Photo Credit: Gerry Szymanski

Jean Elisabeth Pedersen

Associate Professor of History




Jean Elisabeth Pedersen is Associate Professor of History at the Eastman School of Music, with additional appointments in the History Department and the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies of the University of Rochester.  Her main research interests focus on the intellectual and cultural history of nineteenth and twentieth century France, and she offers courses on a wide range of topics in French history, European history, and comparative European and American history from the eighteenth century to the present day.

Pedersen’s first book, Legislating the French Family: Feminism, Theater, and Republican Politics, 1870-1920 (Rutgers, 2003), explored the public response to feminist protest by focusing on the ways in which late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century French journalists, novelists, playwrights, and politicians responded to feminist activists’ demands for reform in the areas of divorce, paternity suits, and reproductive rights.  Her second book, The Gender of Truth (in progress), will focus on the life, work, and reception of the male and female members of philosopher Paul Desjardins’ Union for Moral Action (1892-1905), Union for Truth (1905-1940), and Open Conversations (1904-1940) as a way of exploring the history and memory of public intellectuals in France.  She has published articles and essays on topics as various as the feminist theater of Marya Cheliga, the sociology of Emile Durkheim, and the novels of Emile Zola, and she has also presented her work in conference and seminar settings across the United States, in Canada, in France, in the Netherlands, and in the United Kingdom.

Pedersen received her B.A. cum laude with Honors in History and a minor in Economics from Barnard College, Columbia University; her M.A. and Ph.D. in European history from the University of Chicago.  Her honors and awards include a Chateaubriand Fellowship from the French government for study in Paris, a Monticello College Foundation Fellowship for research at the Newberry Library in Chicago, a Bridging Fellowship to the Visual and Cultural Studies Program at the University of Rochester, and six awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities for participation in the NEH Summer Institute on French Cultural Studies, NEH Summer Seminar on Nations and Nationalism, NEH Summer Institute on the Idea of a Social Science, NEH Summer Institute on Human Rights in Conflict, NEH Summer Seminar on Exploring American Democracy with Alexis de Tocqueville as Guide, and NEH Summer Seminar on Writing and Democracy in Western New York.  Before coming to Eastman, she taught as the Gustave von Holst Prize Lecturer for “French Feminism, 1789-1989″ in the University of Chicago of the University of Chicago.

Works / Publications


  • Legislating the French Family: Feminism, Theater, and Republican Politics, 1870-1920 (New Brunswick, New Jersey, and London: Rutgers University Press, 2003). 

Articles and Essays

  • “Lettre à Paul Desjardins,” in De Pontigny à Cerisy: des lieux pour “penser avec ensemble”, ed. Sylvain Allemand, Edith Heurgon, Claire Paulhan (Paris: Hermann Editeurs, 2011), pp. 311-313; portions of this open letter also appear among the sources of the dialog for the short play “Bribes de lettres,” adapted by Catherine Espinasse, in De Pontigny a Cerisy, pp. 331-349.
  • “Durkheim et l’éducation sexuelle,” in Le pouvoir du genre: Laïcités et religions 1905-2005, ed. Florence Rochefort (Toulouse: Presses universitaires du Mirail, 2007), pp. 111-126.
  •  “Confronting the Canon in the Classroom: Approaches to Teaching the Significance of Women, Sex, and Gender in the Work of Emile Durkheim,” in Teaching Durkheim, ed. Terry Godlove (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), pp. 187-212.
  • “Le Théâtre féministe de Marya Chéliga, 1897-1898,” Bulletin de la Société de l’histoire de Paris et de l’Ile de France (2004), pp. 33-64.
  • “Comments on ‘The Politics of Modernity: Gender, Nation, and Empire in Egypt’,” Gender and History 16, no. 1 (April 2004), pp. 113-122.
  •  “Sexual Politics in Comte and Durkheim: Feminism, History, and the Social Scientific Canon,” SIGNS: A Journal of Women in Culture and Society 27, no. 1 (Fall 2001), pp. 229-263; translated into Portuguese by Denise Lopes as “Política Sexual em Comte e Durkheim: Feminismo, História, e a Tradição Sociológica Francesa,” REVER: Revista de Estudos da Religião 6, no. 1 (2006), on-line at
  • “Nana and the Nation: French Cultural Studies and Interdisciplinary Work,” in French Cultural Studies: Criticism at the Crossroads, ed. Marie-Pierre LeHir and Dana Strand (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2000), pp. 29-48.
  •  “’Something Mysterious:’ Sex Education, Victorian Morality, and Durkheim’s Comparative Social Science,” Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 34, no. 2 (1998), pp. 135-151.
  • “’Special Customs:’ Paternity Suits and Citizenship in France and the Colonies, 1870-1912,” in Domesticating the Empire: Race, Gender and Family Life in French and Dutch Colonialism, ed. Julia Clancy-Smith and Frances Gouda (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1998), pp. 43-64.
  • “Regulating Abortion and Birth Control: Gender, Medicine, and Republican Politics in France, 1870-1920,” French Historical Studies 19, no. 3 (1996), pp. 673-698.


  • Book reviews for The American Historical Review, The European Legacy, The H-France Forum, The H-France Review, The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, The Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, and The Journal of Modern History