Kimberly A. Hamlin is a cultural historian specializing in women, gender, sex, science, and politics. A recent recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Public Scholar Award, Hamlin regularly contributes to the Washington Post and other media outlets, and she lectures widely on topics related to women and gender. Her latest book, Free Thinker: Sex, Suffrage, and the Extraordinary Life of Helen Hamilton Gardener (2020), reveals the remarkable story of the “fallen woman” who changed her name, reinvented herself, and became the “most potent factor” in Congressional passage of the 19th Amendment as well as the highest-ranking woman in federal government. Hamlin is actively involved in local and national suffrage centennial activities including guest editing, together with Professors Cathleen Cahill and Crystal Feimster, a special suffrage centennial issue of the Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. Hamlin’s previous book, From Eve to Evolution: Darwin, Science, and Women’s Rights in Gilded Age America (2014), analyzes the U.S. reception of Darwin in terms of gender and provides the first full-length study of women’s responses to evolutionary theory. Hamlin has received the Carrie Chapman Catt Prize for Research on Women and Politics, the Margaret Rossiter Prize for Research on Women/Gender and Science (from the History of Science Society), and the Emerging Scholar Award from the Nineteenth Century Studies Association, in addition to research fellowships from the New England Regional Fellowship Consortium, the Huntington Library, the Sophia Smith Collection, and others. Hamlin has also published on the origins of the Miss America Pageant, the Girl Scouts, bearded ladies, women running for president, the Equal Rights Amendment, and contributed to various PBS documentaries. Since 2007, she has taught History and American Studies at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
After being outed in Ohio newspapers in 1876 for having an affair with a married man, Helen Hamilton Gardener reinvented herself and dedicated her life to securing women's financial, bodily, and political autonomy -- recognizing that the three were fundamentally intertwined. She joined the freethought movement, then worked to raise the age of sexual consent for girls (in 1890 it was 12 or younger in 38 states), became a famous speaker and author, and, eventually, the "most potent factor" in Congressional passage of the 19th Amendment and the highest-ranking woman in federal government. Her life story centers sex and race in the history of suffrage and issues an urgent call for the importance of women's history.