OAH Distinguished Lecturer Profile

Leslie J. Reagan

Portrait of Leslie J. Reagan

Leslie J. Reagan is a professor of history, medicine, gender and women's studies, and law at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is the author of Dangerous Pregnancies: Mothers, Disabilities, and Abortion in Modern America (2010), winner of the American Historical Association's Joan Kelly Award and the American Association for the History of Medicine's William H. Welch Medal, among others, and When Abortion Was a Crime: Women, Medicine, and Law in the United States, 1867–1973 (1997), which won the Law and Society Association's James Willard Hurst Prize and the Social Science History Association's President's Book Award. Reagan often appears in public radio and television news forums as well. Her current research focuses on Agent Orange, activism, and visual culture in the United States and Vietnam as well as disabilities, gender, law, and the media.

Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

Reagan chronicles for the first time the discoveries and dilemmas of the German Measles epidemic of the early 1960s and how it created national anxiety about dying, disabled, and “dangerous” babies. This epidemic would ultimately transform abortion politics, produce new science, and help build two of the most enduring social movements of the late twentieth century--the reproductive rights and the disability rights movements. At most a minor rash and fever for women, German measles (also known as rubella), if contracted during pregnancy, could result in miscarriages, infant deaths, and serious birth defects in the newborn. In exploring a disease that changed America, Reagan illuminates social movements that still shape individual lives, pregnancy, medicine, law, and politics.