Only the Clothes on Her Back


Tuesday, February 15, 2022

5:00 PM to 6:00 PM Central Time (US & Canada)


This program is free an open to all, and will be held virtually on Zoom. The registration period has closed for this event.

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Join Laura Edwards in conversation with historian Margaret Storey, as they discuss what dresses, bedlinens, waistcoats, pantaloons, shoes, and kerchiefs can tell us about the legal status of the least powerful members of 19th-century American society.

In her new book, Only the Clothes on Her Back: Clothing and the Hidden History of Power in the Nineteenth-Century United States, eminent historian Laura Edwards demonstrates how these textiles tell a revealing story of ordinary people, illuminating how they made use of their material goods' economic and legal value in the period between the Revolution and the Civil War.

Edwards grounds the laws relating to textiles in engaging stories from the lives of everyday Americans—wives wove linen and kept the proceeds, enslaved people traded coats and shoes, and poor people invested in fabrics, which they carefully preserved. Edwards shows that these stories are about far more than cloth and clothing; rather, they reshape our understanding of law and the economy in America.

Purchase Only the Clothes on Her Back online from the Newberry Bookshop.

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Laura F. Edwards is the Class of 1921 Bicentennial Professor in the History of American Law and Liberty at Princeton University. Her award-winning previous books include A Legal History of the Civil War and Reconstruction: A Nation of RightsThe People and Their Peace: Legal Culture and the Transformation of Inequality in the Post-Revolutionary SouthScarlett Doesn't Live Here Anymore: Southern Women in the Civil War Era, and Gendered Strife and Confusion: The Political Culture of Reconstruction 

Margaret Storey is Professor of History and the Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences at DePaul University. She is the author of Loyalty and Loss: Alabama’s Unionists in the Civil War and Reconstruction, the editor of Tried Men and True: Or, Union Life in Dixie, and co-curator of the online exhibition The Civil War in Art: Teaching and Learning Through Chicago Collections. 



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