Jennifer Reiss

PhD candidate in History, University of Pennsylvania

2023 to 2024
Research Fellow

Undone Bodies: Women and Disability in Early America

Undone Bodies asks questions about both the discourse surrounding women and impairments, and the lived experience of disabled women in early America. With the understanding that the category of ‘woman’ is informed by notions of race and class, I question how were the various expectations placed on women in early America dependent on the ability to perform certain activities and have a certain body? What happened when women did not have that required form or lost that ability? Essentially, what did it mean to be both female and disabled? The project will undertake the first extended treatment of that relationship. I envision the project combining not only the respective literatures on gender and disability in early America but also – with attention to the social and biological realities of being female in the period – the historiography on early modern medicine and the body, and socio-legal histories on the status of women.