Carolyn Eastman is Professor of History at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her research examines how men and women engaged with publications, oratory, and visual imagery during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and how those popular media affected their perceptions of self and community as well as the larger political culture. She is the author of The Strange Genius of Mr. O: The World of the United States' First Forgotten Celebrity (2021) and the prizewinning A Nation of Speechifiers: Making an American Public after the Revolution (2009). She is currently developing a new book project that examines the history of the yellow fever epidemics that ravaged New York City during the 1790s. To complete this work, she received a residential fellowship through the New-York Historical Society for the academic year 2021-2022, and a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar Grant for the academic year 2022-2023.
In 1829 a social reformer named Frances Wright gave dozens of lectures to overflow audiences in cities up and down the East Coast, prompting scandalized newspaper accounts that sought to rouse public outrage about her oratory. The story of this scandalous public woman reveals an important moment in women’s history, and casts light more broadly on the gender politics of publicity for women in American culture that continues to have repercussions today.