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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.

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.
The DC motto

The Long Fight for D.C. Statehood

Will the District of Columbia ever get its own star on the American flag? It's been an uphill journey so far.
Photograph: Robert Williams

Source: Photo by J. Wilds/Keystone/Getty Images

Armed Self-Defense in the Civil Rights Movement

When idealistic nonviolent activists encountered violence in the South as they registered Black voters, local leaders lent them protection.
Fred Astaire and his sister Adele playing Mah Jong, 1926

White Women and the Mahjong Craze

Travelers brought the Chinese game to American shores in the early 1920s. Why was it such a hit?
Cigarmakers, Tampa, Florida, 1909 by Lewis Hine

Are Children “Persons”?

In the mid-nineteenth century, the law was ambiguous.
New Orleans, 1939

How St. Louis Domestic Workers Fought Exploitation

Without many legal protections under the New Deal, Black women organized through the local Urban League.
A hand-colored engraving of a Purple Martin

The Disappearing Culture of Purple Martin Landlords

“You have to have almost a cruel streak in you to be a successful Martin landlord."
Florence Nightingale

How Courageous Should Nurses Have to Be?

According to three scholars, it's asking a lot for health care professionals to be completely selfless.
Bombardment of Fort Sumter, Charleston Harbor: 12th & 13th of April, 1861

How the Civil War Got Its Name

From "insurrection" to "rebellion" to "Civil War," finding a name for the conflict was always political.
A large group of Native Americans stage a protest over land rights by occupying the Bureau of Indian Affairs building and steps in front, Washington DC, November 6, 1972.

Native Nations and the BIA: It’s Complicated

Historically, relations between Native Americans and the Bureau of Indian Affairs have been contentious. Is that still the case?
A dramatic portrayal of the 1856 attack and severe beating of Massachusetts senator Charles Sumner by Representative Preston S. Brooks of South Carolina.

Political Divisions Led to Violence in the U.S. Senate in 1856

The horrific caning of Charles Sumner on the floor of the Senate in 1856 marked one of the most divisive moments in U.S. political history.
A person's palms presented to the camera

The Trouble with “Native DNA”

Genetic testing to determine who is Native American is problematic, argues Native American studies scholar Kim TallBear.
A girl scout troupe marching in parade in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn in the 1960s

Desegregating the Girl Scouts

The Girl Scouts had always professed that they were open to all girls. But how did that play out in segregated cities?
Two arms with tattoos

Why Does the Bible Forbid Tattoos?

And have we been misinterpreting Leviticus?
Two boys selling newspapers outside of a saloon

How Women Lost Status in Saloons

During World War I, anti-vice crusaders marked women who liked the nightlife as shady. You can tell by the way men started talking about them.
Illustration: An illustration from the cover of Warm Worlds and Otherwise by James Tiptree, Jr.

Source: Ballantine

James Tiptree Jr. and Joanna Russ: Sci-Fi Pen Pals

The two feminist authors corresponded about writing and romance, especially after Tiptree's true identity leaked.
Two pages from the Kaufmann Mishneh Torah, 1296

How to Revive a Dead Language

Although it was the language of sacred texts and ritual, modern Hebrew wasn't spoken in conversation till the late nineteenth century.
Still Life with a Peacock Pie

The Joy of Eating in Utopia

The early socialist Charles Fourier had grand ideas about food. The pleasure of eating was right up there with sex.
A cowboy pulling a sleigh of gifts

The Rise and Fall of Montana’s Christmas-Tree Harvest

Douglas firs weren't great for lumber, but they once made the small town of Eureka the Christmas-tree capital of America.
Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl’s Anti-Black Racism

The first edition of the beloved novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory featured "pygmy" characters taken from Africa.
Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus

Santa and Mrs. Claus and the Christmas War of the Sexes

In the late nineteenth century, bachelor Santa got married. Unsurprisingly, Mrs. Claus contributed uncompensated labor to the Claus household.
A woman in a soviet house

Early Television in the Soviet Union

Communist Party officials saw potential in the new technology in the 1950s. So did ordinary people, but not always in the same way.