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

This commentary originally aired on April 19, 2016.

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.

During the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln believed that dissenters remaining within loyal states posed a threat to the Union. 

Photograph by Carol Friedman

Nina Simone, nicknamed the High Priestess of Soul, was an American jazz and blues musician of the late twentieth century. Born Eunice Waymon on Feb. 21, 1933, she moved to New York and then Philadelphia to study classical piano, before transforming herself into a nightclub performer and jazz vocalist. While she is mostly known for her illustrious musical career, she also became an outspoken advocate for civil rights. Simone used her music to discuss her views and her rage at the injustice of racism and segregation.

On January 20th, Donald Trump will be sworn in as President of the United States. While the Constitution only stipulates that the president make an “oath or affirmation,” the inauguration is so significant that there have only been four out-going presidents who did not attend the inauguration of their successor, in all cases, their bitter, political rival.

The familiar verse “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” from Emma Lazarus’s 1883 poem “The New Colossus” affirms many Americans’ belief that the United States is a nation of immigrants.

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.

www.ourbodiesourselves.org

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.

wikipedia.org

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.

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