History Professor Pursues "New Directions"

History Professor Pursues New DirectionsTwo new research projects are taking Williams history professor Sara Dubow ’91, the recipient of an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation New Directions Fellowship, back to school in the fall.

While finishing her Bancroft Prize-winning book Ourselves Unborn: A History of the Fetus in Modern America (Oxford University Press, 2010), Dubow became interested in how law, social movements and politics intersect. She continued to pursue the question in her ongoing research as well as in the classroom, teaching courses such as “The 14th Amendment and the Meanings of Equality,” “Gender, Law and Politics in U.S. History” and “The Abortion Debate: The Politics of Abortion in the U.S., 1973-Present.”

But her next two projects—one on the history and politics of “conscience clauses” that allow individual health care providers and institutions with religious or moral objections to refuse to provide abortions or other reproductive health services, and another on gender, sexuality and the 14th Amendment—require deeper knowledge of and training in constitutional and administrative law and legal history. The $188,000 New Directions Fellowship will allow Dubow to work on the projects while taking classes as a visiting researcher at Yale Law School and traveling to archives and libraries, including the newly opened papers of the American Civil Liberties Union (from 1970 to 2000) at Princeton University.

The first project, tentatively titled “From Conscience Clauses to Conscience Wars,” explores the origins, development and consequences of conscience clauses from 1973 to 2012. The second project, tentatively titled “At the Heart of Liberty,” seeks to trace the social and political history of arguments about the meanings of gender difference and equality through a series of 14th Amendment cases.

New Directions Fellowships are intended to enable “established scholar-teachers to pursue formal substantive and methodological training in addition to the Ph.D.,” according to the Mellon Foundation. “[They] are meant to be viewed as longer-term investments in scholars’ intellectual range and productivity.”