Robin Henry

History commentator

Dr. Robin C. Henry holds a Ph.D. in US history from Indiana University and is an associate professor in the history department at Wichita State University. Her research examines the intersections among sexuality, law, and regional identity in the 19th and early 20th century United States.

She is the author of the forthcoming book, Criminalizing Sex, Defining Sexuality: Sexual Regulation and Masculinity in the American West, 1850-1927, as well as numerous articles. Currently, she is working on her second book, The Progressives’ Lincoln’: Reform and the Intellectual Life of Benjamin Barr Lindsey.

Ways to Connect

When Hillary Clinton became the Democratic Party’s nominee for president, she made history as the first woman to represent a major party on the presidential ticket. However, she was not the first woman to run for president. That honor goes to Victoria Woodhull.

On September 8th, we celebrate the 45th anniversary of the publication of Our Bodies, Ourselves. The book originated from pamphlets put together for a women’s health seminar taught by Nancy Miriam Hawley at Boston’s Emmanuel College in 1969. While the course started small it grew quickly in popularity through word of mouth. The classes became consciousness-raising events, providing women with the necessary tools, ideas, and resources that formed the nexus of the book produced by the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective.

AP Photo/Jefferey Z. Carney


During July and August of 1991, thousands of members of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue descended on the city of Wichita. Basing their actions on civil disobedience, their mission during what they called the Summer of Mercy was to “put their bodies on the line” for babies by ending legal access to abortion.

On May 31, 1790, President George Washington signed the United States’ first copyright bill into law. A short, half-page statute, it granted copyright to books, maps and charts for 14 years, with the option to renew for another 14 years if the author was still alive.

When does a current event become history? As a historian of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, this transition has already occurred for the subject matter of my work. While new research can deepen my understanding of people, places, and events, very rarely does the historical landscape seismically shift under my feet. Colleagues writing about the late 20th century—like those of us who lived through it—have a different experience.

On May 10, 1840, Elizabeth Cady married abolitionist Henry Stanton. For the presiding pastor, the unconventional wedding day, a Friday, was not the most shocking part of their wedding ceremony. Rejecting Protestant tradition, Elizabeth Cady omitted the vow binding her “to obey” her husband. While she was not the first bride to make this omission, Stanton’s choice reflected a deeper understanding of the inequity women faced within their marriages and her desire to increase women’s legal rights within the institution.

On January 22, 1973, the United States Supreme Court ruled on the Texas abortion case Roe v. Wade. In a 7 to 2 decision, the Court declared that the right to an abortion was a fundamental right included in the guarantee of personal privacy, safe guarded in the 14th Amendment’s concept of personal liberty. On the same day, the Court decided another abortion case out of Georgia, Doe v. Bolton. While the Roe decision receives most of the attention regarding the constitutionality of abortion, it is only in tandem with Doe that we fully understand the details of this right to privacy.

December 1 marks the sixtieth anniversary of Rosa Parks’s refusal to move to the colored section on a Montgomery, Alabama, city bus. A longtime member of the NAACP, Parks’s act of defiance became an important symbol of the early stages of the Civil Rights Movement. However, she was not simply tired or defiant, but had been vetted by the organization for her good, strong character as part of the NAACP’s longer, legal challenge to city and state segregation laws.

Public Domain

The United States Congress ratified the Louisiana Purchase Treaty on October 20th, 1803, officially transferring 826,000 square miles of land from French to American ownership for $15 million.

It’s considered one of the greatest real estate deals in history. But at the time, purchasing the land between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains presented constitutional and political questions for the United States.

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

The United States designates the first Monday of September as a day to honor the contributions of American workers and the achievements of the American labor movement.