Lois W. Banner is one of the most famous and talented historians of modern American women and their place in the society and culture of the United States. She grew up in Los Angeles, the daughter of Harry J. Wendland, a writer on medical subjects, and Melba Parkes Wendland, a teacher. Lois Wendland graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1960, and then moved East to do her graduate work at Columbia University in New York City. She received her M.A. in 1962 and her Ph.D. in 1970. In 1962, she married a fellow historian, James M. Banner. They had one daughter, Olivia Parkes Banner, before the marriage ended in divorce. For her historical research, Lois Banner devoted herself to the history of American women at a time when that subject had not yet become fashionable within the academic community.
The teaching career that Banner followed took her to many different educational institutions. She worked at Rosemary Hall, a prestigious girls’ school in Greenwich, Connecticut, from 1962 to 1966, and was an instructor and assistant professor at Douglass College of Rutgers University from 1966 to 1977. She then taught at Princeton University, the University of Scranton, and the University of Southern California (USC). She served as professor of history and chair of the History Department at USC in 1995.
Banner’s books have had a significant impact on the field of women’s history, beginning with her first, Women in Modern America: A Brief History, published in 1974. As a text aimed at an undergraduate audience, the volume summarized the existing historical literature on the role of women in the United States in a clear and thoughtful manner. It also contained the fruits of Banner’s research into such issues as women’s participation in nineteenth century reform movements, the impact of prostitution on women, and the ways in which women’s history could be made an integral part of the college curriculum. One of the first...
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