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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.

Radha and Krishna Dressed in Each Other’s Clothes

The Bengali Religious Traditions That Transcend Gender

The Baul and Fakir lineages understand the cosmos through pairs of opposite essences, including male and female.
from Bouquet of Flowers in a Sculpted Vase by Jan Frans Eliaerts

The Charities That Gave Flowers to the Poor

Presenting impoverished city dwellers with a fresh bouquet might seem condescending. On the other hand, flowers are awesome.
Stokely Carmichael, 1973

Stokely Carmichael, Radical Teacher

The civil rights leader who changed his name to Kwame Ture encouraged students in the Mississippi Freedom Schools to think critically.
Helen Keller, 1956

What Does It Mean to Call Helen Keller a Fraud?

A TikTok trend is only the most recent example of how people often question the abilities of marginalized groups.
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Chess_Game_-_Sofonisba_Anguissola.jpg

Catherine de’ Medici Was Good at Chess

The game was a way for early modern women in royal courts to prove their skill in political life.
An image from the cover of the September 4, 1980 issue of Philadelphia Gay News

Discovering the “Gay Lifestyle” through 1970s Magazines

The gay men's magazines QQ and Ciao! were unabashedly liberated, but they still catered to an exclusive audience.
A postcard for the Derby Arboretum

Uplifting the Masses with Public Parks

Created in Victorian England, the earliest public parks were on a civilizing mission.
A poster promoting healthy eating from between 1941 and 1945

The Idea of “Good Nutrition” Has Changed Over Time

But one thing has been constant: the tendency to call some foods better for you than others.
1 Dollar, Farmers' and Mechanics' Bank of Rahway, New Jersey, 1850

Banks’ Own Private Currencies in 19th-Century America

Before the Civil War local banks issued their own money. It was totally legit, too.
A bartender in 1951

How Women Fought for the Right to Be Bartenders

As Life magazine put it, “angry barmaids are tough opponents in any hassle.”
Close up of a basketball players feet

Playing Girls’ Basketball in 1930s Chinatown

Chinese American girls played an innovative style of basketball on the playgrounds of San Francisco, and dominated the court.
A recumbent bicycle in 1935

Who Killed the Recumbent Bicycle?

How a dominant technology became viewed as the only option, with no need for better-designed competitors.
A barricade in the Paris Commune, March 18, 1871

The Fancy Concerts of the Paris Commune

To the barricades! And then...to the opera!
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.