OAH Distinguished Lecturer Profile

Leigh Ann Wheeler

Portrait of Leigh Ann Wheeler

Leigh Ann Wheeler is a professor of history at Binghamton University, State University of New York, where she teaches modern U.S. history, including specific courses on women, sexuality, sex and law, civil liberties, and social movements. She is the author of How Sex Became a Civil Liberty (2014) and Against Obscenity: Reform and the Politics of Womanhood in America, 1873–1935 (2004). A former coeditor of the Journal of Women's History, she currently serves as a senior editor for Oxford University Press's Research Encyclopedia of American History. Her current project is a biography of Anne Moody, author of the unforgettable memoir, Coming of Age in Mississippi (1968).

Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

This lecture tells a few of the many low-profile but crucial stories about activists who deliberately worked behind the scenes in the 1960s and 1970s to lay groundwork for establishing what would become known as gay rights.
This lecture explains how, when, why, and with what effect the First Amendment became protective not just of speech--hence, speakers--but of consumers of speech--those poised to hear, see, read, and buy it. Do you have the right to read any book you want? See any movie you want? Listen to any radio program you want? Do your students? Yes! (With a very few exceptions.) These rights to consume are protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. But during the Amendment’s 228 unchanging years at the top of our Bill of Rights, it has only protected consumers for the past sixty years. This talk will help you think, teach, and argue about how, when, and why the First Amendment came to protect consumers’ rights and also what has been lost and what has been gained through that transformation.
This lecture examines debates over public funding for birth control and abortion after the Supreme Court cases that overturned many laws against both on grounds of privacy. It raises questions about how grounding reproductive freedom in the right to privacy helped to make public funding one of the first arenas of conflict.