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Black and white headshot of author Livia Gershon

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.

Demonstration of Protest and Mourning for Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of March 25, 1911, 04/05/1911

The History of Mourning in Public

After a massive factory fire in 1911, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to stage a "symbolic funeral."
A massive American Elm tree sits backlit by the rising sun in Overlook Park in northern Portland, Oregon.

Why Learning the Names of Trees Is Good for You

Getting to know trees can lead to new ways of looking at the world.
Boy sitting at desk with book

The Surprising History of Homework Reform

Really, kids, there was a time when lots of grownups thought homework was bad for you.
Navy Anti-Malaria Unit, Guadalcanal, circa 1942

The Origins of the CDC

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began during World War II to prevent the spread of malaria to troops stationed in the South.
Medical staff taking blood from a blood donor at the Princeton Medical Center in New Jersey, USA, circa 1950.

The Weird Ways People Have Tied Blood Types to Identity

Scientific racism. Paternity tests. And mass tattooing, just in case of nuclear attack.
Bernarr MacFadden foundation, Third Avenue, New York, 1931. People could also buy a five course meal for a nickel and up to 3,000 can be served in a day.

One Parallel for the Coronavirus Crisis? The Great Depression

“The idea that the federal government would be providing emergency relief and emergency work was extraordinary,” one sociologist said. “And people liked it.”
Male teacher assisting student at desk in classroom

How Not to Teach Grammar

When people with opinions and a platform rant about bad grammar, they're not helping, write two English professors.
indian Mulligatawny soup in a brass bowl

The Soup of British Colonialism

Mulligatawny soup started as a simple South Indian broth but was changed to appeal to British palates.
A male doctor sitting down and looking pensive

How Doctors Make End-of-Life Choices

Many people facing the end of their life receive treatments that ultimately have no benefit. A team of researchers set out to find out why.
Men prepare bacon at a meat packing plant in Chicago, circa 1955

Why Does Meatpacking Have Such Bad Working Conditions?

In the long time between The Jungle and today, meatpacking has changed—first for the better, due to strong unions, then for the worse.
UK research organisation Mass-Observation conducts a survey at the Nuffield Centre, a Service Club in Soho, to find out the preferred 'pin-up girl' of a number of servicemen, September 1944.

Yes, Mass Observation Still Wants to Know about Your Life

The organization has collected interviews and diaries recording ordinary life in Britain over the course of decades. A pandemic won't stop it now.
WPA bookmobile

How Reading Got Farm Women Through the Depression

They worked over sixty hours a week but were also insatiable readers.
Two young children holding placard which reads "Are we men or mices? We won't pay these prices" at a demonstration in Harlem between the 116th and the 125th to protest against housing conditions and rent price, New York City, US, July 1946.

Rent Strikes Aren’t Just About Rent

A wave of rent strikes in the 1960s showed that poor residents of New York City had deep concerns about housing. The media, however, focused on big rats.
Panel from the Florentine Cortex depicting smallpox outbreaks in the Americas during the 16th century

European Colonization and Epidemics Among Native Peoples

What you learned about the diseases that decimated Native communities is probably wrong.
A man with binoculars

The Manly Birdwatchers of Ontario

Finding a hobby that doesn't undermine your 19th-century masculinity can be tough.
Irving Browne, Iconoclasm and Whitewash. New York, 1886. Illustrated by the author. The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens.

“Grangerization” Made Beautiful Books Even Better

But the eighteenth-century readerly hobby angered critics, who saw it as a “monstrous practice.”
Saturday Evening Post cover, Jan 14, 1956

How DIY Home Repair Became a Hobby for Men

It was only in the 20th century that toolboxes became staples in the homes of middle-class men.
A student reading a correspondence school magazine, 1946

Three Centuries of Distance Learning

We will probably remember 2020 as the time when distance education exploded. But the infrastructure that enabled this expansion was years in the making.
A couple sitting on the floor attempting to understand paperwork

Why Being Laid Off Can Hurt So Much

If an occupation becomes part of your identity, losing work can feel like a personal failing, even if it's clearly not your fault.
Pear seedlings from a book about Luther Burbank

The Marvelous Experiments of Amateur Plant Breeders

Over 100 years ago, a horticulturalist introduced hybrid plants to California gardeners. Up sprouted a movement of amateur experiments in plant biology.
A couple dancing the Jitterbug circa 1938

How People in the Depression Managed to Laugh

American popular culture flourished in the 1930s, despite the Great Depression. One thing that helped: artists being included in the New Deal.
Graffiti that says "The Only Sustainable Growth is Degrowth"

What If a Shrinking Economy Wasn’t a Disaster?

The degrowth movement is building a vision of a society where economies would get smaller by design—and people would be better off for it.
A calculator

Why Are Tax Forms So Complicated?

When it comes to the U.S. tax system, benefits are often indirect, which makes them more politically palatable to many.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau in nature

Discovering the Joy of Solitude While Social Distancing

Does the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century Romantic notion of solitude offer a lesson for those practicing social distancing?
Children push a fishing boat to shore in Zanzibar

An Islamic Approach to Environmentalism

A number of contemporary Muslim environmentalist groups have been inspired by Koranic verses that stress the conservation of nature.