Home / About

Molly Ladd-Taylor

Professor of History
Vari Hall 2136
Email: mltaylor@yorku.ca

I am a historian of gender, family, and social policy in the United States, although my teaching and several of my publications also encompass Canada. My major publications focus on mothers and children, the history of medicine, poverty, the welfare state, disability, and eugenics.  I am particularly interested in the critical role that intimate matters, such as reproduction and sexuality, have played in the political history of the United States.

My new research focuses on “bad” kids in the mid-20th-century United States and the mutually constitutive relationship between the ideal of innocent childhood and the belief that some children are fundamentally bad.  This project brings together popular culture, social science, medicine, and the law. It grows out of my longstanding interests in child welfare, mothering, and the legacies of eugenics.

Selected Publications:

  • Fixing the Poor: Eugenic Sterilization and Child Welfare in the Twentieth Century (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017)
  • “‘Ravished by Some Moron’: The Eugenic Origins of the Minnesota Psychopathic Personality Law of 1939,” Journal of Policy History 2 (2019).
  • “Contraception or Eugenics? Sterilization and ‘Mental Retardation’ in the 1970s and 1980s,” Canadian Bulletin of Medical History 31 (2014): 189-211.
  • Women, Health and Nation: Canada and the United States since 1945. Co-ed. with G. Feldberg, A. Li & K. McPherson (Mc-Gill-Queen’s University Press, 2003)
  • “Eugenics, Sterilisation and Modern Marriage: the Strange Career of Paul Popenoe,” Gender & History 13 (August 2001): 298-327.
  • 'Bad' Mothers: The Politics of Blame in 20th-Century America.  Co-ed. with Lauri Umansky (New York University Press, 1998)
  • Mother-Work: Women, Child Welfare and the State 1890-1930 (University of Illinois Press, 1994)
  • Raising a Baby the Government Way: Mothers' Letters to the Children's Bureau, 1915-1932 (Rutgers University Press, 1986)

Recent Courses:

  • HIST 1080 6.0: Growing Up in North America
  • HIST 3855 3.0: ‘Bad’ Kids: History, Culture, Media & the Law in Canada and the U.S. Since the 1880s
  • HIST 3618 3.0: United States Since 1945
  • HIST 5230 3.0: Race, Gender and American Politics