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First Name
Last Name
Smith College
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modern U.S. history, women's history, labor, global capitalism, neoliberalism, gender and race, activism and social movements, unions and worker organizations, working women, migrating women workers, Puerto Rican needleworkers, feminism, women's liberation, popular culture, reproductive justice movement
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About Me

Aimee Loiselle is interested in the postwar U.S. as a hub for transnational labor and capital. She specializes in the histories of working women, gender, and race with attention to both labor and economics. Her studies also explore the popular representations of women, work, and resistance and cultural narratives of women as labor.

Her current project examines the extended circumstances that led to the contested production of the 1979 movie Norma Rae as well as the cultural work the film did to constitute a narrow notion of the white “American working class” in the 1980s. Using a wide frame and interdisciplinary methods, she argues that U.S. government offices and textile and garment enterprises incorporated women of the New South and Puerto Rico into manufacturing in distinct yet interrelated ways. However, a fascination with poor white southerners led the media to focus on Crystal Lee Sutton during the 1970s. The project does not simply recover Sutton but reevaluates the context in which she labored and organized, expanding it beyond the South to the Atlantic U.S. as a whole, including Puerto Rico.

The detailed study of Norma Rae shows how popular culture often works to rearticulate familiar meanings and obscure disconcerting complexities due to its own reliance on gendered and racialized narratives as studios pursue the widest possible sales. The dissertation also highlights the way Hollywood professionals used legal and financial contrivances to remove Sutton from the movie production when her insistence on the collective effort of workers did not suit their commercial ambitions. I reveal the importance of such capitalist mechanisms in the arena of cultural politics, especially regarding questions of who contests and shapes the visibility and meanings for “working class,” “worker,” “freedom,” and “American.”

Loiselle focuses on working women and their interactions with transnational currents of labor and capital. She studies the ways women workers navigate and resist both their immediate conditions and the larger economic systems in which they work. Loiselle also explores how media images of women workers articulate cultural narratives about work, gender, race, femininity, and sexuality in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Such narratives intersect in potent ways with economic policies, employment practices, and global transformations in capital while often obscuring the experiences, voices, and actions of women workers.

Recent Publications

Journal Articles

“Austerity Undermines Every Effort at Equity and Justice,” Women, Gender, and Families of Color, Spring 2018.

Selected Nonfiction

“Mary McCurdy” and “Lucy J. Sprague,” Black Women Suffragists Collection, Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1600-2000, 21 no. 2, Summer 2018.

“International Women’s Day and American Exceptionalism,” Classism Exposed, Class Action,, March 2018.

“The Norma Rae Icon: Protest as a Spectacle of the Inspirational Individual,” In Media Res: A Media Commons Project,, May 8, 2017.

“A Laboratory for Neoliberalism: Puerto Rican Needleworkers,” El Sol Latino,, May 2017.

“Mini-Interview Project #42: Aimee Loiselle in Conversation With Grace Smith, Yup’ik Activist.” The Rumpus, May 2011.

Book Reviews

Jack Roper, The Last Orator for the Millhands: William Jennings Bryan Dorn, 1916–2005 (2019), in The Journal of Southern History, forthcoming Spring 2020.

Lane Windham, Knocking on Labor’s Door: Union Organizing in the 1970s and the Roots of a New Economic Divide (2017), in Canadian Journal of History, forthcoming Winter 2019.

Traci Parker, Department Stores and the Black Freedom Movement: Workers, Consumers, and Civil Rights from the 1930s to the 1980s (2019), in Black Perspectives, forthcoming Winter 2019.

In Progress

“U.S. Imperialism and Puerto Rican Needleworkers: Sovereignty, Colonial Exemptions, Women’s Labor, and a Deep History of Neoliberal Trade.” International Labor and Working-Class History, revise and resubmit.

“Puerto Rican Needleworkers in Colonial Migrations: Complicating Deindustrialization.” Journal of Working Class Studies. Special issue: Social Haunting, Classed Affect, and the Afterlives of Deindustrialization, abstract accepted, article under review.

“‘That Certain Stamp of Southern Pride on Their Faces’: Opelika and Norma Rae’s Patina of Authenticity,” preparing for submission.

Selected Fiction

“Ban,” selection for the volume’s Discussion Guide. Ars Medica (Fall 2011): 16-20.

“Happy Sometimes.” Yellow Medicine Review (2011): 95-104.

“Souvenirs.” American Fiction (Moorhead, MN: New Rivers Press, 2010), 45-58.

“He Used to Say Te Quiero Everyday.” Steam Ticket (2010): 10-11.

Media Coverage
Print “Scholarship Stories,” College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Annual Dean’s Report, April 2018, “Vox Populi on Ad Hoc Committees,” Western Mass Politics & Insight, January 27, 2014 Christi
Country Focus
U.S. in transnational context
Expertise by Geography
Caribbean, United States
Expertise by Chronology
Modern, 20th century, 21st century
Expertise by Topic
Capitalism, Colonialism, Economic History, Gender, Higher Ed, Labor, Politics, Race, Women