Linda Gordon

Professor of History; University Professor of the Humanities

Yale University, PhD 1970

Office Address: 

King Juan Carlos Center, Room 606



Personal Homepage:

Field of Study: 

United States

Research Interests: 

Twentieth-century U.S. social, political, and social policy history; women and gender; family; U.S. Southwest

Curriculum Vitae


Linda Gordon was born in Chicago but considers Portland, Oregon, her home town. She did her Doctorate in Russian History at Yale. She published her dissertation on the origins of the Zaporogian (Ukrainian) cossacks, but soon left that region behind to become one of a pioneering generation of historians of the US examining women and gender. Before coming to NYU in 1998 Gordon taught at the University of Wisconsin/Madison where she was awarded the university's most prestigious chair professorship, the Vilas Research Chair. Today she is a University Professor of the Humanities and professor of history at NYU, teaching courses on gender, social movements, imperialism and the 20th-century US in general. She has won many prestigious awards, including Guggenheim, NEH, ACLS, Radcliffe Institute and the New York Public Library¹s Cullman Center fellowships. For the first part of her career, most of Gordon's writing examined the historical roots of contemporary social policy debates in the US, particularly as they concern gender and family issues. Her first book, Woman's Body, Woman's Right: The History of Birth Control in America (Viking/Penguin, 1976), published in 1976 and reissued in 1990, remains the definitive history of birth-control politics in the US. It was completely revised and re-published as The Moral Property of Women in 2002. In 1988 she published a historical study of how the US has dealt with family violence, including child abuse, book, spousal violence and sexual abuse. Heroes of Their Own Lives: The History and Politics of Family Violence (Viking/Penguin, 1988) won the Joan Kelly prize of the American Historical Association. Gordon served on the Departments of Justice/Health and Human Services Advisory Council on Violence Against Women for the Clinton administration (a council abolished by the Bush administration). Her history of welfare, Pitied But Not Entitled: Single Mothers and the History of Welfare (Free Press, 1994), won the Berkshire Prize and the Gustavus Myers Human Rights Award. Changing direction, Gordon turned to narrative as a way of bringing large-scale historical developments to life. Her 1999 book, The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction, the story of a vigilante action against Mexican-Americans, won the Bancroft prize for best book in American history and the Beveridge prize for best book on the history of the Western Hemisphere. In the process of researching her most recent book, she discovered an important group of Lange photographs long unnoticed and never published: photographs of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, commissioned by the US Army but then impounded because they were too critical of the internment policy. Gordon selected 119 of this images and published them in 2006, with introductory essays by herself and by historian Gary Okihiro, as Impounded: Dorothea Lange and Japanese Americans in World War II.

Selected Works:


WomensRightBooks.pngWoman's Body, Woman's Right:  A Social History of Birth Control in America.  Viking, 1976; Penguin paperback, 1977; revised 2nd edition, 1990. 
    * Nominated for the National Book Award in History, 1976

CossackRebellionBook.jpgCossack Rebellions:  Social Turmoil in the Sixteenth-Century Ukraine.  SUNY Press, 1983.
    * Winner of the Antonovych Prize for 1983

HeroesBOOK.jpgHeroes of Their Own Lives:  The Politics and History of Family Violence, Viking, 1988; paperback, Penguin, 1989; British edition, 1989. 
    * Winner of AHA's Joan Kelly Prize for the best book in women's history or theory
    * Winner of the Wisconsin Library Association Outstanding Book
    * Runner-up for Los Angeles Times Book Award in History
    * Nominated for the National Book Award in History and the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award

PitiedEntitledBOOK.jpgPitied but Not Entitled: Single Mothers and the Origins of Welfare. The Free Press, 1994; paperback, Harvard University Press, 1995.  
    * Winner of the Berkshire Prize for best book in women's history 
    * Winner of the Gustavus Myers Award for best book on human rights in North America 
    * Winner of the Wisconsin Library Association Outstanding Book

OrphanAbductionBOOK.jpgThe Great Arizona Orphan Abduction. Harvard University Press, 1999; paperback 2000. 
    * Winner of the Bancroft Prize for best book in US history,
    * Winner of the Beveridge Prize for best book on the history of the Americas
    * Winner of the Willa Cather Nonfiction Prize for Writing the West
    * Winner of the Southwest Book Award
    * Winner of the Wisconsin Library Association Banta Award for best book in all categories.

MoralPropertyBOOK.jpgThe Moral Property of Women: The History of Birth Control Politics in America.  University of Illinois Press, 2003. 
    * This is a completely revised version of Woman’s Body, Woman’s Right

DorothylangeBOOK.jpgDorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits. W. W. Norton, 2009.
    * Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Award for biography
    * Winner of the Bancroft prize for best book in US history
    * Winner of the National Arts Club prize for arts writing

Edited Books with Scholarly Introductions:

Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment, Norton, 2006.

Dear Sisters: Dispatches from Women's Liberation, with Baxandall, Basic Books, 2000.

America's Working Women:  A Documentary History, with Baxandall and Reverby.  Random House and Vintage, 1976; entirely revised 2nd edition, 1995.

Women, the State, and Welfare:  Historical and Theoretical Essays. University of Wisconsin Press, 1990.   
   * Chicago Women in Publishing Award, First Place.


“History Constructs an Historian,” in Becoming Historians, ed. James Banner and John Gillis, University of Chicago Press, 2008. 

“Dorothea Lange: The Photographer as Agricultural Sociologist,” Journal of American History 93 #3, December 2006. 

“If the Progressives were Advising Us Today, Should We Listen?” Journal of Gilded Age and Progressive Era, April 2002. 

"A Genealogy of 'Dependency': Tracing a Keyword of the US Welfare State," with Nancy Fraser,  Signs, winter 1994, and in many anthologies. 

"Social Insurance and Public Assistance:  Gender in American Welfare Thought," American Historical Review, February 1992, and in several anthologies. 

"Black and White Visions of Welfare, 1890-1945," Journal of American History, September 1991, and in several anthologies. 

Interview on the craft and theory of history, by Carol Lasser, in Visions of History:  Conversations with Radical Histori¬ans, Pantheon, 1984.

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Updated on 10/07/2016