Elaine Frantz Parsons

Historian of Violence and Culture


Elaine Frantz Parsons is a historian of manhood, race, and violence in the nineteenth-century United States. Her latest book, Ku-Klux: The Birth of the Klan in the Reconstruction-Era United States (University of North Carolina Press, 2016), argues that the post-war Klan was produced by northern and southern interests and media alike, and that its victims struggled not only against the Klan itself but against widespread skepticism of reports of Klan violence, and widespread white sympathy for its goals.

Parsons’ current book project is a history of “thugs” in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. This will be both a labor history and a cultural history of men whose profession was to commit or threaten violence on behalf of others. She is beginning this project with a series of articles focusing on Pinkertons and other strikebreakers.

Parsons’ first book, Manhood Lost: Drunken Men and Redeeming Women in the Nineteenth-Century United States (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002), claims that temperance discourse, by questioning men’s autonomy and agency, created a space for women’s relative empowerment both in the home and the public sphere.

Parsons’ articles have appeared in the Journal of American History, the Journal of Southern History, and the Journal of Social History, among others.

Parsons is a proud member of the Elsinore-Bennu Think Tank for Restorative Justice at State Correctional Institute-Pittsburgh. She is editing a book written by the group about identity and incarceration, with the working title “How to Maintain.” Parsons and other members of Elsinore Bennu also work with Public History students to plan annual exhibitions related to incarceration.

Parsons is the Review Editor for the Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era and the Director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Center at Duquesne.