Nancy F. Cott

Jonathan Trumbull Professor of American History


Most of Nancy Cott’s work in 19th and 20th century U.S. history focuses on gender questions. Her interests also include social movements, political culture, law, and citizenship. Her current project concerns Americans who came of age in the 1920s and shaped their lives internationally.

Since writing Public Vows, on the history of marriage as a public institution in the U.S., Professor Cott has participated in writing historians’ amici briefs on the same-sex marriage question in several states, including challenges to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and she testified as an expert witness in the federal case Perry v. Schwarzenegger against Proposition 8 in California.

She teaches courses on the history of sexuality and gender, as well as (at the graduate level) twentieth-century U.S. history.

Dissertation Committees

“Queer Visions: Fairy Spectacles, Police Surveillance, and the Politics of Gay Visibility in Twentieth-Century America” (Anna Lvovsky)

“In The Best Interest of the Child: The Cuban Refugee Children’s Program and Cold War America” (Maude Gates)

“No Place Like Home: A Cultural History of Gay Domesticity, 1948-1982” (Stephen Vider)

“Behaving Like Animals: Studies in Animal Cruelty and American Culture, 1900-present” (Timothy McGrath)

“Domestic Pleasures: Dreams of Joy and Fulfillment in American Home Life” (Phyllis Thompson)

“Academic Populism: The People’s Revolt and Public Higher Education, 1880-1905” (Scott Gelber)

“‘They Call it Marriage’: The Interracial Louisiana Family and the Making of American Legitimacy” (Diana Williams)

“The Inward Fire: A History of Cruelty in Marriage in the Northeastern United States, 1800-1860” (Eliza Clark)

“Exceptions to Exclusion: A Prehistory of Asylum in the United States, 1880-1980″ (Yael Schacher)

Selected Publications

  • CottAWomanMakingHistory

    A Woman Making History: Mary Ritter Beard Through Her Letters (Yale University Press, 1991), by Nancy F. Cott

  • CottTheGroundingOfModernFeminism

    The Grounding of Modern Feminism (Yale University Press, 1987), by Nancy F. Cott

  • Cott_BondsWomanhood

    The Bonds of Womanhood: “Woman’s Sphere” in New England, 1780-1835 (Yale University Press, 1977), by Nancy F. Cott

  • PublicVows

    Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation (Harvard University Press, 2000), by Nancy F. Cott