When I was nineteen, I drove across the country to see what was out there. My friend and I left Utah with a budget that afforded us PB & J’s for lunch and the occasional indulgent pizza. We were young and hungry for new horizons. We saw men reenact battles on the hay stage of Gettysburg. We took in the carved-stone democracy of Washington, D.C. We were lifted up in an electric New York City ovation for Ragtime’s musical declarations to fight injustice and keep the wheels of dreams turning for everyone. I came home changed by a simple but liberating understanding that there were many ways that people lived happy lives in this country.
When I was twenty-four, I took a job editing state history textbooks. For the next six years, I learned that it mattered how history was taught—that it influenced how individuals were legitimized and empowered. I received this knowledge by listening to the concerns of African American and Native American communities in Nebraska, ancestors of cotton mill families in North Carolina, and descendants of enslaved men and women in South Carolina. These experiences awoke in me a desire to find better ways to represent the humane and inhumane realities of the past.
When I was thirty-one, life presented an opportunity for starting over. I entered graduate school to address the silencing of national histories, including those in my own family—stories buried by the shame of suicide and mental hospitals, discarded by poverty and Dust Bowl dislocations, and lost when academic dreams were deferred because German heritage was not welcomed during WWII.
With my ancestors' stories on my tongue, I began traversing the entangled terrain where the personal and social inform each other. I became specifically interested in historical conversations about the relationships of gender and health care, and I dedicated my efforts to understanding the individual and social stakes involved in the telling of this history. My own contribution to this conversation, Self-Expression & Health: Mind-Body Medicine in the Era of the New Woman, demonstrates my commitment to scholarship that raises awareness about the many ways that groups have been supported or disadvantaged in their pursuits of self-confidence, steadiness, and strength.