Stephanie McKellop

Ph.D. Student

First, I am happy to discuss the graduate program at Penn with interested students and to answer any queries one may have about joining us! Do not hesitate to reach out with questions about Penn or the program.

I am a historian of poverty, marriage, and the family, with interests intersecting in areas of gender, sexuality, class, and race.

My dissertation focuses on early American poverty and the culture of the poor, situating the so-called un-cultured lives of the lower and working classes in a context of vibrant, overlapping, and adaptive cultural practices. It is within this culture of the poor that I research family organization, emotional bonds, cultural rituals, and how gender, race, and class intertwine in the understudied underclass of American history.

I work primarily on "vast early America," a conceptual frame which moves beyond traditional Anglophone peoples and territories into a larger, diverse landscape. I am particularly interested in folk forms of marriage and divorce. In my research on wife-selling, I focus on the blurred lines between love matches and economic bargains, the notion of slavery and race in gender dynamics, and how human trafficking and prostitution manifested within matrimonial realms. 

In the past, I have studied the history of family history in early America, analyzing how different cultures practiced and understood family through disciplines of history, comparative notions of "blood," and gendered productions of what comes to be called genealogy. I have also written on issues of racial blame, immigration, and nationalism within Progressive era marriage debates and the social worlds of widows in early America.

Currently, I am working on how "backcountry" folk customs of self-marriage and self-divorce (jumping the broom, wife-selling, coin-breaking, newspaper advertisements) formed a local customary law that was as powerful if not more powerful than the legal and ecclesiastical rules governing the realm.


I am also passionate about teaching and am continually working towards a more inclusive, supportive, and effective set of pedagogical tools. Across the web, you can find my resources for low income and first generation students, students with mental illness and disabilities in academia, threads on collaborative notetaking, work on students' rights, Title IX tools, resources for conference "crowd-surfing" for grad students, and tips for incoming PhD students. 

One example of the collaborative notetaking concept I wrote about being practiced by another historian:


B.S. Psychology, History; Gardner-Webb University, 2015

Research Interests

colonial and early republican North America; women's history;
history of sexuality and queerness; marriage and family history; social history; cultural history; race, gender, and the body

Courses Taught

Teaching Assistant:
History of the American South to the Civil War (Fall 2016)
The American South: From Civil War to Sunbelt (Spring 2017)
Sinners, Sex, and Slaves: Race and Sex in Early America (Fall 2017)