As an undergraduate at the University of Wyoming, Melanie Gustafson was introduced to the study of women’s history and was privileged to participate in public humanities programs funded by the Wyoming Humanities Council. She left the West to study at Sarah Lawrence College, where she earned her Master’s degree in Women’s History, and New York University, earning her PhD in 1993. While living in Manhattan, she taught U.S. history to new immigrants at Pace University and to women inmates at Bayview Correctional Facility. In the Fall of 1994, she began teaching at the University of Vermont. Her courses have ranged from large introductory U.S. history surveys to small first-year and graduate-level seminars focusing on specialized topics, including U.S. Women’s History, Global Women’s History, U.S. Social History, Race and Gender in the 19th Century, the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, American Consumerism, and Digital History. Additionally, she has taught the senior seminar in Feminist Theory for the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program and the first-year seminar, The Pursuit of Knowledge/Ways of Knowing, for the Honor’s College.
While serving as the graduate student representative of the American Historical Association’s Committee on Women Historians, Melanie edited the very popular pamphlet Becoming a Historian: A Survival Manual. This collective effort was followed by two other collaborative publications: We Have Come to Stay: American Women and Political Parties, 1880-1960, edited with Kristie Miller and Elisabeth Perry, and Major Problems in the History of World War II: Documents and Essays, edited with Mark Stoler. Between these works came Women and the Republican Party, 1854-1924, published by the University of Illinois Press in 2001, and a number of scholarly articles, including studies of Florence Collins Porter and Judith Ellen Foster, two women political pioneers. More recently, Melanie published a two-part article and online archive documenting the life and career of Maud Wood Park, the first president of the League of Women Voters. While most of her scholarship is on women and politics, Melanie has also published studies of Harriet Hubbard Ayer, an early pioneer in the cosmetics industry, and Blanche Willis Howard, a nineteenth-century woman writer.
Melanie’s continued commitment to the public humanities continues through her participation in programs around the state of Vermont and beyond. She has talked about women’s history to high school groups and audiences of senior citizens. She has spoken about the struggle for women’s rights at public libraries; about presidential politics at local museums and historical societies; and about the role of First Ladies at Hildene, the Lincoln Family Home. In New York City, she talked about early Republican women to members of the National Republican Women’s Club and in Hartford, Connecticut she told the story of woman suffrage to the League of Women Voters. She has given presentations about the importance of women’s history to college students in the University of Vermont’s College of Education and College of Nursing, and to students and colleagues at high schools, colleges, and universities across the nation.
Melanie became a Board Member of Clio in 1995 and participated in the early discussions that led to the creation of the documentary film Miss America. She is thrilled to be working collectively with a great group of scholars dedicated to bringing great history projects to a world-wide audience.