Michele Gillespie



Michele Gillespie
Presidential Endowed Professor of Southern History
U.S., American South, Labor and Work, Women and Gender
Tribble B207; 758-4270
e-mail: gillesmk@wfu.edu



BioMichele Gillespie is the author of Katharine and R.J. Reynolds: Partners of Fortune in the Making of the New South (2012), which was named a CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title for 2013, and Free Labor in an Unfree World: White Artisans in Slaveholding Georgia (2000), winner of the Malcolm and Muriel Bell Award for Most Distinguished Book in Georgia History.

She has co-edited numerous books, including three volumes on southern economic and social history in global perspective for the New Directions in the History of Southern Economy and Society series (2005-2011); Pious Pursuits: German Moravians in the Atlantic World (2007); Thomas Dixon and the Birth of Modern America (2006); Neither Lady Nor Slave: Working Women of the Old South ( 2002); and The Devil’s Lane: Sex and Race in the Early South (1997).  She is currently co-editing a two volume anthology, North Carolina Women: Their Lives and Times, (2014 and 2015). She is also the author of a dozen articles on the gendered politics, changing technologies, and racial realities of artisanal and working-class men and women in the slave South

She is currently writing an interpretive biography of Mary Musgrove, an 18th c. Creek woman in colonial Georgia. She is also researching the ways elite southern women used cultural power to shape their own opportunities as well as the broader social and political landscape of their nineteenth and early twentieth-century communities.  She is a past President of the Southern Association for Women Historians and past member of the Southern Historical Association’s Executive Council, has served on the editorial board of the North Carolina Historical Review and the Journal of Southern History, and is co-editor of the New Directions in Southern History series at the University Press of Kentucky. She has won several teaching awards, was the 2010 recipient of NC Campus Compact’s Robert L. Sigmon Service-Learning Award, and was named a 2013 NC Woman of Achievement by the NC General Federation of Women’s Clubs.  At Wake Forest University, she serves on the advisory board of the Humanities Institute and advises the History Department’s chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the national History Honors Society.



B.A.                Rice University 1983
M.A., Ph.D.    Princeton University 1990

Academic Appointments:
Wake Forest University, 1999-Present
Agnes Scott College, 1990-1996

Administrative Appointments:
Wake Forest University.  Associate Provost for Academic Initiatives (2007-2010)



  • Katharine and R.J. Reynolds: Partners of Fortune and the Making of the New South (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2012). CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title 2013.
  • Free Labor in an Unfree World: White Artisans in Slaveholding Georgia, 1789-1860 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2000).  Winner of the Malcolm and Muriel Bell Award, Most Distinguished Book in Georgia History, Georgia Historical Society, 2001.  Paperback edition issued in 2003.
Co-Edited Books:
  • North Carolina Women: Their Lives and Times, edited by Michele Gillespie and Sally McMillen, eds. (Athens: University of Georgia Press, vol. 1, 2014; vol. 2, 2015). 
  • Susanna Delfina, Michele Gillespie, and Louis Kyriakoudes, eds., Southern Society and Its Transformations, 1790-1860, Vol. 3 in New Directions in the History of Southern Economy and Society series (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2011).
  • Susanna Delfino and Michele Gillespie, eds., Technology, Innovation & Southern Industrialization, Vol. 2 in New Directions in the History of Southern Economy and Society series (Columbia:  University of Missouri Press, 2008).
  • Michele Gillespie and Robert Beachy, eds., Pious Pursuits: German Moravians in the Atlantic World, N.Y.: Berghahn Books, 2007.
  • Michele Gillespie and Randal Hall, eds., Thomas Dixon and the Birth of Modern America, Louisiana State University Press, 2006. Paperback edition issued in 2009.
  • Susanna Delfino and Michele Gillespie, eds., Global Perspectives on Industrial Transformation in the American South, Vol. 1 in New Directions in the History of Southern Economy and Society series, Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2005.
  • Susanna Delfino and Michele Gillespie, eds., Neither Lady Nor Slave: Working Women of the Old South, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002.
  • Michele Gillespie and Catherine Clinton, eds., Taking Off the White Gloves: Southern Women and Women’s History, Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1998.
  • Catherine Clinton and Michele Gillespie, eds., The Devil’s Lane: Sex and Race in the Early South, NY: Oxford University Press, 1997.
Recent Articles and Chapters
  • “Edith Vanderbilt and Katharine Smith Reynolds: The Public Lives of Progressive North Carolina’s Wealthiest Women” for inclusion in volume 1 of North Carolina Women: Their Lives and Times, edited by Michele Gillespie and Sally McMillen, eds. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2014. 
  • “Peddling the Lost Cause: a Southern White Woman at Work,” in Burton, et. al., eds. The Struggle for Equality: Essays in Honor of James McPherson, University Press of Virginia, 2011.
  • Gillian Overing, Judith Irwin-Mulcahy, Michele Gillespie, Emily Wakild, and Ulrike Wiethaus, “To the Ice-House”– With Apologies to Virginia Woolf: Conversations on Place in the Humanities, Forum: University Postgraduate Journal of Culture and the Arts, Issue 10, Spring 2010, Space/s, University of Edinburgh, http://forum.llc.ed.ac.uk/current_issue/10/index.php#3
  • “Selling the Lost Cause: Mary Gay and Her Books,” in Georgia Women in History, edited by Anne Chirhart and Betty Wood, vol. 1. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2009.
  • “Building Networks of Knowledge: Henry Merrell and Textile Manufacturing in the Antebellum South,” in Susanna Delfino and Michele Gillespie, eds., Technology, Innovation & Southern Industrialization, Vol. 2 in New Directions in the History of Southern Economy and Society series (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2008).
  • “My Garden State: Memory, History and the Agrarian Ideal,” Southern Rural Sociology 22(1) (2007): 28-39.
  • “To Harden a Lady’s Hand’: Gender Politics, Racial Realities, and Women Mill Workers in Antebellum Georgia,” in Delfino and Gillespie, eds., Neither Lady nor Slave: Working Women of the Old South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002). Reprinted in J. William Harris, The Old South: New Studies in Politics and Culture, 2nd ed. (N.Y.: Routledge, 2007).
  • “The Politics of Race and Gender: Mary Musgrove and the Georgia Trustees,” in Clinton and Gillespie, eds., The Devil’s Lane: Sex and Race in the Early South (NY: Oxford University Press, 1997). Reprinted in Mary Beth Norton, Major Problems in American Women’s History, 3rd edition, 2003 and 4th edition, 2007 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin).


