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Women’s and Gender Studies

Debra Michals

Assistant Professor and Director

Women’s and Gender Studies

Dr. Michals has a passion for women’s and gender history, particularly the ways in which individuals have been, and can be, historical agents and actors. Her research and teaching interests focus on how “out groups” – those existing outside or on the margins of mainstream US society – survive, thrive, and bring about social change. This includes the study of civil, women’s, and LGBTQIA rights movements of the 20th and 21stcenturies. She is currently completing the manuscript for a book on the emergence of women entrepreneurs in the decades after World War II, and she has begun a new project on the ways in which entrepreneurship has served as a form of activism for marginalized groups (women, people of color, LGBTQIA, the poor). She is also writing a chapter for a book on feminist fathering; Dr. Michals’ chapter will focus on popular television sitcoms of the 1960s and 1970s, feminism, and the making of modern fatherhood. Other research interests include the relationship between media/popular culture and gendered perceptions/experiences of aging. In 2016, Dr. Michals was a consultant/advisor to the Congressional Commission for the proposed American Museum of Women’s History in Washington, D.C. She is also a consultant/biographer for the online National Women’s History Museum and co-authored an exhibit on the history of women’s entrepreneurship ( She served as acting director of Women’s and Gender Studies at Merrimack College in spring 2016 and in 2008, and has taught in the WGS program for many years. She was previously the Acting Associate Director of Women’s Studies at New York University. Prior to joining academia, Dr. Michals was a journalist for national magazines, including Ms. She maintains two blogs and is co-author of the U.S. History textbook A People and a Nation, Brief Edition.


Ph.D., U.S. History, New York University
M.A., U.S. History, New York University
B.S., Journalism (magna cum laude), Boston University


Courses Taught

US Women’s History

Gender and Social Movements

Women and Business

Writing the Gendered Life

Global Women’s Issues Gender, Activism and Social Justice

Gender and Society

Professional Experience

Selected publications:

“Make More Room for Daddy: ’60s Sitcoms, Masculinity, and the Making of Modern Fatherhood.” Presented at the Popular Culture Association Conference, San Diego, CA, April 2017.

“In the Spirit of Fannie Lou Hamer: Entrepreneurship as Activism for Marginalized Groups.” Presented at the 19th Annual Sarah Lawrence Women’s History Conference: Black Women in White America, Revisited, Bronxville, NY, March 2017.

Co-Author (with Mary Beth Norton, et al.), A People and a Nation (concise, 8th edition, 2009; concise 9th edition, 2011; concise 10th edition, 2014).   

“From ‘Consciousness Expansion’ to ‘Consciousness Raising’: Feminism and the Countercultural Politics of the Self,” in Peter Braunstein and Michael William Doyle, editors, Imagine Nation: American Countercultures in the 1960s and ’70s (New York: Routledge Press: 2002), 41-68.

“Stealth Feminists: The Thirtysomething Revolution,” in Robin Morgan, editor, Sisterhood Is Forever (New York: Random House, 2003), 138-144.

“Defying Gravity,” Smith Alumnae Quarterly, Fall 2015. (Feature on women in c-suite jobs – CEO, CFO, COO – and how they broke through the glass ceiling.)

“A ‘Sky City’ Renaissance,” (Acoma Pueblo), The History Channel Magazine, May/June 2004.

“Women’s History Month Celebrates: Mothers of Invention,” The History Channel Magazine, March/April 2004.

“Did the Women’s Museum Wimp Out?” Ms., June/July 2001.

“The Woman Entrepreneur,” American Heritage, June 2001.




Sullivan 308