For everyone, not just historians, Sleeper-Smith, Walker, Damiano, and Glover’s books arrived on shelves at an especially important moment. People today have their minds eye set on a new era, one defined yet again by interconnectedness and (in)dependence. Presidential prerogative, divisive politics over government spending and federal debt, the disproportionate drop in women’s labor force participation during the pandemic, and Supreme Court rulings of the last decade have led many to question the historical purpose of government, its development through the present, and the state and economy’s acute dependence on women who do not always enjoy equal protection from either. Sleeper-Smith, Walker, Damiano, and Glover have made it impossible to imagine that women’s economic work was not also inextricably linked to the rise of banking and commercial law, regulatory institutions and law enforcement, international trade and investment, and immigration policy, to name a few. Their research methods and innovative use of source material also provide models for future articles, monographs, and dissertations. Consequently, history and the work historians do, as well as the aspects of our daily lives informed by scholarship, may all be better off.
Amy Dru Stanley, “Histories of Capitalism and Sex Difference,” Journal of the Early Republic 36 (Summer 2016): 343-50.
Max M. Edling, Hercules in the Cradle: War, Money, and the American State, 1783-1867 (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2014).
Laura F. Edwards, Only the Clothes on Her Back: Clothing and the Hidden History of Power in the Nineteenth-Century United States (New York: Oxford University Press, 2022).
Riv-Ellen Prell, “The Economic Turn in American Jewish History: When Women (Mostly) Disappeared,” American Jewish History 103 (October 2019): 485-512.
Ellen Hartigan-O’Connor, Ties that Buy: Women and Commerce in Revolutionary America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009).
Ellen Hartigan-O’Connor, “Gender’s Value in the History of Capitalism,” Journal of the Early Republic 36 (Winter 2016): 613-35.
William J. Novak, “The ‘Myth’ of the Weak American State,” American Historical Review 113 (June 2008): 752-72.
Michael John Witgen, Seeing Red: Indigenous Land, American Expansion, and the Political Economy of Plunder in North America (Williamsburg and Chapel Hill: The Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture and The University of North Carolina Press, 2022).
This article originally appeared in March 2023.
Jonah Estess is a Ph.D. candidate in the American University (AU) Department of History. His research explores the history of American political economy, capitalism, and money in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. His research has been supported through fellowships and grants from the Library Company of Philadelphia, American Society for Legal History, the American Numismatic Society, and the AU history department. Jonah’s other publications have appeared in the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, the Society for US Intellectual History Blog, H-Net, and The Washington Post.