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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.

Christmas classroom

Are Classroom Holiday Parties Constitutional?

Can schools let students and teachers celebrate religions holidays without violating the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause?
green semi truck

The Populist Power of the American Trucker

How did truckers nudge the American economy toward deregulation?
sleeping

The Age of the Bed Changed the Way We Sleep

One historian reconstructs what nighttime was like in early modern Europe, and how the darkness affected people's sleep patterns.
Rev. Cotton Mather

A Puritan War on Wigs

In colonial New England, moral quandaries were everywhere. A surprisingly big one in the 17th and 18th century was whether it was okay to wear a wig.
empty plate fasting

The Joy of Fasting

Fasting was once a religious endeavor. The idea that skipping meals could lead to improved health emerged around the turn of the twentieth century.
Mulberry tree Cambridge

When America Went Crazy for Mulberry Trees

In the early 19th century, mulberry trees became associated with economic prosperity and morally upright productiveness, leading to a speculative bubble.
Mother holding her newborn baby child after labor in a hospital.

Saving the Lives of Mothers and Babies

Between 1930 and 1950, advances in medicine also contributed to continuing, dramatic improvement in infants’ survival chances.
Artisan Sourdough Bread

The War on White Bread

In 1890, women baked more than 80 percent of the nation’s bread at home, and it was brown, non-standardized stuff. When did it become white?
Rum and Coke

What Rum and Cokes Have to do With War

What could be more American than a sugary soda mixed with a liquor made from sugar? The origins of rum and Coke is more problematic than you might expect.
Elaine Defendants

Black Organizing and White Violence

In 1919, armed posses and federal troops killed as many as one hundred African-Americans in one of the worst instances of mass violence in U.S. history.
Steamed dumplings Dim Sum

The Cookbook That Brought Chinese Food to American Kitchens

The groundbreaking 1945 cookbook, How to Cook and Eat in Chinese, that introduced Chinese cooking to white American cooks.
Boys fishing in a bayou, Schriever, LA, 1940

Why Our Work Affects How Kids Play

The way we think about the skills kids need—and even how they should play—is deeply tied to the characteristics we expect them to need as adults.
Presidential facial hair

The Meaning of a Mustache

To shave or not to shave? At the start of the twentieth century, a trend away from facial hair reflected dramatic social and economic shifts.
Oneida community home building

Eroticism and Religion in Utopia

Some 19th-century utopian idealists took up deeply unconventional sexual arrangements based specifically on their religious beliefs.
uncomfortable chairs

Character-Building With Uncomfortable Chairs

Chairs were a subject of much debate as far back as the nineteenth century, pitting health and technology against propriety and aesthetics.
Isolated shot of a cup of coffee on white background

How Coffee Went from a Mystical Sacrament to an Everyday Drink

The history of coffee starts in Ethiopia, where it grew wild. Locals used it as a sacrament in communal ceremonies and to keep up energy.
Harlem from above

The Healthcare Wars of 1920s Harlem

In the 1920s, Harlem’s population was growing quickly. A wide variety of “magico-religious workers” emerged to respond to the community’s needs.
Dachshund dog

What Does It Mean to Own an Animal?

Those who view animals as property misunderstand the nature of property, a legal scholar suggests.
San Juan Puerto Rico

What the U.S. Owes Puerto Rico

As historian Déborah Berman Santana writes, the U.S. is very much responsible for molding Puerto Rico’s economy to begin with.
Vocational class

How Schools Got into the Job-Prep Business

Training skilled workers within a school system was a way to sell ordinary workers on the value of the industrial system and thwart union recruiting.
Children at US-Mexico border

Inventing the “Illegal Alien”

What's an illegal alien? The idea that the most important question about immigrants is their legal status is a relatively new one.
credit cards on dollars

How Credit Reporting Agencies Got Their Power

Early credit reporting companies urged people to “Treat their credit as a sacred trust” and argued that keeping a good credit record was a moral concern.
A posh young woman reclining on a deck chair with her hands behind her head

Luxury: Enemy of Virtue, or Economic Engine?

Today, economists tend to see anything that boosts consumption and production as a good thing. But that was decidedly not the case in earlier centuries.
Woman and Giant Typewriter

How Typewriters Changed Everything

Voice recognition technology is beginning to compete with typing. Would the end of typing change the business world forever?
Ominous Businessmen

Is Corporate Meritocracy Fair?

Researchers performed an experiment that suggested demanding a culture of meritocracy can be a dangerous way to try to reduce unfair practices.