  • HST 102 Europe and the Modern World
    This course examines the legacy of the western world from the end of the seventeenth century to the present.  It considers the implications of this legacy for understanding the human experience in all its diversity today by exploring the role of Europe in shaping the trans-Atlantic economy and the spread of slavery, the scientific revolution and the ideas of the Enlightenment, the causes and consequences of the French Revolution, industrialization and the Marxist response, the ideologies of change and the national state, the rise of modernity and the age of anxiety, the new imperialism, the world wars and their impact, the Cold War and the transition to a new European order in a global society.
  • HST 110. The Atlantic World since 1500
    This course addresses the key themes addressing the interaction of civilizations on four continents surrounding the Atlantic Ocean from 1500 to the present, including the deadly mixture of people and pathogens, labor systems, commerce and crops,  nations, empires, and subjects, that contributed to the tortured emergence of this new world, the dismantling of these empires during the age of revolution, the transnational movement for emancipation and liberty,  and the impact of nationalism, decolonization, the Cold War, neoliberalism, and globalization.
  • FYS Seminar  Thomas Jefferson & His World
    Author of The Declaration of Independence, founding father and third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson embodies the moral and intellectual heart of the American experience for many people. Despite his intellectual commitment to liberty and equality, he led a privileged life as a Virginia planter who owned 175 slaves.  Although hundreds of studies have attempted to explain the impact of one of America’s most significant national heroes on American society and politics, the Virginia slaveholder and so-called architect of American democracy remains elusive.  This course explores Thomas Jefferson in all his complexity as political thinker, public figure and private man and the revolutionary age he lived in.
  • HST 337 Women and Gender in Early America
    This course examines the history of gender roles from the colonial period to the mid-19th century. It explores the social constructions of femininity and masculinity and their political and cultural significance.
  • HST 363 The American South, 1500-1865
    This course examines the origins of southern distinctiveness, from the first interactions of Europeans, Native Americans and Africans to the Civil War and Emancipation.
  • HST 364 The American South since 1865
    This course examines sharecropping, segregation, political reform, the Sunbelt phenomenon, the Civil Rights Movement, and southern religion, music, and literature. It includes a service learning component.
  • HST 380 America at Work
    This course examines the American entrepreneurial spirit within the broader context of industrial, social, and economic change from the colonial period to the present and explores the social and cultural meanings attached to work and workers, owners and innovators, businesses and technologies, management and leadership.
  • HST 390 Popular Culture in the Making of America
    What is popular culture anyway? If culture deals with ideas, processes, and objects produced by human effort, than popular culture deals with those aspects of culture (such as music, art, literature, fashion, dance, film, television, sports, and radio) that are consumed primarily by the non-elite majority. Although some scholars have argued that popular culture has been used primarily by elites to control mass media and thereby the social classes below them, others insist that popular culture in American history has been a vehicle for rebellion against the dominant culture and its leadership.  This research seminar explores these conflicting perspectives by looking at the history of mass media and popular culture in American life in the 19th and 20th centuries, particularly through popular culture’s powerful role in forging identity, historical memory, and relationships among consumers, producers, citizens, and the state.  Because popular culture is the ground on which cultural and social transformations are worked, gender, race, class and nationalism will be at the center of class readings and discussions.  Students will use their understanding of the history of popular culture achieved during the first half of the course to research popular culture documents (plays, novels, newspapers, magazines, art, comics, movies, etc.) to produce an original research paper based on primary sources and secondary scholarship.
  • HST 390 Memory, Culture, and the Making of the South
    This capstone course for history majors invites students to examine history, culture and the construction of public memory in the American South since the Civil War.  Students will produce research papers (25-30 pages) based on their analysis of primary and secondary sources and original interpretation and argument.  The course and the project will address how and why different groups have put together collective representations of southern pasts as evidenced in media, museums, monuments, historic sites, civic events, commemorations, and  other venues for culture.  It will include visits to nearby public memory sites. During the second half of the course, students will work one-on-one with the instructor to develop their capstone paper, as well as share findings, outlines, arguments and paper drafts with the class before turning in the final version.
  • HST 390 Research Seminar: Emancipation, Its Legacies, and Historical Memory. W.E.B. Du Bois famously observed that the post- Emancipation years were not only “an attempt by African Americans to overcome racial oppression, but . . . a profoundly important chapter in the history of America’s working people more generally.”  This seminar will begin with readings on the process of emancipation as an end to forced labor, as a bitter conflict between freed slaves and their former masters, and as a critical juncture in shaping U.S. race relations from 1865 to the present.  These readings will provide the foundation on which students will follow a supportive process to design, research and write original essays based on the course theme.
  • HST 391 Honors Seminar.  Required for majors in History who are seeking departmental honors, this particular seminar will examine various theories and philosophies of history, as well as their application, to show that historiography is itself historical, valuable only in so much as it reflects and informs the practice of writing history.