Estelle Freedman

Edgar E. Robinson Professor in U.S. History

At Stanford Since

Ph.D., Columbia University 1976; M.A., Columbia 1972; B.A., Barnard College 1969

Research Interests

My teaching and research focus on the history of women, particularly the role of women in movements for social reform, including feminism and women's prison reform. I also write and teach about the history of sexuality in the U.S., lesbian history, and the history of sexual violence. My book, No Turning Back, draws on interdisciplinary feminist scholarship to explore the influence of feminism in the West and its relationship to broader movements for women's rights and social change throughout the world.  I have edited and introduced a companion anthology of 64 documents from feminist history around the world, The Essential Feminist Reader.  A collection of my published and unpublished essays, Feminism, Sexuality, and Politics appeared in 2006.  My current research is on the politics of rape in U.S. history.

Courses Taught

  • U.S. Women's History, 1890s-1990s
  • Introduction to Feminist Studies
  • History of Sexuality in the U.S.
  • U.S. Core Colloquium, Late 19th century social/women's history
  • Graduate Research Seminar on Women's, Family, and Sexual History
  • Frosh Seminar on "The Body"



Redefining Rape: Sexual Violence in the Era of Suffrage and Segregatio, Harvard University Press (2013) 






Book cover - My Desire for History: Essays in Gay, Community, & Labor HistoryMy Desire for History: Essays in Gay, Community, & Labor History - Allan Bérubé, Edited with an Introduction by John D'Emilio and Estelle B. Freedman
The University of North Carolina Press (2011)





Book cover: The essential feminist reader by Estelle FreedmanThe Essential Feminist Reader, Modern Library, (2007)





Book Cover: Feminism, Sexuality, and Politics by Estelle FreedmanFeminism, Sexuality, and Politicsm, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, (2006)






Book Cover: No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of WomenNo Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women , New York: Ballantine Books (2002)





  • Maternal Justice: Miriam Van Waters and the Female Reform Tradition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996)
  • Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America (with John D'Emilio) (New York: Harper and Row, 1988; rev. ed. University of Chicago Press, 1997)
  • Their Sisters' Keepers: Women's Prison Reform in America, 1830-1930 (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1981)
  • The Lesbian Issue: Essays From Signs, eds. Freedman, Gelpi, Johnson and Weston (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985)
  • Victorian Women: A Documentary Account of Women's Lives in Nineteenth-Century England, France and the United States, eds. Hellerstein, Hume and Offen; associate eds. Freedman, Gelpi and Yalom (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1981)

Articles and Essays

  • "'Crimes Which Startle and Horrify . . .': Gender, Age, and the Racialization of Sexual Violence in White American Newspapers, 1870-1900, Journal of the History of Sexuality (in press)
  • "Coming of Age at Barnard, 1968" The Sixties: A Journal of History, Politics and Culture 1:2 (December 2008) 209-222
  • "Patriarchy Revisited: Gender, Race, and Sexual Violence," Jourmal of Women's History
    19:4 (Winter, 2007) 154-162
  • “No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women,” Frontiers of Gender Journal, (2005) pp. 29-37 (Ochanomizu University, Japan)
  • “Beyond the Waves: Rethinking the History of Feminisms,” in Looking Forward, Looking Back: A Reader in Women’s Studies, eds. Carol Berkin, Carole Appel, and Judith Pinch (Prentice Hall, 2005)
  • "The Trials of Miriam Van Waters," in Forgotten Heroes of America's Past, ed. Susan Ware (Free Press, 1998)
  • "'The Burning of Letters Continues': Elusive Identities and the Historical Construction of Sexuality," Journal of Women's History (Winter, 1998)
  • "The History of the Family and the History of Sexuality," in The New American History, ed. Eric Foner (Temple University Press, 1997)
  • "The Prison Lesbian: Race, Class, and the Construction of the Aggressive Female Homosexual, 1915-1965," Feminist Studies (Summer, 1996)
  • "The Social Construction of Homosexuality," Socialist Review (Summer, 1996)
  • "Separatism Revisited: Women's Institutions, Social Reform, and the Career of Miriam Van Waters," in U.S. History as Women's History: New Feminist Essays, eds. Linda Kerber, Alice Kessler-Harris, Kathryn Kish Sklar (University of North Carolina Press, 1995)
  • "The Manipulation of History at the Clarence Thomas Hearings," Chronicle of Higher Education (January 8, 1992); reprinted Southern California Law Review 65:3 (March, 1992)
  • "Small Group Pedagogy: Consciousness Raising in Conservative Times," NWSA Journal 2:4 (Autumn, 1990), reprinted in Tilting the Tower, ed. Linda Garber (N.Y.: Routledge, 1994)
  • "Problems Encountered in Writing the History of Sexuality: Sources, Theory, and Interpretation," The Journal of Sex Research 27:4 (November, 1990) (with John D'Emilio)
  • "Historical Interpretation and Legal Advocacy: Rethinking the Webster Amicus Brief," The Public Historian 12:3 (Summer, 1990)
  • "'Uncontrolled Desires': The Response to the Sexual Psychopath, 1920-1960," Journal of American History 74: 1 (June, 1987)
  • "Sentiment and Discipline: Women's Prison Experiences in Nineteenth Century America," Prologue: Journal of the National Archives (Winter, 1984)
  • "Sexuality in Nineteenth-Century America: Behavior, Ideology and Politics," Reviews in American History (December, 1982)
  • "Separatism as Strategy: Female Institution Building and American Feminism, 1870-1930," Feminist Studies 5 (Fall, 1979), 512-529.
  • "The New Woman: Changing Views of Women in the 1920s," Journal of American History (September, 1974), 373-393
  • "Their Sisters' Keepers: An Historical Perspective on Female Correctional Institutions in America, 1870-1900," Feminist Studies (1974), 77-95


