Skip to main content

Graduate conference 2020

“ALL in a Day's Work: Labor in History”

May 22, 2020 - cancelled due to pandemic

Harris Hall 108

Keynote speaker: April Haynes (University of Wisconsin, Madison)

Convener: T.H. Breen Graduate Fellow Laura McCOY

CALL FOR PAPERS: deadline February 3, 2020

A farmer plowing a field. An industrial worker joining a picket line. A woman washing dishes. An air stewardess putting on a smile. As a concept, work covers quite a bit of ground. Work can be public, intimate, waged, coerced, physical, emotional, reproductive. Work can liberate and work can incarcerate. Historians have shown the myriad ways in which the experience and meaning of work have varied across time and place, thereby underscoring how the history of labor provides crucial insight into value systems and power relations. This conference seeks to critically and creatively explore the possibilities of work as an analytical concept, and to map where the history of labor might take us in the future.

We invite papers from historians and scholars of related disciplines that consider work of all kinds, in any regional or temporal context. Scholars may take up (but of course are not limited to) the following questions:

 The conference will take place on Friday, May 22, 2020 on Northwestern’s campus in Evanston, Illinois. The keynote speaker will be Professor April Haynes, a historian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Haynes is the author of Riotous Flesh: Women, Physiology, and the Solitary Vice in Nineteenth-century America, and is currently at work on Tender Traffic: Intimate Labors in the Early American Republic, which examines domestic labor and sex work during the period of gradual slave emancipation in the northern United States. You may read more about Dr. Haynes at

Please send a paper proposal of no more than one page (250 words) to conference convener Laura McCoy ( by Monday, February 3, 2020. A committee of Northwestern History faculty will select papers. Upon acceptance, conference papers of 10-12 pages will need to be submitted by Thursday, May 7 in time for review by panel commentators. Please note that conference presentations will be limited to 10 minutes, to encourage discussion.

Back to top