I am currently a Ph.D. candidate in history at Princeton University studying twentieth-century legal history. I am also a National Fellow with the Jefferson Scholars Foundation at the University of Virginia during the 2018-2019 academic year. I will defend my dissertation in May 2019.
My primary fields of interest are in social and legal history and include the study of place, local governance, gender and sexuality, and race. My dissertation, “Cows, Cars, and Criminals: The Legal Landscape of the Rural Midwest, 1920-1975,” applies the methods of urban history to investigate rural communities as unique social and legal spaces. Using a series of case studies from several Midwestern states, including Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin, the dissertation argues that while national legal and political culture shifted away from rural communities in the twentieth century, rural Americans continued to express rural-based values and social norms through their use, manipulation, resistance, and understanding of the law, making the process of legally constituting the rural a central feature of twentieth-century America.
I received my BA in history and art history from Indiana University, a MSc in comparative social policy from Oxford, and a JD from the University of California, Berkeley. My interdisciplinary background continues to inform my scholarship and interest in public history.
Other work has focused on recovering marginalized voices within twentieth century social movements. My law review note concerns the hidden civil rights activism behind the landmark constitutional decision, Chambers v. Mississippi (1973) (101 Calif. L. Rev. 445 (2013)).
Law & Laundry
In addition to my dissertation research, a second strand of my research focuses on social movements. As part of this work, I have an article about the intersection of race and gender in the Supreme Court decision, Muller v. Oregon (1908) forthcoming from Studies in Law, Politics, and Society in 2020.
This invited contribution to a special issue entitled, “Law and History: How Law Understands the Past,” for Studies in Law, Politics, and Society, uses the historian’s method of micro-history to rethink the significance of the Supreme Court decision Muller v. Oregon (1908). Typically considered a labor law decision permitting the regulation of women’s work hours, the article argues that through particular attention to the specific context in which the labor dispute took place—the laundry industry in Portland, Oregon—the Muller decision and underlying conflict should be understood as not only about sex-based labor rights but also about how the labor of laundry specifically entangled race-based discrimination. It juxtaposes the labor, and possible labor activism, of white laundresses in Portland, with the labor of their competitors: Chinese laundrymen. In so doing, the article offers a reading of Muller that incorporates regulations on Chinese laundries and considers the case as part of a long line of anti-Chinese laundry legislation and regulation on the West Coast, including that at issue in Yick Wo v. Hopkins (1886).
I serve on the Advisory Board of Women Also Know History and am a member of the founding team. #WomenAlsoKnowHistory works to promote and support the work of women historians by offering a concrete way to address explicit and implicit gender bias in public and professional perceptions of historical expertise. You can learn more here, and follow us on Twitter here.
In the past, I have served as an associate blogger for the Legal History Blog, and I continue to tweet @EmilyAPrifogle.
Updated Winter 2018