• Faculty

  • Elaine Abelson

    Emeritus Professor


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    A - 66 West 12th Street

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    Elaine Abelson


    I am a Professor Emerita at The New School for Social Research and Eugene Lang College. My intellectual interests and professional activities are wide ranging and cross a number of academic disciplines. My research and teaching areas are women’s and gender history, American cultural and social history, and the history of cities. My first book, When Ladies Go A-Thieving: Middle-Class Shoplifters in the Victorian Department Storeis a study of late nineteenthen century consumer culture, respectable thieves (aka  'Kleptomaniacs'), and the medical establishment. The book has been cited as a provocative, compelling, original, and strongly feminist work.

    My current book project, The Woman with Worn-Out Shoes: Gender: Homelessness, and the Great Depression, still focuses on women and cities but is a study of newly-poor homeless women and their encounter with gender stereotypes, social norms, and public policy during the catastrophic economic crisis of the 1930s. Unlike the homeless crisis of the 1970s and '80s, these women were rarely seen on city streets nor were they standing in the ubiquitous breadlines of the period. Without families, steady jobs, or "a bed of their own," they were among the most desperate of the urban population, but, in a decade of unimaginable scarcity, were so far down in the ranks of those deemed truly needy they remained virtually invisible.

    Degrees Held

    PhD 1986, New York University

    Professional Affiliation

    American Historical Association
    Organization of American Historians
    American Studies Association
    Berkshire Conference of Women Historians

    Recent Publications

    • "Homeless Women and the Problem of Visibility: Australia 1900-1940,"  Article. review,  Women's History  Review  (May-Nov. 2016)
    • "The Origins of American International Retailing: Tiffany of New York in London and Paris, 1837-1914,"   Article. review,  Harvard Business History Review  (June-Nov. 2016)
    • "A Seeker of Newspaper Notoriety: Pathological Lying, the Public, and the Press, 1890-1920,"   Article. review, Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, (Spring 2015 - Winter 2016)
    • At Home in Nineteenth-Century America: A Documentary History,  by Amy. G. Richter,  Book Review Journal Of American History 102:3 (December 2015)
    • National Endowment for the Humanities, Public Scholar Program, Mss. reviews, Spring 2015
    • "Who Counts?: The Social Production of Homelessness and Quantifying Practices,"  Mss review,  Social Problems  (July-Sept. 2014)
    • The Political Activities of Detroit Clubwomen in the 1920s: A Challenge and a Promise,  by Jayne Morris-Crowther,  Book Review,  Journal of American History 101:1  (June 2014)
    • "Marm Mandelbaum,  Mss review, University Press of New England  (Aug. 2013)
    • "The Shepherd and His Sheep: Charles Coughlin, the Great Depression and the Third Way, " Article Editor, SAGE Manuscript   (Oct-Dec. 2012)
    • "Tippling Ladies and the Culture of Consumption: Alcohol, Public Space, and Bourgeois Womanhood in Chicago, 1871-1911,"  Article review  Journal of American History  (Nov. 2012)
    • "The Career Girl Murders: Gender, Race and Crime in 1960s New York,"  Article review, Women Studies Quarterly  (June 2010)
    • Wives Without Husbands: Marriage, Desertion & Welfare in New York, 1900-1935, by Anna R. Igra.  Book Review,  Social History 33 (May 2008)
    • "The Times that Tried Only Men’s Souls: Homeless Women and Public Policy in the Great Depression" Women on their Own: Interdisciplinary Approaches (Rutgers University Press, 2007)
    • "Homelessness," featured essay, Encyclopedia of American Urban History (Winter 2006)
    • "Citizen Hobo: How a Century of Homelessness Shaped America," review of Tod Depastino. Harvard Business History Review 78 (Summer 2004)
    •  "Women Who Have No Men to Work for Them: Gender and Homelessness in the Great Depression" Feminist Studies 29 (Spring 2003)
    • "Shoplifting Ladies," in Jennifer Scanlon (ed.), The Gender and Consumer Culture Reader (2000.)
    • "The Invention of Kleptomania" In Judith Walzer Leavitt (ed.), Women and Health in America: Historical Readings (1999)
    • When Ladies Go A-Theiving: Middle Class Shoplifters in the Victorian Department Store (Oxford University Press, 1990)

    Performances and Appearances

    Featured twice on the NPR Podcast Back Story, produced by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities 

    • Counter Culture: A History of Shopping (December 2014 and rebroadcast in December 2016)
    • International Invitational Colloquium of "Homes and Homecomings"   University of Nottingham, England  (March 2008)

    Research Interests

    Gender, cities, social movements, public pollicy, social and cultural history

    Awards And Honors

    • NEH Fellowship for University Professors (2001-2002)
    • NEH Summer Stipend (1997)
    • New School for Social Research, Faculty Development Grant (1995)
    • Ford Foundation Curriculum Development Grant (1992-1993)
    • Alan Nevins Dissertation Prize (1986)

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