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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.

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.
People wearing latex gloves while food shopping in Merrick, NY, March 17, 2020

Could Foreign Policy Stop Another Pandemic?

Diseases know no borders. International cooperation and solidarity, say scholars, are as essential as funding.
The location of the Earth encircled by the celestial circles, 1661

The Protestant Astrology of Early American Almanacs

The wildly popular books helped people understand farming and health through the movement of the planets, in a way compatible with Protestantism.
Students of an engineering course in training in Japan, 1915

When Scientific Management Came to Japan

Japanese workers, many of them women, worked up to 17 hours a day in the early 20th century. Yet experts still wondered why they “wasted” time.
A vintage ad for Crest toothpaste

How Toothpaste Got Scientific Cred

Would you brush with a toothpaste for the sweet taste alone or because of its touted health benefits? The answer wasn't always so obvious.
William Cheselden giving an anatomical demonstration to six spectators in the anatomy-theatre of the Barber-Surgeons' Company, London, c. 1730

The Study of Human Anatomy and the Corpses of Vienna

For cultural and geographical reasons, the city was a great place to find bodies to dissect. But there was also the matter of one well-connected doctor.
Quaker tobacco farmers in Barbados

The Invention of the “Healthy” Caribbean

Europeans used to believe that "bad air" caused diseases, so they distrusted the Caribbean's air quality and land features like swamps.
Anthony Benezet

The Undercover Abolitionists of the 18th Century

Since many people considered them an off-putting radical sect, some Quaker abolitionists worked behind the scenes to eradicate slavery.
"Spirit" photograph, supposedly taken during a seance, actually a double exposure or composite of superimposed cut-outs, showing woman with portraits of men and women around her head

How Spirit Photography Made Heaven Literal

Are the departed watching over us, and if so, what are they wearing? Victorian spiritualists believed that ghosts could be captured on film.
Karneval in Rom by Johannes Lingelbach

Is It Really Carnival if You’re Not Drunk?

Carnival is known for overturning the rules of society for a short time. But strangely, many scholars don't discuss what a big role alcohol plays in it.
Nicholas Black Elk

Wounded Knee and the Myth of the Vanished Indian

The story of the 1890 massacre was often about the end of Native American resistance to US expansion. But that’s not how everyone told it.
A Russian poster criticizing alcohol abuse.

The Politics of Drinking in Revolutionary Russia

To leaders, the ideal Soviet worker should be sober. Actual workers had other thoughts.