Carnegie Mellon University

Lisa Tetrault

Lisa Tetrault

Associate Professor


Professor Tetrault specializes in the history of U.S. women and gender. A historian of the nineteenth century, she focuses on social movements (particularly feminism), American democracy, and the politics of memory.

Her first book, The Myth of Seneca Falls: Memory and the Women's Suffrage Movement, 1848-1898 (University of North Carolina Press, 2014) won the Organization of American Historians' inaugural Mary Jurich Nickliss women's history book prize. The Myth uncovers the politics behind the manufacture of an origins myth for feminism. Typically, the beginning of a women’s rights movement in the United States is dated to 1848, to the first women’s rights meeting in Seneca Falls, NY. This origins story, however, did not become commonplace until much late, born of the politics of Reconstruction. A handful of women created this story in response to Reconstruction-era politics, some forty to fifty years after the actual meeting, with broad-reaching implications for the content and direction of the movement.

Tetrault is currently at work on a book titled Enter Woman Suffrage: A Wholly New History of Reconstruction, 1865-1878. It investigates the broad and frequent debates about women’s voting, most of which are unrecognized, during the Reconstruction Era. Departing from previous scholarship, it does not center the suffrage movement as its main unit of analysis. Rather it explores how ordinary and elite Americans engaged with the issue, which they did repeatedly in this era. And it ties those debates to the main debates of Reconstruction, uniting two histories that still remain unnaturally separated.

Tetrault also lectures on the U.S. suffrage movement, broadly construed, and is active as a public historian. In 2019, she delivered the National Portrait Gallery’s Votes for Women Exhibit keynote address, “Resistance, Persistence, and Reframing the Nineteenth Amendment,” offering a new approach to this historic amendment.

Tetrault’s work has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard University, the Newberry Library, and the Smithsonian Institution. The American Historical Association and the Library of Congress awarded her the 2007 J. Franklin Jameson Fellowship, then given for the most promising book by a young historian. She has also received funding from the Huntington Library, the Schlesinger Library, the Sophia Smith Collection, and many others.

In 2018, Tetrault was awarded the college's Elliot Dunlap Smith Teaching Award.

Listen to Lisa Tetrault:


Ph.D.: University of Wisconsin-Madison




  • "Winning the Vote," Humanities Magazine, National Endowment of the Humanities, 40:3 (Summer 2019).
  • “‘The Real Meaning and Value of a Vote’: A Reappraisal of Reconstruction-Era Suffragists' Demands," under review.
  • “To Fight by Remembering, or The Making of Seneca Falls,” in Votes for Women: An American Awakening, 1840-1920, Kate Lemay, ed. (Princeton: Smithsonian Institution, in conjunction with Princeton University Press, 2019). Exhibition catalog for the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery’s Votes for Women centennial exhibit.

  • “Reconstruction and Women’s Rights,” a forum on Reconstruction for the Journal of The Civil War Era (March 2017)

  • "We Shall Be Remembered: Susan B. Anthony and the Politics of Writing History," in Christine Ridarsky and Mary Huth, eds., Susan B. Anthony and the Struggle for Equal Rights (University of Rochester Press, 2012)
  • “The Incorporation of American Feminism: Suffragists on the Post-Bellum Lyceum,” Journal of American History 96:4 (March 2010)
  • “A Paper Trail: Piecing Together the Life of Phebe Hanaford,” Historic Nantucket 51:4 (Fall 2002)

Book Reviews and Reference Entries

  • “Purists vs. Pragmatists,” book review of Carol Faulkner, Lucretia Mott’s Heresy: Abolition and Women’s Rights in Nineteenth-Century America (Penn, 2011) & Faye Dudden, Fighting Chance: The Struggle Over Woman Suffrage and Black Suffrage in Reconstruction America (UNC, 2011), in Women’s Review of Books (May/June 2012)
  • Book review of Ellen Carol DuBois, Harriot Stanton Blatch and the Winning of Woman Suffrage (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), in Law and History Review 20:2 (Summer 2002)
  • “Rock and Roll,” “Yellow Journalism,” & “Women, Citizenship of Married,” encyclopedia entries in Dictionary of American History, 3rd. edition, Stanley I. Kutler, ed. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2002)

Courses Taught

  • Body Politics: Women and Health in America
  • Women, Politics, and Protest: Women’s Rights Movements in the U.S.
  • Women in America: A Women’s History Survey
  • #metoo: Naming and Resisting Gender Violence
  • Development of American Culture
  • The Civil War Era, 1848-1877
  • U.S. Pro-Seminar (graduate course)
  • Transnational Gender Seminar (graduate course)

Department Member Since: 2005