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Susan Branson

Susan Branson

Contact Information:

512 Eggers Hall

Susan Branson

Professor and Chair, History Department


  • 2024 Spring
    • HST 339 Science and Society
  • 2023 Fall
    • HST/WGS 340/342 Women in America: 17th Century to the Civil War
  • 2022 Fall
    • HST 101 American History to 1865
  • 2022 Spring
    • HST 339 Science and Society

Highest degree earned

Ph.D., Northern Illinois University, 1992


Susan Branson’s training is in the social history of early America. The topics of her dissertation and first two monographs stem from her interest in gender roles and gender relations in American society during the early republic (spanning roughly the years between the 1780s and the 1830s).

Her first book, "These Fiery Frenchified Dames" (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001) examines women’s changing public roles as they resulted from the social, cultural and political forces at work in American society in the last two decades of the eighteenth century. Her second book, "Dangerous to Know: Women, Class and Crime in the Early Republic" (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008) investigates the intersection of crime, class and gender in the early nineteenth century.

Currently, Professor Branson is completing a book entitled "Consuming Science in American Society, 1700-1860," which considers why certain sciences and technologies suited the interests and agendas of American society at crucial moments in the nation’s development. The monograph develops lines of inquiry emerging in historical scholarship regarding three inter-related topics: the promotion of scientific education and practices among non-elites, the place of science and technology in American culture, and the development of nationalism and national identity in the early republic and antebellum eras.

Exploring the ways Americans chose to promote, celebrate and characterize discoveries, inventions and mammoth civic projects explains how Americans expressed a belief that the United States was a rising empire. She places special emphasis on how material culture was integral to how people experienced, interacted with and were introduced to science and technology—often in the guise of entertainment. Professor Branson teaches courses on women in early America, the American frontier, food in American society, and American science and technology.

Areas of Expertise

Early American women, early American society and culture, science and American society

Research Interests

American social and cultural history, 18th and 19th century, science and American popular culture

Research Grant Awards and Projects

"Class, Gender, and Criminality in the Early American Republic", Sponsored by National Endowment for the Humanities/Natl. Fndn. on the Arts & Humanities.

"Woolen Textile Manufacturing in Virginia", Sponsored by College of William & Mary Special Collections Research Center.

Selected Publications

  • Books
    • Branson, S. L., Scientific Americans: Invention, Technology and National Identity. Cornell University Press, 2021.
    • Branson, S. L., Dangerous to Know: Women, Class and Crime in the Early Republic. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008.
    • Branson, S. L., These Fiery Frenchified Dames": Women, Politics, and Culture in Early National Philadelphia. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001.
  • Journal Articles
    • Branson, S. L., "Phrenology and the Science of Race in Antebellum America." Early American Studies , 2017.
    • Branson, S. L., "’Barnum is undone in his own province’ Science, Race and Entertainment in the Lectures of George Robins Gliddon." Wright, T. (ed.) The Cosmopolitan Lyceum , 2013.
    • Branson, S. L., "Flora and Femininity: Gender and Botany in Early America." , 2012.
    • Branson, S. L., "Gendered Strategies for Success in the Early Nineteenth-Century Literary Marketplace: Mary Carr and the Ladies’ Tea Tray." Journal of American Studies, 2006.
    • Branson, S. L., "An Outlaw and Her Ghost Writer: Enigmas of Female Celebrity in Early America." Commonplace, 2005.
    • Branson, S. L., "The Political Education of Elizabeth Drinker." Pennsylvania History, 2001.
    • Branson, S. L., "'He Swore His Life was in Danger from Me': The Attempted Kidnapping of Governor Simon Snyder." Pennsylvania History, 2000.
  • Book Chapters
    • Branson, S. L., "Sex, Scandal, Violence, and Other Middle-Class Pastimes in The History of the Celebrated Mrs. Ann Carson." In Class and Class Struggles in Early North America and the Atlantic World,. Middleton , S., Smith, B. G. (eds.) University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008.
    • Branson, S. L., "From Daughters of Liberty to Women of the Republic: Women in the Era of the American Revolution." In The Practice of U.S. Women's History: Narratives, Intersections, and Dialogues. Kleinberg, J., Boris, E. and Ruiz, V. (eds.) Rutgers University Press, 2007.
    • Branson, S. L., Newman, S., "American Women and the French Revolution: Gender and Partisan Festive Culture in the Early Republic." In Riot and Revelry. The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002.
    • Branson, S. L., Patrick, L., "Etrangers dans un pays etrange: Saint-Domingan Refugees of Color in Philadelphia." In The Impact of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World. Geggus, D. (ed.) University of South Carolina Press, 2002.
    • Branson, S. L., "Beyond Respectability: The Female World of Love and Crime in Nineteenth-Century Philadelphia." In Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture 25 . The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.
    • Branson, S. L., "Women and the Family Economy in the Early Republic: The Case of Elizabeth Meredith." Journal of the Early Republic, 1996.
    • Branson, S. L., Klepp, S., "A Working Woman: The Autobiography of Ann Baker Carson." In Life in Revolutionary Philadelphia: A Documentary History. Smith, B. G. (ed.) Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995.

Presentations and Events

Capitalism, Race, and Gender in the Early Americas: Expanding on the Work of Allan Kulikoff, McNeil Center for Early American Studies, "The Fabric of Empire: Wool, Labor and Markets in Early America" (March 3, 2023)

The Mount's 29th Summer Lecture Series, "Scientific Americans" (August, 2022)

SHEAR Annual Conference, SHEAR , "Grand Designs: Urban Water Systems as Recreational Spaces" (July, 2021)

Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, "'No steamboat or Sea Serpent': Steam Technology and American Popular Culture" (July, 2018)

Historic Deerfield Winter Lecture Series, "Making Crime Pay: The Dangerous Careers of Ann Carson and Mary Clarke" (January, 2018)

Previous Teaching Appointments

Associate Professor, American History, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University: 2010-present

Associate Professor, American Studies, Syracuse University: 2005-2010

Associate Professor, Historical Studies, University of Texas at Dallas: 2003-2005

Assistant Professor, Historical Studies, University of Texas at Dallas: 1997-2003

Visiting Assistant Professor, University of Texas at Dallas: 1995-1997

Assistant Professor, Southwest Texas State University:1993-1996 (on leave 1995-1996)

Visiting Assistant Professor, University of Texas at Dallas: 1992-1993

Instructor, Southern Methodist University: 1992

Instructor, University of Texas at Dallas: Spring 1992

Honors and Accolades

Alumna of the Year, History Department, Northern Illinois University (2005)