Christina Simmons became a historian of U.S. women and sexuality under the influence of the women's movement of the 1970s. Her research has centered on how the changing roles and activism of American women have affected marriage and sexuality for both whites and African Americans. She taught at the University of Cincinnati and the University of Windsor (Ontario), retiring from the latter in January 2015 as a professor of history and women's and gender studies. She is a coeditor, with Kathy Peiss, of Passion and Power: Sexuality in History (1989) and the author of Making Marriage Modern: Women's Sexuality from the Progressive Era to World War II (2009). She is currently researching sex and marriage education among African Americans, examining how their unique position in American society affected their views and experiences of marriage and sexuality in the 1940s and 1950s. She is also editing "A Cultural History of Marriage: The Modern Age," a global history of marriage in the twentieth century.
Since at least the 1920s advice columns such as that of the popular (white) Dorothy Dix have formed staple fare in newspapers. They were also featured in African-American newspapers, which were a critical social and political institution for black communities through the twentieth century. This lecture looks at the long-running “Naomi’s Advice” column in the Norfolk, Virginia, African-American weekly, the Journal and Guide, one of the largest-circulation black newspapers of the mid-twentieth century. “Naomi” and her majority-female correspondents offer insights into both middle-class African-American norms for marriage and the gendered experiences and complaints of ordinary readers in Virginia and North Carolina. The columnist’s tone and perspective differed from that of similar white advice writers, and her divergent advice to single and married women points to imperatives for African-American women’s survival, as well as the cultural power of marriage.