Dr. Elisa Miller

Elisa Miller
Department, Office, or School
Department of History
  • Associate Professor


 B.A., State University of New York, Binghamton
M.A., Ph.D., University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign


HIST 107: U.S. in the World
HIST 202: U.S. History, 1800-1920
HIST 281: History Matters I: Methods and Skills
FYS 100: First Year Seminar

HIST 217: American Gender and Women’s History
What has it meant to be a woman throughout American history? This course will investigate how beliefs about women’s proper roles and capabilities changed over time. In addition, we will examine real women’s lives, which were often at odds with gender ideals and social norms. The course investigates important distinctions and hierarchies among women—how variables of race, class, sexuality, and region shaped ideas and experiences of self, family, work, community, and politics.

HIST 219: Popular Culture in Twentieth Century America
Popular culture is produced and consumed within specific historical contexts. This course explores how both artists and audiences have used popular culture as way of making sense of the world around them. Popular culture provides a means for understanding, challenging, and escaping the issues and concerns of historical periods. Students examine how Americans interacted with films, television programs, popular fiction, and music during the twentieth century.

HIST 250: Topics: Queer American History
This course focuses on American history from a queer perspective. Students will examine experiences of LGBTQ people and communities, changing ideas about sexuality and gender, the intersections of gender, sexuality, race, and class, homophobia and oppression, and LGBTQ resistance and activism throughout American history.

HIST 323: The Gilded Age and Progressive Era
This class explores the economic, cultural, social, political, and intellectual currents that shaped communities and individuals within the United States from the end of the Reconstruction to the end of World War I, roughly 1877-1920. This period, which historians refer to as the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, was one of dramatic transformations, as forces including industrialization, urbanization, immigration, and imperialism helped forge a "modern" America. Although many of these changes took place on a national and global level, they also unsettled and challenged the lifestyles of ordinary Americans' lives. Rather than any one unified response, Americans constructed myriad new ideas, values, and practices in order to accommodate these transformations.

HIST 329: The Civil War and Reconstruction
This course examines the Civil War and Reconstruction as a transformative period in American history. It examines the political and social tensions that led to the outbreak of war, the war as a national crisis, the efforts to rebuild the country in its aftermath, and ongoing debates about the meaning of the war. On a thematic level, student will explore the dramatic and myriad effects of the Civil War and Reconstruction on American society. More than just a military event, the Civil War influenced Americans’ ideas about issues such as race, gender, class, nationalism, and the federal government.


My research centers on the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (roughly 1870-1920), gender and women’s history, and social history. I’m interested in how the transformations of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, such as industrialization, urbanization, and immigration, created new roles, ideas, and debates for American women. I examine how ideas about and experiences of women in this period are shaped by and differentiated by race, class, ethnicity, and region. I have examined women’s education at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century, focusing on how women as reformers, educators, and students developed and utilized the new field of domestic science (more commonly known as home economics today) to create new personal, public, and professional opportunities for themselves and women collectively. The Gilded Age and Progressive Era was a period of intense public anxieties about the massive transformations in American society with industrialization, urbanization, and immigration, among other significant changes. Domestic science also gained popularity as Americans came to view it as a way to contain varied social problems, from racial tensions and labor strife to "race suicide" and the decline in rural populations.

More recently, my research has examined the woman suffrage movement in Rhode Island in the late 19th and early 20th century as women transformed the movement with new tactics, organizations, and ideas. This research builds on my previous projects by examining how women, both individually and in social movements, sought to create new public roles for women in politics and social reform and to improve American society through their perceptions of women’s superiority in morality, incorruptibility, and nurturing. It also reveals how women pursued suffrage in different ways and for different motivations based on their race, ethnicity, class, and sexuality. I served as Rhode Island state coordinator for the Online Dictionary of the Woman Suffrage Movement in the United States, an online database encyclopedia of thousands of biographical entries on ordinary, unheralded woman suffragists across the country. The entire database is available at: https://documents.alexanderstreet.com/VOTESforWOMEN/intro. The Rhode Island suffrage bios that were written and edited by me as well as Rhode Island College students and professors and community members are collected at the webpage: https://my.lwv.org/rhode-island/rhode-island-suffragists/alexander-street-database.