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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.

Demonstrating the administration of the polygraph, the polygrapher making notes on the readouts.

The Online Lie Detector Is No Better Than the Polygraph

People love the idea of a machine that tells us who to trust. But the historical analog of the online lie detector also didn't work.
A black and white image of a person trapped behind glass

How YouTube Is Shaping the Future of Work

Americans expect our jobs to provide us with not just money but fulfillment. For many, YouTube represents exactly that promise.
A doctor talking to a female patient

Blaming Women for Infertility in the 1940s

In the early days of fertility treatments, some doctors theorized that women’s unconscious hatred of their husbands kept them from conceiving.
Boxes of Cracker Jacks

The Invention of the Giveaway

The appeal of the free gift has always been, for the consumer, about the eternal dream of getting something for nothing.
A harmonica against a yellow background

How Harmonicas Came to America

Harmonicas were invented in Europe in the 1820s as an aid for tuning pianos, but they didn't really take off until they crossed the Atlantic.
A Jewish wine cup

When Passover Meant Raisin Wine

Why did American Jews have non-alcoholic raisin "wine" with their Passover seders in the early 19th century?
Allan Pinkerton at the camp at Antietam in September, 1862

A Horse’s-Eye View of the Civil War

Horses and mules played a major role in the American Civil War. In the end, there were about twice as many dead equines as humans.
A man breathing in nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and a man exhibiting its exhilarating effects.

How Medical Researchers Used to Party

There’s always been some fuzziness in our distinctions between medicine and recreational drugs. Just look at nitrous oxide.
Gregory Peck and Mary Badham review the script for the film, 'To Kill a Mockingbird' directed by Robert Mulligan.

Defying the Gender Binary in the 1930s

In the 1930s, experimental psychologist Agnes Landis interviewed women who identified as "tomboys."
Two muslim women looking out over a city.

Muslim Organizing Against Domestic Violence

How the Society for Muslim Women helped victims of domestic abuse, while also promoting Kazakh culture and knowledge of Islam.
A person hugging a tree trunk

The Tree Huggers Who Saved Indian Forests

The Chipko activists of 1970s and ‘80s India saved their forests by calling attention to the deep interdependence between humans and the natural world.
Rock Against Racism in Trafalgar Square, London, 1978

How British Teens Blended Pop and Politics

In the 1970s, the National Front blamed immigrants for the UK's economic problems. Anti-racist groups formed in response, with the help of pop music.
Two children looking at artwork hung on the wall

Taking Children’s Art Seriously

Are children’s drawings meaningless scribbles or serious creative work? Western scholars and child psychologists have debated this topic for years.

A Sense of Place for Toddlers

Young children have a unique sense of the world that can be difficult for grown-up architects to grasp.
An opium den in London's East End

How Opium Use Became a Moral Issue

In the 19th century, England's working classes frequently used opium. But there weren't laws against the drug until the middle classes started using it.
The Oregon Civilian Conservation Corps

The First New Deal Was Green, Too

An integral part of FDR's New Deal was the Civilian Conservation Corps, which focused on environmental conservation work.
The Native American village of Secoton

Yes, Americans Owned Land Before Columbus

What you were taught in elementary school about Native Americans not owning land is a myth. The truth is much more complicated.
Brothel by Joachim Beuckelaer, 1562

Regulating Sex Work in Medieval Europe

When sex work was considered a "necessary evil," legal brothels provided certain protections for the women who worked there.
A county fair in Shelbyville, KY

Judging Families at the State Fair

"Better Baby Contests" began as part of the Progressive Era push to improve children’s health and reduce infant mortality. Then eugenicists got involved.
Rachel Carson Conducts Marine Biology Research with Bob Hines

Rachel Carson’s Critics Called Her a Witch

When Silent Spring was published, the response was overtly gendered. Rachel Carson's critics depicted her as hysterical, mystical, and witchy.
Two children playing in the snow

The Snow Day as Modern Festival

An unexpected day off work and school can take on the trappings of a religious ritual.
A group of slaves gathered outside a building at the Foller Plantation in Cumberland Landing, Pamunkey Run, Virginia, May, 1862.

Did Black Rebellion Win the Civil War?

Historians are giving credence to W.E.B. DuBois's assertion that enslaved workers coordinated a general strike, which helped end the Civil War.
An advertisement for Fry's Chocolate

How Chocolate Came to Europe

Pre-Colombian cultures valued chocolate highly as a drink, and often served it at important events. It wasn't made into a solid candy until 1847.
A trade card for Dilworth's Coffee, Philadelphia

The Racism of 19th-Century Advertisements

Illustrated advertising cards invoked ethnic stereotypes, using black women as foils in order to appeal to white consumers.
Group photo in front of Clark University: Front row: Sigmund Freud, G. Stanley Hall, C. G. Jung; Back row: Abraham A. Brill, Ernest Jones, Sándor Ferenczi.

When Psychoanalysts Believed in Magic

Sigmund Freud told Carl Jung it was important to keep sexuality at the center of the human psyche, rather than anything spiritualist.