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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 image made by the FDA about nutritional labeling, 1990

Where Do Nutrition Labels Come From?

We all ponder them when standing in the cereal aisle of the grocery store, but why do we even have nutrition labels on our foods?
U.S. soldiers reading books in a YMCA library

Why Learn to Read?

The value placed on literacy has changed over time, shifting from a nineteenth-century moral imperative to a twentieth-century production necessity.
An advertisement by the Partnership for a Drug Free America

The Story Behind “This is Your Brain on Drugs”

How did the campaign behind the Partnership for a Drug Free America’s iconic commercials develop, and why were its products so memorable?
A banquet to HH Ranjit Nawanagar in India, 1907

Gender, Meat-Eating, and British Colonialism

As the power of the East India Company grew, British writers embraced the idea that the (alleged) passiveness of Indians was due in part to vegetarianism.
An illustration for a 1957 Kotex magazine advertisement

The Feminine Art of Bow Hunting

Although hunting is often styled as a sport of men, American magazines marketed bow hunting to women in an attempt to legitimize and civilize the sport.
Igbo women

Women Leaders in Africa: The Case of the Igbo

In the precolonial Igbo states of West Africa, power was often wielded by male chiefs or elders, but women had their own forms of authority as well. 

A Natural History of Dragons

Dragons began life as snakes, but natural historians gradually began describing them in more fantastical ways.
Group of strawberry pickers in a strawberry field in Bell, California, ca.1910

Internationalism and Racism in the Labor Movement

A commitment to internationalism helped build multi-ethnic campaigns within the more radical and anti-authoritarian side of the US labor movement.
Grizzly Adams

The True Story of Grizzly Adams

In order to invent a legendary hero of the Wild West, John Adams shook himself free from his life as shoemaker in Massachusetts.
Three women in Salvation Army uniforms

The Fashion of the Salvation Army

Regulated dress promoted unity with the organization and distanced members, especially women, from both secular life and conventional Protestantism.
A View of the Pearl-Fishery, created for George Henry Millar's The new and universal System of Geography, 1782

African Swimmers in American Waters

Although most enslaved people worked in the fields, captive workers with strong swimming and diving skills were also exploited by plantation owners.
Leonard de Koningh, Self-portrait as a painter, 1864-73

Did Photography Really Kill Portrait Painting?

While some viewed photography as a competitor for their customers, Dutch portrait painters reaped the benefits of the emerging medium.
An illustration of a priest's hands blessing a car

Priests and Cars in Milwaukee

The popularity of the car reshaped Catholicism in the city, forcing churches to adapt their worship practices to attract newly mobile parishioners.
A street scene, 1854

Street Harassment in Victorian London

Middle- and upper-class women complained about “so-called gentlemen” who stared at them, blocked their paths, and followed them as they tried to shop.
Black teachers and children stand facing the camera in a classroom in Mississippi, 1967

The Working-Class Radicalism of Mississippi’s Head Start

The Child Development Group of Mississippi created jobs and fostered the political inclusion of poor African American and white communities in the South.
Three muscle builders pose at Muscle Beach on the Santa Monica Beach in California, 1949

Gay Panic on Muscle Beach

The skin and strength on display at Santa Monica’s Muscle Beach aggravated American fears of gender transgressions and homosexuality.
Broadway and Third Street, looking east on Third Street from Olive Street, Los Angeles, 1890-1900

How Los Angeles Started Its Sprawl

Victorian values and Anglo(phile) aesthetics shaped the city’s infrastructure and architecture in the last quarter of the nineteenth century.
Hot pink feather fan with celluloid sticks and guards

Staying Cool with Hand Fans

Fans are much more than convenient cooling devices. They make fashion statements, serve as status symbols, and silently spread political propaganda.
A wheat field along the Pamir Highway, Tajikistan. A wheat blade is in focus in the foreground and the Pamir mountains in the back are blurred.

Building Cultures on Wheat

Wheat remains a central part of national identity in Tajikistan despite the mechanization of agriculture and decades of hostile Soviet policies.

Death by Ice Cream

In the late nineteenth century, ice cream, a popular but poorly understood dessert, brought illness and death to America’s fairs and festivals.
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Madness_Network_News.png

How Mentally Ill People Fight for Their Rights

In the 1970s, a time of mass deinstitutionalization, former patients came together to found the Psychiatric Inmates Liberation Movement.

Seeing America in 1900

Posters and postcards showcasing unique destinations and sights in the United States helped homogenize the tourist landscape of the early twentieth century.
The video game "Doom 3" is displayed on a computer and game store shelf August 4, 2004 in New York City

Roger Ebert vs. Video Games

The film critic’s unconsidered observation about Doom touched off a firestorm that continues to burn for gamers and digital media critics.
Dara Shikoh and Mian Mir

Popularizing Meditation in the Mughal Empire

The methods of Sufi meditation were regarded as secret during the early Mughal empire. Why, then, did Dara Shikoh feel the need to write them down?
An illustration from Alice in Wonderland; a dramatization of Lewis Carroll's "Alice's adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the looking glass," 1915

Who Made That Word and Why?

No matter how many words in a language, it seems that we always need just one more to explain ourselves.