My primary research interests concern colonial and early American history with an emphasis on family, gender, sexuality, race, and law. I am currently undertaking a dissertation, titled "A Defect of Birth: Illegitimacy in Early America," which explores the varied meanings, expectations, and experiences of extramarital birth status in British North America during the long eighteenth century. Drawing together case studies from New Hampshire, Philadelphia, and South Carolina, my project aims to unpack the inherent messiness of birth status, which relied as much on local demography, family idiosyncrasy, and racial dynamics as it did on shared legal and cultural scripts. My project aims to extend the conversation regarding the significance of extramarital sexual behavior beyond the moment of unsanctioned birth and to interrogate the limits of biological kinship and the meaning of family, broadly defined. I am honored to further fine-tune this work as a 2021-2022 Marguerite Bartlett Hamer Fellow at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies.
Anna Leigh Todd
Works in Progress Series CoordinatorPh.D. Candidate in History, University of Pennsylvania