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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Commentary
5:00 am
Tue February 11, 2014

Valentine's Day, Murder And The Rise Of The FBI

Al Capone is a bad Valentine
Credit Wikimedia Commons

On February 14th, 1929, Chicago’s North Side neighborhood of Lincoln Park erupted into violence, leaving dead seven members of Al Capone’s and Bugs Moran’s rival gangs.

For the next 10 months, newspaper headlines announced leads that directed police to reluctant witnesses, the charred remains of the getaway car, and eventually to the single conviction of Fred Burke.

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Commentary
5:00 am
Tue December 31, 2013

Past and Present: How Brown v. BOE Could Have Happened Earlier

Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site
Credit J. Stephen Conn / Flickr / Creative Commons

2014 marks the 60th anniversary of the landmark civil rights case, Brown v. Board of Education. However, Brown could have been decided one year earlier, if not for some unusual circumstances that brought the lawyers back to the Supreme Court to argue the case… for a second time.

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Commentary
5:00 am
Tue November 19, 2013

Past and Present: An Early Draft Of A More Perfect Union

A draft of the Articles of Confederation
Credit liday / Flickr / Creative Commons

In the summer of 1776, the Second Continental Congress officially declared independence from the British crown, but it also drafted the Articles of Confederation.

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Commentary
12:30 pm
Wed October 2, 2013

Past and Present: Court Day Is Here! Court Day Is Here!

Albemarle County Courthouse, Charlottesville, Va.
Credit OZinOH / Flickr / Creative Commons

Next week, the U.S. Supreme Court opens its October Term. Most Americans these days will not mark this first Monday in October with any fanfare, but in 18th-century Virginia, the celebration of “Court Day” established the legal and social rules for the entire community.

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