Kathleen Casey

Director, Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program; Professor of History

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Dr. Casey was born in western Massachusetts and raised in upstate New York. After earning her PhD in History and a graduate certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Rochester in 2010, she taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Honors College. She spent the next decade teaching at Virginia Wesleyan University, a small liberal arts college in Virginia where she served as the Coordinator of the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program. Dr. Casey now lives in Greenville, South Carolina and is the Director of the Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program at Furman University, where she also has a joint appointment in the History Department.

Dr. Casey's research and teaching focus on the history of women, gender, sexuality, race, vaudeville, and apparel in 19th and 20th century America. She is also the author of The Prettiest Girl on Stage is a Man: Race and Gender Benders in American Vaudeville (2015) and is currently writing her second book, The Things She Carried: Women and the Power of the Purse, under contract with Oxford University Press. She has also published in Gender & History, Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies, the Journal of American Culture and Ms. Magazine.

Honors & Awards

  • Recipient, Summer Faculty Development Grant, “Queer History and the Possibilities of Purses, ” Virginia Wesleyan University, 2022
  • Nominee, Best Educator in Hampton Roads, VA, Outwire757 Readers’ Poll, 2019
  • Recipient, Mednick Memorial Fellowship, Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges, 2016-2017
  • Semi-Finalist, Nancy Weiss Malkiel Junior Faculty Fellowship, Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, 2016-2017
  • Recipient, National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, American Material Culture Summer Institute, Bard Graduate Center, Summer 2015
  • Recipient, Summer Faculty Development Grant, “The Prettiest Girl on Stage is a Man,” Virginia Wesleyan University, Summer 2014
  • Recipient, Innovative Teaching and Engaged Learning Grant, “Making Public History Matter,” Virginia Wesleyan University, 2014-2015
  • Recipient of Susan B. Anthony Dissertation Award for the most distinguished dissertation in women’s and/or gender studies, 2010
  • Recipient of Dean’s Dissertation Fellowship, University of Rochester, 2009-2010
  • Finalist, Woodrow Wilson Women’s Studies National Fellowship Competition, 2009
  • Awarded two research grants from Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender Studies, 2006, 2008


  • Ph.D, University of Rochester, 2010
  • Certificate, Gender and Women's Studies, Susan B. Anthony Institute, 2010
  • B.A., University of Rochester, 2003

Research Interests

  • History of Women, Gender, and Sexuality in America
  • Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies
  • American Vaudeville
  • History of Drag in America
  • Nineteenth and Twentieth-Century America
  • Material Culture, Clothing, and Style in America
  • African-American History
  • History of Race in America


Scholarly Books

  • The Things She Carried: Women and the Power of the Purse (Oxford University Press, under contract).
  • The Prettiest Girl on Stage is a Man: Race and Gender Benders in American Vaudeville (University of Tennessee Press, 2015)

Peer-Reviewed Articles

  • “Pickets, Protests, and Purses in the American Civil Rights Movement,” Gender and History, Wiley-Blackwell, June 2022.
  • “Sex, Savagery and the Woman Who Made Vaudeville Famous,” Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies, University of Nebraska Press, Vol. 36, No. 1, March 2015.
  • “‘The Jewish Girl with a Colored Voice’: Sophie Tucker and the Sounds of Gender and Race in Modern America,” Journal of American Culture, Wiley Periodicals, Vol. 38, No. 1, March 2015.

Essays in Edited Collections

  • “'This Sack So Full': Enslaved Women’s Use of Sacks in Antebellum America,” chapter in Pouches, Pockets and Secret Drawers, Brill, Autumn 2023. Anna Jamieson, Naomi Segal, and James Brown, eds.

Popular Writing

  • “The Renaissance of Feminist Bookstores,” Ms.Magazine.com, January 21, 2023
  • “Teaching the Deep Roots of Abortion in America,” Ms.Magazine.com, November 30, 2022
  • “What We Mean When We Talk About Drag,” Jewish and Gender Performance Working Group, Tulane University, August 2022
  • “A Century of Votes for Women,” Coastal Virginia Magazine, May 19, 2020

Book Reviews

  • Review of David Monod, Vaudeville and the Making of Modern Entertainment, 1895-1925 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2020) for Journal of American History, vol. 108, no. 4, March 2022, 851-852.
  • Review of Clothing and Fashion in Southern History, edited by Ted Ownby and Becca Walton (University Press of Mississippi, 2020) for Journal of Southern History, vol. 87, no. 2., May 2021, 350-351.
  • Review of Marina Dahlquist, Exporting Perilous Pauline: Pearl White and the Serial Film Craze (Alexander Street Press, 2013) for Women and Social Movements, vol. 18, no. 1, March 2014.

Additional Professional Activity

Dr. Casey has spent over 16 years teaching in higher education and has served on numerous committees during that time. In her past role at Virginia Wesleyan, she advised Spectrum, the LGBTQ+ student organization, served on the President's Council for Inclusive Community, was a founding member of the Africana Studies Program. She also served on the Faculty Standards and Welfare and Educational Programming Committees, as well as the Honors College Advisory Board, the Academic Affairs Reorganization Task Force, and the Internship Task Force Committee.

She has given talks to scholarly audiences at the Berkshires Conference on Women, Genders and Sexualities, the American Historical Association, the American Studies Association, the Western Association of Women's Historians, and the American Cultural Association. She particularly enjoys speaking with popular audiences in unique and varied spaces, and has presented her work at non-profits like the United Way, historical societies, at hospitals, naval bases, retirement homes, and feminist bookstores.