Laura McEnaney is Vice President for Research and Education at the Newberry Library. Prior to this, she was a professor of history at Whittier College, where she taught U.S. history, specializing in the post-1945 era. Her research interests focus on questions of war and society. She is especially interested in a war's "post," the period in which a society transitions from war to peace. She is the author of Civil Defense Begins at Home: Militarization Meets Everyday Life in the Fifties (2000), and she has published numerous scholarly articles in journals and edited collections. Her book, Postwar: Waging Peace in Chicago (2018), explores the social and urban history of America's demobilization from World War II and the whole notion of "postwar" in the twentieth century. Her first article from that project, "Nightmares on Elm Street: Demobilizing in Chicago, 1945–1953," published in the Journal of American History (March 2006), won the OAH Binkley-Stephenson Award. McEnaney has received a grant from National Endowment for the Humanities, a fellowship from Brown University's George A. and Eliza Gardner Howard Foundation, and an Arnold L. and Lois S. Graves Award in the Humanities from the American Council of Learned Societies. McEnaney received Whittier College's Harry W. Nerhood Teaching Excellence Award in 2007 and its Presidential Award for Outstanding Advising of First-Year Students in 2017.
The phrase “the problem of caring” comes from Dillon Meyer, head of the War Relocation Authority, the government agency that incarcerated Japanese Americans during WW2. He understood internment not so much as a national security issue but as a welfare challenge, as he saw once productive workers now dependent on the state for support. This lecture reframes the history of Japanese American internment as a welfare history, examining how thousands of Japanese Americans resettled and rebuilt in Chicago after they left the camps.