Participant Info

First Name
Last Name
Seton Hall University
Website URL
women, gender, labor, progressivism, domestic workers,
Additional Contact Information

Personal Info

About Me

Vanessa May is an Associate Professor of History at Seton Hall University.  She also co-directs the Women and Gender Studies Program and teaches classes on American women’s history, sexuality and gender, immigration, and labor.  She is an expert on the history of domestic workers and labor law.  She is currently at work on a project on settlement houses and the Children’s Bureau in the 1950s and 1960s, with a special focus on older women’s political power and gender and liberal welfare policymaking.

Recent Publications

Unprotected Labor: Household Workers, Politics, and Middle-Class Reform in New York, 1870-1940

In this book, I explain how and why middle-class women lobbied for protective labor legislation for women industrial and retail workers while leaving out domestic workers, who often cooked and cleaned in those same women’s homes.  I also chronicle the efforts of domestic workers to define middle-class homes as a workplace in need of labor protections.

Other Publications

“Standardizing the Home?:  Women Reformers and Domestic Service,” Journal of Women’s History, vol. 23, no. 2 (Summer 2011)

“‘Obtaining a Decent Livelihood:’ Food Work, Race, and Gender in W.E.B. DuBois’s The Philadelphia Negro,” LABOR: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas, vol. 12, no. 1-2 (May 2015), 115-133.

“Working at Home: Domestic Workers in the Nineteenth and Twentieth-Century United States” History Compass vol. 10, no. 3 (March 2012)

“Domestic Workers in U.S. History,” Oxford Research Encyclopedia (May 2017), (Online,

Foreword to Phyllis Palmer, Domesticity and Dirt: Housewives and Domestic Servants in the United States, 1920-1945 (Pennsylvania: Temple University Press, 1989), forthcoming

Media Coverage
Country Focus
Expertise by Geography
United States
Expertise by Chronology
19th century, 20th century
Expertise by Topic
Children & Youth, Gender, Government, Politics, Women