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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.

Albert Einstein c. 1920

How Einstein Became a Celebrity

His theory of general relativity was well known in the U.S., but his 1921 visit caused a sensation.
Boy scouts in CA, 1915

Why Do Boy Scouts Shoot Rifles?

It wasn't a big focus at the beginning of the scouting movement. So what changed?
Metropolitan Community Church of Washington DC

The Origins of LGBTQ-Affirming Churches

As far back as the 1940s, religious LGBTQ people organized groups and congregations that welcomed them.
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Suicides_of_Meleager_and_Althea_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

Why Suicide Was a Sin in Medieval Europe

Although there were historical and scriptural precedents for honorable suicide, Christian theology saw it much differently.
Photograph: Eartha Kitt

Source: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

When Eartha Kitt Condemned Poverty and War at the White House

It was supposed to be a genteel luncheon with the first lady dedicated to discussing crime policy. The chanteuse had other ideas.
American Anti-Vivisection Society 1909

Scientists vs. Animal Welfare Activists in the 1920s

The movement against vivisection—experiments involving live animals—swelled with women. A group of scientists was determined to stop them.
Cotton Mather

The Hellfire Preacher Who Promoted Inoculation

Three hundred years ago, Cotton Mather starred in a debate about treating smallpox that tore Boston apart.
Photograph: Marchers carrying a banner with the words 'Visibly Lesbian'

Source: Steve Eason/Getty

How NOW Started Standing Up for Lesbians

If it had been up to national leaders alone, it might have taken much longer.
A policeman is seen during the World Cup match between Germany and Bolivia on June 17, 1994 in Chicago

The Black Cops Who Fought Brutality on Their Own Force

In 1960s Chicago, members of the Afro-American Patrolman's League challenged oppressive policing in Black communities.
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?