Susan K. Cahn


Susan K. Cahn.

Susan K. Cahn


Susan K. Cahn



20th century United States History; Gender and Sexuality; Medicine, Disability and Science; Social and Cultural History; LGBTQ History


  • PhD, Minnesota, 1990
  • MA, Minnesota, 1985
  • BA, UC Santa Cruz, 1981

Courses Regularly Taught

HIS 341 and HIS 356 U.S. Women’s History (pre-1875 and 1875 to the present)
HIS 557 U.S. Women’s History (graduate seminar)
HIS 162 U.S. History II
HIS 241 History of Sexuality in America
HIS 366 History of Sexual Subcultures (LGBT)
HIS 424 Topics: Sexuality and the Law in America
HIS 503: U.S. Core II
HIS 568: Women and Illness

Research Interests

U.S. Women’s History, History of Sexuality, Disability History, History of Psychiatry, African American History, Southern History, Feminist Theory, LGBTQ Studies

Current Research

My current project is a feminist cultural history of borderline personality disorder (BPD) in the modern U.S. Psychiatric professionals characterize and often disparage BPD as a female illness (approx. 75%), unresponsive to psychopharmacology or psychotherapy. Although highly contested, BPD has received little historical attention. The study examines the emergence of BPD as a category of pathology; the meanings invested in the figure of “the borderline” by medical professionals, the mentally ill, and in popular culture; and the cultural and intellectual “work” BPD has done within psychiatry, within broader cultural and political discourses of gender, and among people affected by BPD. In addition to this research, I also continue to write on women’s sport, lesbian history, sexuality, and chronic illness.

Coming on Strong: Gender and Sexuality in Women's Sport, 2nd edition (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2015).

Sexual Reckonings: Southern Girls in a Troubling Age (Harvard University Press, 2007)

Women and Sports in the United States: A Documentary Reader edited by Jean O’Reilly and Susan K. Cahn (Northeastern University Press, 2007)

Coming on Strong: Gender and Sexuality in Twentieth-Century Women’s Sport (NY: Free Press, 1994; Harvard University Press, 1995).

“Border Disorders: Mental Illness, Feminist Metaphor, and the Disordered Female Psyche,” in Susan Burch and Michael Rembis, eds., Disability Histories (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2014), 258-283.

“‘If We Got That Freedom:’ Southern College Women Demand Integration: 1940-1960,” in Jennifer Brier, Jim Downs, and Jennifer Morgan, eds., Connexions: Histories of Race and Sex in North America (forthcoming, University of Illinois Press, 2015)

“Finding My Place: A Sports Odyssey,” Daniel Nathan, ed., Sport, Community, and Identity (Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 2013), 182-194.

“Come Out, Come Out Whatever You’ve Got; or Still Crazy After All Those Years,” Feminist Studies (Spring 2003): 1-11

“Women’s History in the New Millennium: A Conversation across Three ‘Generations’,” with Anne Firor Scott, Sara Evans, and Elizabeth Faue, Journal of Women’s History, Part I in 11 (Spring 1999): 9-30; Part II in 11 (Summer 1999), 199-220.

“Spirited Youth or Fiends Incarnate: The Samarcand Arson Case and Female Adolescence in the South,” Journal of Women’s History 9 (Winter 1998).

“From the `Muscle Moll’ to the `Butch’ Ballplayer: Mannishness, Lesbianism, and Homophobia in U.S. Women’s Sport,” Feminist Studies 19 (Summer 1993): 343-68; also in Women’s America, 7th edition, ed. Linda K. Kerber and Jane Sherron De Hart, (New York: Oxford, 2011): 598-607.


  • University at Buffalo Gender Institute Excellence in Mentoring Award, 2016
  • John R. Betts Lecture, Distinguished Honor, North American Society for Sport History, 2015.
  • William S. Vaughn Visiting Fellow, Robert Penn Warren Center, Vanderbilt University, 2013-14
  • Stanford Humanities Center Fellowship, Stanford University, 1997-98.
  • Best Book (1994) in Sport History, North American Society for Sport History, Awarded 1995

Affiliations and other notes

I have affiliations with the Center for Disability Studies and Global Gender Studies; I participate in the Humanities Institute and the Institute for Research and Education on Women and Gender (IREWG).