OAH Distinguished Lecturer Profile

OAH Distinguished Lectureship program 40 years 1981-2021

Annelise Orleck

Portrait of Annelise Orleck

Annelise Orleck is a professor of history, Jewish studies, and women's, gender, and sexuality studies at Dartmouth College. She is the author of Common Sense and a Little Fire: Women and Working-Class Politics in the United States (1995); The Soviet Jewish Americans (1999); Storming Caesar's Palace: How Black Mothers Fought Their Own War on Poverty (2005); and Rethinking American Women's Activism (2014). She is also a coeditor of The Politics of Motherhood: Activist Voices from Left to Right (1997), with Alexis Jetter and Diana Taylor, and The War on Poverty, 1969-1980: A New Grassroots History (2011), with Lisa Gayle Hazirjian. Her newest book is entitled "We Are All Fast Food Workers Now": The Global Uprising against Poverty Wages (2018).

Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

This lecture, and the book it is named for, examines globalization and its costs from the perspective of those who do the work: garment workers, fast food workers, farmers and farm workers, retail workers and adjunct professors. It examines the rise of contingent labor and how it has transformed our world and traces the rise of a new global labor movement, galvanized by young people, mostly women of color.
This talk traces the resurgence of global labor activism in the second decade of the 21st century, examining how low-wage workers, farmers and farm workers have shaped a distinctively modern labor movement that also echoes strategies and demands of a century ago. Taking as its jumping off point the 2011 hundredth anniversary commemorations of the Triangle factory fire, the talk traces the responses of global labor to the globalization of capital and media, the erosion of labor unions, decline in real wages. It moves from the U.S.-Based Fight for $15 campaign to the global campaign by garment workers from Bangladesh to Cambodia to Honduras, to the global struggles of fast food workers, Walmart workers, farm workers and hotel housekeepers.
This lecture examines the impact of the federal War on Poverty from the bottom up, tracing local activism from Las Vegas to New York, from Los Angeles to Florida. It challenges the notion that the War on Poverty ended in 1968 and traces lasting impacts in terms of housing, medical care, political participation and reproductive justice. Orleck takes a gendered argument, analyzing how much of the narrative about the War on Poverty as a failure was rooted in a sense of dismay over the disproportionate participation of poor women.
This lecture traces the impact of a War on the War on Poverty that began almost immediately after Lyndon Johnson's January 1964 declaration of war on poverty. In Ronald Reagan's Time For Choosing speech we find the elements of the major conservative arguments against federal poverty programs, particularly those that empower the poor, that we continue to see all the way through Paul Ryan's House Budget Committee Report on the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty. This talk traces a series of "show trials" of community-based organizations who were beneficiaries of federal War on Poverty monies, as a means to defund genuine grass roots organizations in favor of more traditionally credentialed service providers. It also makes the argument that the War on the War on Poverty was a powerful driver in the resurgence of conservative Republican Party activism from 1964 to 2014.