American/U.S. history from 1750 to 1870, with emphasis on women, gender, sexuality, journalism, historical demography, and medicine.   

Current research:

  • a biographical study of Thomas Low Nichols and Mary Gove Nichols, journalists and radical health, sex and marriage reformers in the 1830s-1880s 
  • a study of induced abortion,1790-1870: cultures of sexuality, fertility decline, medical jurisprudence, sensationalized journalism, gynecology/obstetrics, the legal system.


Selected Books:

  • A Calculating People: The Spread of Numeracy in Early America (Univ. of Chicago Press, 1982). Republished Fall 1999 (Routledge).
  • The Murder of Helen Jewett: The Life and Death of a Prostitute in Nineteenth-Century New York (Alfred A. Knopf, 1998, Vintage 1999; Books on Tape 1999).    Top 100 books list of the New York Times, the LA Times, Publisher’s Weekly;  published runner-up for the PEN Center USA Book Award and the Mark Lynton History Prize. 
  • The Flash Press: Sporting Male Weeklies in 1840s New York (University of Chicago Press, 2008), coauthored with Helen L. Horowitz and Timothy J. Gilfoyle.

Selected Articles, Chapters:  

  • “Statistics and the State: Changing Social Thought and the Emergence of a Quantitative Mentality in America, 1790-1820,” William and Mary Quarterly, (1981), 35-55.
  • “Safety and Danger: Women on American Public Transport, 1750-1850,” in Susan Reverby and Dorothy Helly, eds., Gendered Domains: Beyond the Public-Private Dichotomy in Women’s History, (Cornell, 1992), 109-122.
  • “Unregulated Youth: Masculinity and Murder in the 1830s City,” Radical History Review, 52 (Winter 1992), 33-52. 
  • “Reckoning with Commerce: Numeracy in 17th- and 18th-Century America,” in Roy Porter and John Brewer, Consumption and the World of Goods  (Routledge, 1993) 320-334.
  • “Ministerial Misdeeds: The Onderdonk Trial and Sexual Harassment in the 1840s,” The Journal of Women’s History, Vol. 7 (Fall 1995), 34-57. Anthologized 3 times.
  •  “Numeracy in Nineteenth-Century America,” A History of School Mathematics, 2 volumes, from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, ed. by George M. A. Stanic and Jeremy Kilpatrick (Reston, Virginia, 2003), I: 43-76.
  • “Sex and Sexuality: The Private, the Public, and the Spirit Worlds,”  Journal of the Early Republic, 24 (Summer 2004), 310-18.
  • ” ‘The Anti-Marriage Theory’ of Thomas and Mary Gove Nichols: A Radical Critique of Monogamy in the 1850s,”  Journal of the Early Republic, 34 (Spring 2014), 1-20.
  •  “Public and Print Cultures of Sex in the Long Nineteenth Century,” Oxford Handbook of American Women’s and Gender History, eds. Ellen Hartigan-O’Connor and Lisa G. Materson (Oxford University Press, 2018), 195-216.

President of SHEAR (Society for Historians of the Early American Republic), 2012-13;

Distinguished Mellon Fellow, American Antiquarian Society, 2001-2002

Guggenheim, 2006-2007

National Endowment for the Humanities, 1987-1988