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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.

An illustration from a 17th century German theosophical text

The Changing Meaning of “Mysticism”

People who don't follow organized religion sometimes describe themselves as spiritual. But this idea isn't a recent invention.
Concept image of people rejecting a vaccine injection

Why Do Vaccination Rates Plateau?

Two experts discovered a paradox that can lead people to think disease isn't a problem.
An advertisement for Eagle Pencil Co's fine arts lead pencils, c. 1870-1900

Why You’ll Never Get Lead Poisoning from a Pencil

Some of the greatest moments in international pencil history involve discoveries of a different mineral.
James McCune Smith

For James McCune Smith, Racism Was All Over Anthropology

What if the creation story of anthropology isn't exclusively about white men classifying people as primitive?
An illustration of somebody using an inhaler

Asthma Tropes and the Kids Who Hate Them

Children with asthma respond to the movie executives who see them as weak people helped by magical inhalers.
Woman recycling glass, Wallingford neighborhood, Seattle, Washington, 1990

You’ll Never Believe Who Invented Curbside Recycling

Far from ushering in a zero-waste world, the switch from returnables to recycling provided cover for the creation of ever more packaging trash.
A father teaching his son at home

Why Some Black Parents Choose Homeschooling

Homeschooling has proved to be a valued alternative to the institutional racism often found in the classroom. But it offers something more, too.
Antonio DeSilva, who is currently homeless, plays with his dogs outside his tent on September 09, 2019 in Los Angeles, California

What Leisure Means for People Who Are Homeless

It's a human right to have opportunities for rest and time off. Even if you live on the streets.
Classroom of students with their teachers inside a Walapai school at Hackbury, Arizona, circa 1900

Life in Indigenous Boarding Schools

Survivors of schools in the US spoke with scholars about their experiences of cruelty, neglect, and cultural degradation.
Signal corps, pigeon section, 1919

How Pigeons Helped Fight World War I

At ten weeks old, many of the birds headed to the trenches, carrying back messages over distances of about ten miles.
National Welfare Rights Organization activists marching in Washington, DC, May 1968.

How Poor Women Shaped the War on Poverty

Bridging the gap between policy and people was a central aim of the War on Poverty. Often, women were the ones who linked the government to the community.
Studio photograph of Floating gloved hand holding purse on pink background.

Shoplifting, for Fun and Profit

"Hoisting" at the professional level could bring a sense of pride, along with the relief of avoiding grueling domestic work.
Baptism of Lydia by Marie Ellenrieder, 1861

Women’s Search for Women Leaders in the Early Church

Some nineteenth-century women writers argued that the first Christians included women who were close to Paul—and maybe apostles themselves.
Beachgoers at Myrtle Beach, SC

How the Beaches of the South Got There

The government funded beach construction for private developers, which displaced Black farmers from their coastal lands.
A press gang seizing a seaman

The Role of Naval Impressment in the American Revolution

Maritime workers who were basically kidnapped into the British Royal Navy were a key force in the War of Independence.
An illustration from the cover of America's Best Comics #11, November 1944

The Propaganda of World War II Comic Books 

A government-funded group called the Writers' War Board got writers and illustrators to portray the United States positively—and its enemies as evil.
A bunch of flowering sweet peas

Boosters Used the Sweet Pea to Define California

In the late 19th century, Californians were eager to part with their reputation for wildness, so they adopted an "English" flower as their symbol.
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.