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.
First proposed in 1923 as a follow-up to the 19th Amendment, the Equal Rights Amendment has prompted heated debates about American womanhood for nearly 100 years. Are women people first, or mothers? Are women fundamentally equal to men, or fundamentally different from men? What would it look like for women to be both equal and different? This talk analyzes the evolution of ERA debates, highlights the fascinating women who devoted their lives to working for and against the ERA-- including Alice Paul and Phyllis Schlafly-- and brings the debate up to the present with the post-2016 resurgence of ERA activism.