Rebecca Jo Plant

Rebecca Jo Plant is an associate professor of history. Her research interests focus on women’s, gender and family history; the history of therapeutic culture and the psychological professions; and the social and psychological impact of war in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century U.S. She received her Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University and has taught at UC San Diego since 2002.


Mom: The Transformation of Motherhood in Modern America, Chicago: University of Chicago Press in 2010; paperback, 2012

Co-edited with Marian van der Klein, Nichole Sanders, and Lori Weintrob, Maternalism Reconsidered: Motherhood, Welfare and Social Policy, Oxford: Berghahn Press, 2012

Articles and book chapters:

Rebecca Jo Plant and Frances M. Clarke, “Studying Underage Enlistment in the American Civil War,” Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth 11: 1(Winter 2018): 47-52. 

Frances M. Clarke and Rebecca Jo Plant, “No Minor Matter: Underage Soldiers, Parents, and the Nationalization of Habeas Corpus in Civil War America,” Law and History Review 35:4 (November 2017): 1-47 

Co-written with Frances M. Clarke, “‘The Crowning Insult’: Federal Segregation and the Gold Star Mothers Pilgrimages of the Early 1930s,” Journal of American History, 101:4 (September 2015): 406-32

“Motherhood,” in Re-Thinking Therapeutic Culture, eds. Trysh Travis and Tim Aubry, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015 72-84

“Betty Friedan’s Feminist Critique of Suburban Domesticity” in Feminist Moments, ed. Kathy Smits and Susan Bruce, London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015, 147-54

“Anti-maternalism: A New Perspective on the Transformation of Gender Ideology in the Twentieth-Century U.S.,” Social Politics 22:3 (Fall 2015): 283-88

“Preventing the Inevitable: John W. Appel and the Problem of Psychiatric Casualties in the U.S. Army during World War II,” in Science and Emotions after 1945: A Transatlantic Perspective, eds. Frank Biess and Daniel M. Gross, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014, 209-38

“The Perfect Painless Labor: The Natural Childbirth Movement in the Mid-Twentieth-Century U.S.,” Mothers and History, special issue of the Journal of the Motherhood Initiative 5:1 (Spring/Summer 2014): 148-60

“Debunking Mother Love: American Mothers and the Momism Critique in the Mid-Twentieth-Century U.S.,” in Raising Citizens in the “Century of the Child”: The United States and German Central Europe in Comparative Perspective, ed. Dirk Schumann, New York: Berghahn Press, 2010, 122-40

“The Veteran, His Wife, and Their Mothers: Prescriptions for Psychological Rehabilitation after World War II,” in Tales of the Great American Victory: World War II in Politics and Poetics, eds. Diederik Oostdijk and Markha Valenta, Amsterdam: VU University Press, 2006, 95-105

“William Menninger’s Campaign to Reform American Psychoanalysis, 1946-48,” History of Psychiatry 16:2 (2005): 181-202


  • HIUS 144: US Civil War and Reconstruction
  • HIUS 156: American Women, American Womanhood, Colonial Times to 1870
  • HIUS 157: American Women, American Womanhood, 1870 to the Present
  • HILD 2B: U.S. History: The Nineteenth Century
  • HIUS 173: Topics in American Women’s History: Historical Perspectives on the Family and the Emotions
  • CGS 107: Gender and Reproductive Rights
  • CGS 104: Mothers and Motherhood: Cross-Cultural Perspectives
  • HITO 192: Senior Seminar in History: Women and the Law: Colonial Era to Reconstruction
  • HILD 90: Documenting American Culture in the 1930s

Joint undergraduate/graduate:

  • HITO 168/268: The U.S. and Germany, 1890s-1960s: Transnational Relations and Competing Modernities (co-taught with Prof. Frank Biess)
  • HIUS 181/281: Topics in Twentieth-Century U.S. History: The Rise of Therapeutic Culture


  • HIGR 267: Research Seminar in U.S. History
  • HIGR 265C: Historical Scholarship on the Twentieth-Century U.S.: Families, Sexual Difference, and the State
  • HIGR 265C: Historical Scholarship on the Twentieth-Century U.S.: Labor and Consumption
  • HIGR 205: Historical Scholarship on Women and Gender
  • HIGR 209: Teaching History (co-taught with Prof. Mark Hanna)

I am currently working on two book projects. The first, a collaborative project with Frances M. Clarke (University of Sydney), is provisionally entitled Child Soldiers: Militarism and American Youth from the Revolution through World War II. In the U.S. today, the phrase “child soldier” typically conjures troubling images of young boys and adolescents in war-torn African countries. But the idea of children performing military service has not always seemed so distant or foreign. From the colonial era through World War II, minors played a notable role in all of the nation’s major military conflicts. Drawing on first-person accounts, cultural representations, and heated debates that played out in legal, political and familial realms, our project will be the first comprehensive history of the relationship of children and youth to the American military. By tracking shifting attitudes and practices in regard to military training and recruiting in schools and youth organizations, we will also illuminate the history of ongoing debates over the appropriate role of the military within a democratic republic.

My second ongoing book, tentatively entitled Governing the Unconscious: American Psychiatry and War Trauma during World War II, is also centrally concerned with war, masculinity, and social change. Americans do not typically associate war trauma with World War II or the “greatest generation” that fought it, but the Army in fact suffered enormous manpower losses due to neuropsychiatric disorders, with rates of discharge proportionately far higher than in World War I, Korea, or Vietnam. Moreover, contrary to popular perceptions today, the issue was widely aired in the press, ultimately leading to the passage of 1946 National Mental Health Act, which for the first time designated federal monies for psychiatric research. My project will show how military psychiatrists capitalized on wartime opportunities to legitimate their expertise, and how their efforts affected both professional and popular notions of mental illness and masculine subjectivity. I will focus on psychiatrists’ theoretical and clinical approaches to war trauma, their attempts to overcome public and military skepticism and outright hostility, and the models of democratic manhood they advanced. Tracing the professional, intellectual and gendered implications of the psychiatric war effort, Governing the Unconscious will document a pivotal era in the history of psychiatry while illuminating its larger cultural effects.