Profile profile for GrinspanJ
Ph.D. University of Virginia, History, 2013
M.A. University of Virginia, History, 2008
B.A. Sarah Lawrence College, 2006
I’m a historian of politics and youth and comedy and food and booze, in 19th and early 20th century America. I like any subject that makes the past feel human and immediate, and I try to engage both the public and scholars.
My first book, The Virgin Vote: How Young Americans Made Democracy Social, Politics Personal, and Voting Popular in the Nineteenth Century, uncovered the forgotten era when young men and women were the most engaged demographic in American politics. Millions of children, youths, and young adults forced their way into the life of their democracy, while their democracy forced its way into their personal lives.
I’m currently working on a second book: The Rage of Reform: A Father, A Daughter, and the Rise and Fall (and Rise Again) of Political Anger. It is about the period, between 1865 and 1905, when a public, partisan, passionate campaign culture threatened to undermine Americans’ faith in their democracy. It tells this story by following the charismatic, frustrating, fantastically ubiquitous political dynasty of Congressman William “Pig Iron” Kelley and his reforming daughter Florence Kelley, whose rocky personal bond mirrored their nation’s struggle.
Ultimately, The Rage of Reform is the origin story of “normal” politics, explaining how the fight over 19th century democracy created new attitudes towards voting rights, civility, the press, government expertise, and leadership that many have come to consider timeless. In the 21st century, as Americans experience the return of heated, tribal politics, we might look back to this era and ask: how were our abnormal norms created?<
I always appreciate feedback, so please feel to contact me.