April Haynes

Position title: Associate Professor of History

Email: april.haynes@wisc.edu

Phone: 608.263.1823

Office: 4119 Mosse Humanities
Mailbox: 4018 Mosse Humanities
Office Hours: On Leave

April Haynes


I specialize in the history of women, gender, and sexuality in the early United States (1790-1860).

My current research project, “Tender Traffic: Intimate Labor Movements, 1790-1860,” shows that intimate labor—a range of services including the care of households, bodies, and emotions—has long been a constitutive element of capitalism. Such labor was simultaneously deemed essential to Atlantic economies and devalued in American waged labor markets. In it, I tell the stories of the workers who built the early service economy, seizing the best opportunities it afforded while under extreme financial duress. By moving from gig to gig, town to city, and across oceans, service workers drew attention to the value of their labor and to the mobility of people whose gender, race, and age had once seemed to hold them in place.

Service workers’ mobility could disrupt local economies and challenge established power relations. Between 1790 and 1860, employers, reformers, corporations, and municipal authorities strove to place “girls” in long-term service positions defined by household employers. The workers in question were not always girls, a word often used by early 19th-century writers to convey a broadly feminized occupational category rather than the bodies of those who performed the labor. The language of girlhood fueled a discourse of rescue and justified state and corporate support for programs that would transport workers to hungry labor markets throughout the Atlantic world. Reformers coined the concept of sex trafficking as a target of humanitarian intervention even as they traded in intimate labor. The history of this tender traffic, the coerced movement of workers under the auspices of sexual protection, profoundly shaped the emerging service economy.

By the 1830s, waged household workers participated in the northern labor movement in ways that have since been forgotten. They organized around what I call an “intimate labor theory of value.” They challenged the “producerite” emphasis of artisanal republicanism, which emphasized workers who made commodities for exchange. Service workers insisted that intimate labor was valuable because it was socially necessary. They also recognized that it was economically necessary, that it enabled Atlantic trade to flourish. This project is funded by a Mellon New Directions Fellowship during 2020-22.

I am also presently completing a concise volume entitled Debating Gender: A Global History from the Ancient World to the Present Day. This short textbook surveys global debates about the relationship between gender, power, and historical change from the ancient world to the recent past. What is gender, and when did it start? Have women and men always been defined as “opposite” sexes? What are the roots of modern controversies over sexism, misogyny, and transphobia? What can feminists in our own time learn from those who have fought against past forms of gender oppression? Chronological chapters introduce students to the terms, methods, and stakes of eight critical debates in gender and women’s history. This book teaches early undergraduate students to combine historical interpretation and gender analysis. In doing so, it prepares readers to participate in ongoing debates about women and gender in active and informed ways. Debating Gender will be published by Bloomsbury Press in 2021.


Ph.D., History, University of California, Santa Barbara: Doctoral Emphasis, Feminist Studies
M.A., History, University of California, Santa Barbara
B.A., History and Women’s Studies, San Francisco State University


Selected Publications

  • “From Magdalen Asylum to Labor Depot: How the Panic of 1819 made Housework ‘Non-Market Activity’,” Journal of the Early Republic (in press 2020).
  • “Intimate Economies” in A Companion to American Women’s History, eds. Nancy A. Hewitt and Anne Valk (in press 2020).
  • “Radical Hospitality and Political Intimacy in Grahamite Boardinghouses, 1830-1850,” Journal of the Early Republic 39:3 (Fall 2019).
  • “‘Sex-Ins, College-Style’: Black Feminism and Sexual Politics in the Student YWCA, 1968-1980,” in Women’s Activism and ‘Second-Wave’ Feminism: Transnational Histories, ed. Barbara Molony and Jennifer Nelson (London: Bloomsbury, 2017) 37-62.
  •  “The Trials of Frederick Hollick: Obscenity, Sex Education, and Medical Democracy in the Antebellum United States,” Journal of the History of Sexuality, Volume 12: Number 4 (October 2003), pp. 543-574.

Selected Awards

  • Mellon New Directions Fellowship, 2020-2022
  • James F. Broussard best first book prize, Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, 2016.  View Interview

Advisor To

History Courses Taught

  • History 283 – Women and Gender in World History
  • History 353 – Women and Gender in the U.S. to 1870
  • History 221 – Sex in America
  • History 344 – Age of the American Revolution
  • History 600 – Advanced Seminar in History: The Age of Jefferson and Jackson