Director, Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies Program at Penn
Director, Alice Paul Center for Research on Gender, Sexuality and Women
David Boies Professor of History
345 Fisher Bennett Hall
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.