Profile profile for GrinspanJ

Ph.D.   University of Virginia, History, 2013
M.A.    University of Virginia, History, 2008
B.A.     Sarah Lawrence College, 2006

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Research Specialties: 

I study the deep history of American democracy, especially the wild partisan campaigns of the 1800s. At the same time, I collect objects from current protests, conventions, elections, and riots for the Smithsonian, to try to preserve our own heated moment for generations to come. Together, it involves a bit of time-traveling, explaining the past to the present, and the present to the future.

My first book, The Virgin Vote: How Young Americans Made Democracy Social, Politics Personal, and Voting Popular in the Nineteenth Century uncovered the forgotten history of the youth vote, to show that young men and women were once the most engaged, and sought after, demographic in American politics.

My new book, The Age of Acrimony: How Americans Fought to Fix Their Democracy, 1865-1915, argues that the democracy we inherited from the 20th century was really an outlier, created to fix our politics the last time they broke. In the late 1800s Americans feared that the republic was dying, torn apart by vibrant but violent partisan political campaigns. This era was only ended by a revolution in political restraint around 1900. Over time we came to consider that civility normal, and view our current divisions as unprecedented, but really we have deep history of struggling to calm an ugly system.

To tell this story, The Age of Acrimony follows the saga of the father-daughter political dynasty of radical congressman William “Pig Iron” Kelley and his labor activist daughter Florence Kelley.

I always appreciate feedback, please feel to contact me.


Age in America: The Colonial Era to the Present, Ed. Corinne Field (New York: New York University Press, 2015), 86-102.