Kathleen M. Brown

Kathleen M. Brown

David Boies Professor of History

Early America (to 1865); comparative slavery; comparative race, gender and sex; Atlantic; abolition and human rights

215 898.5281

College Hall 315 C

Kathleen Brown is a historian of gender and race in early America and the Atlantic World. Educated at Wesleyan and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, she is author of Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs: Gender, Race, and Power in Colonial Virginia (Chapel Hill, 1996), which won the Dunning Prize of the American Historical Association. Her second book, Foul Bodies: Cleanliness in Early America (Yale, 2009), received the Organization of American Historians' Lawrence Levine Book Prize for cultural history and the Society of the History of the Early American Republic Book Prize. Foul Bodies explores the relationships among health, domestic labor, and ideals for beauty, civilization, and spiritual purity during the period between Europe's Atlantic encounters and the American Civil War. Brown is also author of numerous articles and essays. She has been a fellow of the Omohundro Institute for Early American Studies at the College of William and Mary, the American Antiquarian Society, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe College. She is currently a Guggenheim Fellow (2015-2016).

Her current project, Undoing Slavery: Abolitionist Body Politics and the Argument over Humanity, is a book-length interdisciplinary study of the transatlantic abolition movement set in the context of contemporary transformations in international law, medicine, and domestic ideals. Using a framework informed by the history of the body, she examines issues of "freedom" and coercion in the transportation of slaves, convicts, and indigenous peoples and the extraction of slave labor. She also tracks the efforts of abolitionists to create a sympathetic portrait of slaves as people suffering fundamental human rights violations to family ties, free will, and morality. 

Brown offers a wide range of undergraduate and graduate courses on such topics as comparative slavery, colonial America, history of the body, race and sex in early America, and Atlantic history.

Office Hours
By appointment

Ph.D. University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1990

M.A. University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1985

B.A. Wesleyan University, 1981

Research Interests

women and gender; slavery; masculinity; race; history of the body; health and medicine

Courses Taught

HIST 11 Deciphering America (with Walter Licht)

HIST 203 Witches, Whores, & Rogues

HIST 345 Sinners, Sex, and Slaves: Gender and Race in America to 1865

HIST 346 Bodies, Race, and Rights: Gender and Race in the U.S. 1865 to the Present

HIST 610 Slavery, Tropical Commodities, and Atlantic Plantation Economies

HIST 670 Comparative History of Slavery and Emancipation

HIST 610 Atlantic History

HIST 670 Comparative Race and Gender

HIST 670 Bodies, Race, and Gender in Comparative Perspective

Selected Publications

“Partus Sequitur Ventrem or Nullius Filius?” (co-authored with Jennifer Spear), in progress
“Gender Frontiers of Early America,” Oxford Handbook of American Women’s History, forthcoming 2017
“The Chesapeake,” The World of Colonial America, ed. Ignacio Gallup-Diaz, forthcoming 2017
“The Life Cycle: Motherhood during the Enlightenment,” in A Cultural History of Women in the Age of Enlightenment, ed. Ellen Pollak, 2013.
“Strength of the Lion. . .Arms like polished iron: embodying black masculinity in an age of propertied manhood,” in New Men: Manhood in Early America, ed. Thomas Foster (New York University Press, 2011)
“The History of Women in the United States to 1865,” in Bonnie G. Smith, ed., Women’s History in Global Perspective Vol. 2 (University of Illinois Press, 2007)
“Body Work in the Antebellum United States,” in Ann Stoler, ed., Haunted by Empire: Race and Colonial Intimacies in North American History (Duke University Press, 2006)
“In Search of Pocahontas,” in Nancy Rhoden and Ian K. Steele, eds., The Human Tradition in Colonial America (Scholarly Resources, 1999)
“Native Americans and Early Modern Concepts of Race,” in Martin Daunton and Rick Halpern, eds., Empire and Others: British Encounters with Indigenous Peoples, 1600-1850 (University of London Press, 1998)
A Parcell of Murdereing Bitches’: Female Relationships in an Eighteenth-Century Slaveholding Household,” in Karen Robertson and Susan Frye, eds., Women’s Alliances in Early Modern England (Oxford University Press, 1998)
“’Changed. . .into the fashion of man’: the Politics of Sexual Identity in an Anglo-American settlement,” Journal of the History of Sexuality (November 1995)*reprinted in Kathy Peiss, ed., Major Problems in the History of American Sexuality (2001)*reprinted in Catherine Clinton and Michelle Gillespie, eds., The Devil’s Lane: Sex and Race in the Early South (Oxford University Press, 1997)
“The Anglo-Algonquian Gender Frontier,” in Nancy Shoemaker, ed., Negotiators of Change: Historical Perspectives on Native American Women (Routledge, 1995)*reprinted in Thomas Dublin and Katherine Sklar, eds., Women and Power in American History (2002 edition)


Alice Paul Center for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality
Africana Studies
History and Sociology of Science

CV (file)