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.

Pages

Commentary
5:30 am
Tue March 24, 2015

The Roots Of The Word 'Feminism'

Feminist suffrage parade in New York City, 1912.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

By the end of the 20th century, the word "feminism" had acquired a definition and divisive reputation that, while historically inaccurate, spoke to the backlash against its simple, yet radical concept.

Read more
Commentary
5:30 am
Tue March 10, 2015

Rights Won, Rights Lost

Credit National Museum of American History / flickr Creative Commons

March is often a time to think about women’s contributions, and how far women have come toward equality. However, it is also important to consider moments when women have lost rights.

Read more
Commentary
5:30 am
Tue February 10, 2015

The Fugitive Slave Law

1858 poster published by H. Polkinhorn's Steam Job Printing Office, Washington, D.C. Digital copy via Washington DC Public Library
Credit Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

On February 12th, 1793, Congress passed the first Fugitive Slave Law. It was an addition to the U.S. Constitution’s Article 4 that required states to give “full faith and credit” to other states’ laws.

Read more
Commentary
5:30 am
Tue December 30, 2014

The Architects of Justice

Credit ensh / Flickr / Creative Commons

The meaning of the words justice served relies on the social, political and legal contexts in which it is applied.

Two 19th-century U.S. Supreme Court cases reflect how the Court’s decisions can be swayed by contemporary racial politics. In its 1857 Dred Scott v. Sandford decision, the Court declared that African Americans could not sue for freedom in federal court because they were not considered citizens. This decision reversed 28 years of precedent, reflecting more the heightened division over slavery than impartial justice.

Read more
Commentary
1:56 pm
Tue November 4, 2014

The Subversive History Of Dashiell Hammett

Dashiell Hammett
Credit Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

  American readers know Dashiell Hammett as the author of hard-boiled detective classics, like The Maltese Falcon, and as the long-time romantic partner of playwright Lillian Helmann.

We’re often less familiar with his radical beliefs in equality and political freedom that formed the foundation of his characters’ moral compasses and provided the backdrop to the uncertainty, darkness and ethical conflicts that transform his detective stories into literary fiction.

Read more
Commentary
5:00 am
Tue September 9, 2014

Hartford Convention Exposed Early Divisions

Political cartoon depicting the Hartford Conventioneers *possibly* leaping back into England's arms; by William Charles in 1814
Credit Public Domain

This year, Americans are observing the 200th anniversaries of events from the War of 1812, such as the burning of Washington, D.C. and the attack on Fort McHenry.

This year also marks the 200th anniversary of the Hartford Convention. Comprised of clandestine meetings held by anti-war New Englanders between December 1814 and January 1815, the Convention called for radical actions, such as the nullification of federal laws and possible secession from the union.

Read more
Commentary
5:00 am
Tue July 29, 2014

The War That The Great War Helped Us Avoid

A soldier patrolling the United States–Mexico border, 1916.
Credit New York Times (Public Domain) / Wikimedia Commons

While Europe teetered on the brink of war during the summer of 1914, the threat of escalating violence and warfare with Mexico consumed Americans’ attentions.

The relationship between the United States and Mexico began to sour in 1910 as Mexico fell into a decade-long civil war. Until 1914, the U.S. warned Mexico that it would only get involved if the fighting threatened the lives or property of Americans living in Mexico. Twice, President Taft sent troops to the border as a warning, but did not allow them to intervene in the conflict.

Read more
Commentary
5:00 am
Tue June 17, 2014

Another Piece of the Civil Rights Fight

Howard W. Smith was responsible for adding sex as a protected class in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

On June 19th 1964, the Senate passed the Civil Rights Act, breaking the 83-day filibuster by Southern Democrats. While this act is recognized as a groundbreaking piece of civil rights legislation for African Americans, it also held the key to future civil rights advancements and protections for women.

Two days before the final vote, Representative Howard W. Smith, a powerful Democrat from Virginia, added sex as a protected class to Title VII, a section that prohibits discrimination by employers. Historians have been wondering about his motivations ever since.

Read more
Commentary
5:00 am
Tue May 6, 2014

Past And Present: A Major Landmark In The Fight For Civil Rights

Credit David / Flickr / Creative Commons

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the celebrated civil rights case, Brown v. Board of Education. However, on May 3, 1954, two weeks before the Brown ruling, the Supreme Court delivered another important decision in the American Civil Rights movement.

In Hernandez v. Texas, the court declared that the 14th Amendment’s right to equal protection extended to all racial and ethnic groups. In 1951, Texas convicted an agricultural worker named Pedro Hernandez of murdering Joe Espinosa.

Read more
Commentary
5:00 am
Tue March 25, 2014

How A Devastating Tragedy Led To Real Workplace Reform

1911 drawing depicting the Triangle fire
Credit Kheel Center / Flickr / Creative Commons

In the afternoon of March 25, 1911, the New York City fire department answered a call from Greenwich Village and found smoke billowing out of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory that occupied the top floors of the Asch Building.

As smoke turned to fire, a crowd gathered below to watch as the firefighters attempted to put out a fire that had grown beyond the reach of their equipment. Inside, fear and panic mounted as the largely female workforce found their escape blocked by the fire, and the doors locked by managers who thought the women took too many breaks.

Read more

Pages