Wesleyan University, B.A., History, 2005; University of Delaware/Winterthur Museum, M.A., American Material Culture, 2009.
“Uncovering Women’s Work: Household Consumption and Production in the Mid Atlantic, 1750-1815.”
My dissertation focuses on how women in Delaware and southeastern Pennsylvania engaged in the business of shopping in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. I argue that female shopping was frequently the result of collaboration and accumulated advice rather than individual choice, and that purchased goods often became the raw materials of production and social reproduction, contributing to the stability of the household and advancement of women’s economic interests rather than being consumed by the individual shopper. Female shoppers’ emotional and financial relationships were inextricably intertwined; shopping, particularly when performed by a proxy, blurred the line between financial transaction and emotional care. In addition to contributing to the stability of the individual household, women’s shopping constituted a form of unpaid work that helped underpin the early American economy, a type of labor that required knowledge about price, availability, and quality of consumer goods, and which forged and sustained bonds of mutual reliance over significant distances.