Dr. Melissa Stein '99 returned to Franklin & Marshall in late October to visit classes, meet with faculty and students, and give a public lecture based on her new book, Measuring Manhood: Race and the Science of Masculinity, 1830-1934 (University of Minnesota Press, 2015).
From the “gay gene” to the “female brain” and African American students’ insufficient “hereditary background” for higher education, arguments about a biological basis for human difference have reemerged in the 21st century. Measuring Manhood shows where they got their start.
In the public lecture based on her book, Dr. Stein spoke about how race became the purview of science in 19th- and early 20th-century America and how it was constructed as a biological phenomenon with far-reaching social, cultural, and political resonances. She also gave some examples of scientific "experts" who used gender or sex differences to support their claims about racial difference.
Dr. Stein is an assistant professor in the Department of Gender & Women’s Studies at the University of Kentucky. A PhD graduate of Rutgers University in Women’s & Gender History, she is an established scholar of race and sexuality in American history.
Maria Mitchell, Professor of History and chair of the Africana Studies Program, organized Dr. Stein's visit with the support of departments and programs from across campus. Following is an excerpt from her introductory remarks to Dr. Stein's public lecture:
"Professor Stein has published and spoken widely on race as a social construct, the role of science and ethnological medicine in the segregated South, slavery and gender in antebellum racial science, and gender, sex, and the sciences of difference. Her work has been recognized as exceptional by a number of institutions, including the Center for Race & Ethnicity at Rutgers University, where she was a postdoctoral fellow; the Rutgers Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, & Aging Research, at which she was an Excellence Fellow; the Department of Gender Studies at Indiana University Bloomington, which made her a postdoctoral Fellow in 'Gender, Race, and Science'; and Franklin & Marshall College, where she was, as an undergraduate, a Dana Scholar, a John Marshall Scholar, and the recipient of the Angela Jeannet Award for Excellence in Women’s Studies. F&M also recognized her in 2009 as an Emerging Scholar Fellow of the Center for Liberal Arts and Society.
"A History-English double major at Franklin & Marshall, Professor Stein minored in what was then Women’s Studies (before it became Women’s and Gender Studies and, this year, Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies) and played an enormously influential role in making the Alice Drum Women’s Center and the Allies Resource Center for LGBTA students what they are today. In addition to serving as her academic advisor, I had the pleasure of teaching Melissa in two upper-level seminars – Women and Gender in Modern Europe and Violence, Sex, and Power in Post-World War II Europe – in which she masterfully engaged with feminist theory.
"It has been a special joy for all of us who taught Professor Stein to watch her make her way into the academic world so successfully. One outstanding attribute of her work is its organic interdisciplinarity. She is one of those all too rare scholars whose scholarship boldly and naturally transgresses disciplinary boundaries. Indeed, her cross-over appeal is evident in the robust variety of programs and departments co-sponsoring her F&M visit, each of whom I would like to acknowledge with gratitude: American Studies, Biology, Biological Foundations of Behavior, History, Psychology, Sociology, Scientific and Philosophical Studies of Mind; Science, Technology, and Society; and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. For their support, I thank also the Alice Drum Women's Center, HIVE, LGBTA, Ware College House, and the CLAS North Lecture Fund."
"It has been a special joy for all of us who taught Professor Stein to watch her make her way into the academic world so successfully."