  • John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, 2011-12
  • Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavior Sciences, Fellow 2009-2010
  • American Council of Learned Societies, Fellowship, 2009-2010
    Millicent McIntosh Award for Feminism, Barnard College, June 2009 Kahn-Van Slyke Prize for Graduate Mentoring, Stanford history department, 2005.
  • Nancy Lyman Roelker (Graduate) Mentorship Award, American Historical Association, 1998
  • Sierra Prize for Best Book 1996 (Maternal Justice), Western Association of Women Historians
  • Sierra Prize (shared) for the finest Multiple Author Book, Western Association of Women Historians, 1982 (Victorian Women: A Documentary Account)
  • Alice and Edith Hamilton Prize for best scholarly manuscript on women, University of Michigan, 1978 (Their Sisters' Keepers)
  • Fellow, Society of American Historians, 1990
  • Stanford Institute for Research on Women and Gender, Associates' Faculty Research Fellowship 1996
  • National Endowment for the Humanities, Fellowship for University Teachers, 1982-83, 1992-93
  • American Council of Learned Societies, Fellowship, 1993
  • American Association of University Women, Founders Fellowship, 1985-86
  • Stanford Humanities Center, Faculty Fellowship, 1985-86, 2004-2005
  • Radcliffe Research Support Program, Mellon Grant, 1984-85
  • Thomas and Lillian Rhodes Prize for excellence in undergraduate teaching, 1996
  • Dinkelspiel Award for Outstanding Service to Undergraduate Education, 1981
  • Dean's Award for Distinguished Teaching, 1978

University Service

  • Graduate Admissions Committee, History, Chair, 2001-2003, 2005-2009
  • President's Advisory Board (elected), 1999-2001
  • Faculty Women's Caucus Steering Committee, 1997-98
  • Co-Convenor, Stanford Humanities Center Faculty-Graduate Student Workshop on Lesbian, Gay and Queer Studies, 1997-98, 1999-2000
  • Program in Feminist Studies, Director, 1980-81, 1984-85, 1994-2001
  • Clayman Institute for Research on Gender, Faculty Affiliate, 1980-present
  • Jewish Studies Program, Advisory Committee, 1987-89, 1994-98
  • History Department Priorities Planning Committee, Fall 1997
  • Graduate Studies Committee, 1976-79, 1993-98
  • Comparative Women's History Workshop Co-Convenor, 1992-98

Professional Affiliations

  • Organization of American Historians (Co-Chair, Program Committee for 1999 Annual Meeting; Nominating Committee, 1991-93)
  • American Historical Association
  • National Women's Studies Association
  • Coordinating Council on Women's History
  • Academic Advisory Council, Jewish Women's Archives
  • Advisory Board, Northern California Lesbian and Gay Historical Society
  • Western Association of Women Historians
  • Consulting Editor, Feminist Studies
  • Advisory Boards, Gender and History (1988- ); NSWA Journal (1988- )
  • Editorial Board, Journal of Women's History (1988- )
  • Editorial Board, The Journal of Sex Research (1988- )
  • Editorial Board, The Journal of Homosexuality (1988- )
  • Editorial Board, The Journal of Lesbian Studies (1997- ; Associate Editor)
  • Editorial Board, Journal of the History of Sexuality (1989-93)
  • Editorial Board, Women and Criminal Justice (1995- )