Susan J. Pearson Associate Professor

Susan J. Pearson (Ph.D., University of North Carolina, 2004) is an historian of the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century United States. She is particularly interested in the cultural politics of reform, the expansion of the state and forms of governance, and the development of American liberalism.

Professor Pearson is the author of the prize-winning book, The Rights of the Defenseless: Protecting Animals and Children in Gilded Age America (University of Chicago Press, 2011) and essays and articles in The Journal of American History, History and Theory, The Journal of Social History, and the Journal of the Civil War Era.

Pearson is now at work on a new project that examines the spread of compulsory and universal birth registration in the United States. Her research details how a once-locally and unevenly-practiced form of recordkeeping became the most essential mechanism for recording and establishing individual identity.


Teaching Interests

  • United States History to 1865
  • Nineteenth Century American Cultural History
  • United States Women’s History to 1865
  • Gilded Age America
  • American Childhood: A History
  • Human-Animal Relations in Historical Perspective
  • History of Marriage in the United States
  • Graduate Seminar in American History: the Nineteenth Century

Recent Awards and Honors

  • Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowship, American Council of Learned Societies, 2014-2015
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, 2012-2013
  • Kluge Fellow, Library of Congress, 2012-2013 (declined)
  • Merle Curti Award in Intellectual History, Organization of American Historians, 2012 (awarded for The Rights of the Defenseless)
  • Andrew W. Mellon Short-term Research Fellowship, Massachusetts Historical Society, 2010
  • Visiting Scholar, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2008-2009 (declined)
  • Best Article Prize, Society for the History of Children and Youth, 2007-2008 (awarded for “Infantile Specimens”)