property law, and continues to maintain an interest in the history of human rights and the impact of law on art and culture.

Primary Advisor: Professor Kathleen M. Brown

Exam Fields/Committee:

  • North American History to 1820 (Daniel K. Richter)
  • Gender Theories and Early American Gender and Sexuality (Kathleen M. Brown)
  • History of Anglo-American Law to 1877 (Sarah L.H. Gronningsater)
  • Histories of Disability and Medicine (Beth Linker, Department of History and Sociology of Science)

A.M., History, University of Pennsylvania, 2021

M.Phil., American History, with Distinction, University of Cambridge (Corpus Christi College), 2019

J.D., Harvard Law School, 2011

LL.M., University of Cambridge (Sidney Sussex College), 2010

B.A., History (with Departmental Honors) and Political Science, summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, Benjamin Franklin Scholar (University Honors), University of Pennsylvania, 2007

Research Interests

Atlantic World; Early America; Early Modern Britain; social history; cultural history; legal history; women and gender; history of medicine; disability history; history of the body; Anglo-American constitutionalism and civic culture; legal institutions; history of intellectual property; human rights

Courses Taught

As a Teaching Assistant or Grader:

  • HIST108: American Origins (Spring 2022)
  • HIST133: Free Speech and Censorship (Fall 2021)
  • HIST168/AFRC168: History of American Law to 1877 (Spring 2021)
  • HIST161/ECON014: American Capitalism (Fall 2020)

Completed Penn’s Certificate Program in College and University Teaching (2021), as well as an additional non-credit Course in College Teaching (University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Teaching and Learning, Summer 2021)

Selected Publications
  • “On the Anniversary of The Nineteenth Amendment.” Center for Research in Feminist, Queer, and Transgender Studies/Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies Program of the University of Pennsylvania. [August 26, 2020.] [opinion piece; Featured on FQT’s podcast: Gender Jawn, podcast, season 2, episode 1, “A Little Change Will Do You Good with Melissa Sanchez.” Hosted by Maria Murphy. August 1, 2021.]. 
  • “Reconsidering the History of Domestic Medicine.” Doing History in Public. August 20, 2019. [blog post]
  •  “Innovative Governance in a Federal Europe: Implementing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.” European Law Journal 20, no. 1 (2014): 107-125. [refereed international publication]
  • “The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in a Post-Lisbon European Union.” Human Rights Brief 19, no. 2 (2012): 18-23. [published by American University Washington College of Law]
  • “Commercializing Human Rights: European Trademarks after Anheuser Busch.” Journal of World Intellectual Property 14, no. 2 (2011): 176-201. [refereed international publication]
  • “Recent Development – Protocol No. 14 ECHR and Russian Non-Ratification: The Current State of Affairs.” Harvard Human Rights Journal 22 (2009): 293-317. [published by Harvard Law School]
  • New York State Bar
  • McNeil Center for Early American Studies
  • Omohundro Institute for Early American History and Culture
  • Society for Historians of the Early American Republic