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Livia Gershon

Livia Gershon is a freelance writer in Nashua, New Hampshire. Her writing has appeared in publications including Salon, Aeon Magazine and the Good Men Project. Contact her on Twitter @liviagershon.

Alphonse Bertillon, first head of the Forensic Identification Service of the Prefecture de Police in Paris (1893).

The Origins of the Mug Shot

US police departments began taking photographs of people they arrested in the 1850s.
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:American_Progress_(John_Gast_painting).jpg

The Myth of Manifest Destiny

Not everyone in the nineteenth century was on board with expanding the territory of the US from coast to coast.
Figures merge female to male

Policing Intersex Americans’ Sex and Gender 

Assigning one sex to people with ambiguous genitalia has a long history in medicine and law.
Hare Indian Dog

The Dogs of North America

Dogs were prolific hunters and warm companions for northeastern Native peoples like the Mi'kmaq.
17th century British newsletters

The Newsletter Boom, 300 Years before Substack

Some journalists are turning to newsletters to get their work out. But they're not hand-copying them onto folded paper, like people did in the 1600s.
: A woman adjusting her dress, London, c. 1865

How to Dress for Dystopia

Some nineteenth-century novelists predicted horrible futures, with perfectly horrible clothing to match.
Boy and girl standing in front of camera with car.

Fun with Naming Decades in History

Whether the 2020s will roar remains to be seen, but people have been coming up with nicknames for decades since the Elegant (18)80s.
An image of Native Americans swapping wives

Polygamy, Native Societies, and Spanish Colonists

Having more than one wife was an established part of life for some Native peoples before Europeans tried to end the practice.
Medieval illumination of a dog, 14th century, from a Codex in the Czech Republic

The Hardworking Dogs of Medieval Europe

Not everyone can be a pampered pooch.
Source: https://www.loc.gov/item/2021635579/  copyright Mary Chaney Family Trust/Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

How the Media Covered Police Brutality Three Decades Ago

The first stories about the beating of Rodney King in two major newspapers focused on racial injustice. But that changed.
A woman picking vegetables

How the Black Labor Movement Envisioned Liberty

To Reconstruction-era Black republicans, the key to preserving the country’s character was stopping the rise of a wage economy.
Albert Einstein c. 1920

How Einstein Became a Celebrity

His theory of general relativity was well known in the U.S., but his 1921 visit caused a sensation.
Boy scouts in CA, 1915

Why Do Boy Scouts Shoot Rifles?

It wasn't a big focus at the beginning of the scouting movement. So what changed?
Metropolitan Community Church of Washington DC

The Origins of LGBTQ-Affirming Churches

As far back as the 1940s, religious LGBTQ people organized groups and congregations that welcomed them.
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Suicides_of_Meleager_and_Althea_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

Why Suicide Was a Sin in Medieval Europe

Although there were historical and scriptural precedents for honorable suicide, Christian theology saw it much differently.
Photograph: Eartha Kitt

Source: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

When Eartha Kitt Condemned Poverty and War at the White House

It was supposed to be a genteel luncheon with the first lady dedicated to discussing crime policy. The chanteuse had other ideas.
American Anti-Vivisection Society 1909

Scientists vs. Animal Welfare Activists in the 1920s

The movement against vivisection—experiments involving live animals—swelled with women. A group of scientists was determined to stop them.
Cotton Mather

The Hellfire Preacher Who Promoted Inoculation

Three hundred years ago, Cotton Mather starred in a debate about treating smallpox that tore Boston apart.
Photograph: Marchers carrying a banner with the words 'Visibly Lesbian'

Source: Steve Eason/Getty

How NOW Started Standing Up for Lesbians

If it had been up to national leaders alone, it might have taken much longer.
A policeman is seen during the World Cup match between Germany and Bolivia on June 17, 1994 in Chicago

The Black Cops Who Fought Brutality on Their Own Force

In 1960s Chicago, members of the Afro-American Patrolman's League challenged oppressive policing in Black communities.
Kuan Yin and Attendants, 1368

Hair Embroidery as Women’s Buddhist Practice

In late imperial China, it was a devotional art using hairs plucked from devotees' own heads.
Stephanie St. Clair

Madame Stephanie St. Clair: Numbers Queen of Harlem

The colorful career of a woman who ran a gambling ring, fought police corruption, and challenged white mobsters.
Meta Warrick Fuller

How Sculptor Meta Warrick Challenged White Supremacy

A 1907 exhibition on the founding of Jamestown featured the work of an artist determined to counter demeaning stereotypes.
Schoolchildren in Soweto, South Africa

Kids’ Games in South Africa

Formal education in language and music is important for children, but as one scholar found, so is their own play involving gesture, slang, and pop songs.