OAH Distinguished Lecturer Profile

Landon R. Storrs

Portrait of Landon R. Storrs

Landon R. Y. Storrs specializes in twentieth-century U.S. social and political history, particularly in the history of women, social movements, and public policy. She is the author of The Second Red Scare and the Unmaking of the New Deal Left (2012). Based on newly declassified government records and freshly unearthed private papers, this book demonstrates that the federal employee loyalty program—created in the 1940s in response to fears that communists were infiltrating the U.S. government—had a much broader policy impact than has been understood. The loyalty program not only destroyed or distorted the careers of many noncommunist officials; it also prohibited discussion of social democratic policy ideas in government circles, narrowing the scope of American political discourse to this day. Another theme of Storrs's scholarship has been the antifeminism of the "Old Right"; her books and several articles explore how conservatives exploited popular hostility to female government officials in order to discredit left-liberal policies.

Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

Named for the Wisconsin senator who held the national spotlight from 1950 to 1954, McCarthyism became the term for accusing someone of treason without providing evidence. Why did so many Americans find his charges credible? Who backed him, and who tried to stop him? What finally ended the broader Red Scare (in which Joseph McCarthy was only one of many players), and what was its legacy? What lessons does it hold for our current moment? Themes include: civil liberties and national security; reactionary populism (including white supremacism, gender conservatism, xenophobia, nationalism, anti-statism, anti-intellectualism); role of right-wing media.
The hitherto hidden history of how the federal employee loyalty program (the spearhead of what we now call McCarthyism) not only traumatized the U.S. Civil Service but crippled U.S. policymaking at home and abroad. Themes include: civil liberties and national security; reactionary populism (including anti-intellectualism, nationalism, individualism, gender and race conservatism); influence of Left and Right in U.S. politics.
During the 1930s and 1940s, unprecedented numbers of women attained influential positions in the federal government. During the Red Scare that intensified after World War II, anticommunist investigators, politicians, and journalists attacked high-ranking women with a frequency and hostility that was out of proportion to their numbers and power. Some important anticommunists were motivated by their fear that communism would subvert traditional gender hierarchies. Others found that tapping into popular antifeminism was an effective way of increasing public support for their other objectives, such as rolling back liberal policies at home and abroad. It is widely understood that at various moments in U.S. history, powerful interests have played the "race card" in service of goals other than white supremacy. We need to pay more attention to the "gender card" that usually was--and still is--part of the same hand. Themes include: civil liberties and national security; reactionary populism (with an emphasis on its gender, race, and anti-intellectual dimensions); civil rights; women in politics and government.