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Carolyn Herbst Lewis joined the faculty at Grinnell College as an assistant professor of history in 2013. She has a Ph.D. in American women’s history with a concentration in Women’s Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara. As an undergraduate, Lewis studied in the Honors Tutorial College at Ohio University, completing a B.A. and a certificate in Women’s Studies. She also earned an M.A. in American history at Ohio University and studied at the Contemporary History Institute. Professor Lewis has been the recipient of many awards for her teaching and scholarship, including the highly competitive postdoctoral fellowship from the American Association of University Women, a Woodrow Wilson Women’s Studies Dissertation Fellowship, and the Judith Lee Ridge Article Prize from the Western Association of Women Historians. Prior to coming to Grinnell, Lewis was a faculty member at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.
Professor Lewis is a specialist in the fields of American women’s history and the histories of sex, sexuality, and medicine in the United States. Her first book, Prescription for Heterosexuality: Sexual Citizenship in the Cold War Era (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010), considered the definitions of sexual health crafted by the American medical profession in the postwar decades. By examining the material published in the profession’s journals and other venues, Lewis revealed the connections that physicians made between individual sexual adjustment, family stability, and national security during the Cold War. This volume addresses not only the historical construction of heteronormativity in the mid-twentieth century United States, but also the forces shaping professional shifts in American medicine in this same period, as well as the overlap between the two.
Her current research explores the history of one man and one institution: Dr. Joseph Bolivar DeLee and the Chicago Maternity Center (formerly the Chicago Lying-in Hospital and Dispensary). Remembered as one of the “founding fathers” of American obstetrics at the turn of the twentieth century, DeLee also created an institution that provided low-income women with medically-assisted and low-intervention home births. Lewis is reconsidering this dichotomy and what it means for the history of childbirth in the United States. In addition to this project, Lewis also writes for the collaborative blog project, Nursing Clio.
At Grinnell, Professor Lewis teaches courses in the American women’s history, sex and sexuality in American history, the history of medicine in the United States, and Cold War culture.