I have been at the Johns Hopkins University since 1970, where I am presently professor of history. I took my undergraduate degree at Stanford University and received my PhD in history from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1971.
My earliest research was in American abolitionism and in the history of reform movements more generally. The result was two books, The Antislavery Appeal: American Abolitionism After 1830 (1976, 1984), and American Reformers (1978; revised edition, 1997).
In addition, I have published three edited works: Primers for Prudery: Sexual Advice to Victorian America (1974; reprt., with new preface, 2000); A Black Woman's Odyssey: The Narrative of Nancy Prince (1990), and Scientific Authority and Twentieth-Century America (1997), as well as numerous articles and book reviews in scholarly journals. My present work divides between my interest in radical and reform movements and research on 19th- and 20th-century American commercial popular culture, the subject of my essay in volume IV of Stanley Kutler, et al. eds., Encyclopedia of the United States in the Twentieth Century (1996).
At Hopkins, I have won two major teaching awards, been elected twice to the faculty Academic Council, and held numerous University, Arts and Sciences, and Peabody Conservatory committee assignments, including a term on the Provost's Committee on the Status of Women when it was first constituted. I have also served two years as special assistant to the provost and was first chair of the university-wide Diversity Leadership Council, 1997–1999.
My professional activities include chairing or co-chairing five major committees for the Organization of American Historians and the American Historical Association, with service on two others. For the Rockefeller Foundation, I chaired an external evaluation of the residency site program and served on three funding panels, as well as on similar panels for the National Endowment for the Humanities. In earlier stages of my career I received fellowships from both agencies.
I am especially proud of the achievements of my graduate students, who, in addition to being very good people, have won various professional and teaching awards, including five book prizes for revised versions of their dissertations, and the Organization of American Historians' prizes for best article and best article by a graduate student in the Journal of American History. Most recently, a former student’s second book won two major prizes awarded by the American Historical Association and co-won Columbia University’s prestigious Bancroft Prize.
My teaching concentrates in 19th- and 20th-century social and cultural history, with a special emphasis on social movements. It includes a course on extremism in American history and one on the history of the American west. Because the Hopkins program is very flexible, I’ve also been able to teach courses that can take advantage of special opportunities and resources in other departments. The most recent such collaboration was a course on radical theatre in America, co-taught with Professor John Astin, director of the Theatre Arts Program.