Lora Wildenthal

WEBSITE(S)| Center for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality | Politics, Law and Social Thought Program

My current research is on the history of the meanings of wages, with a focus on men, women, girls, and boys as free waged workers in the era of the Prussian reforms (the early 1800s, during and after the Napoleonic era). More generally, I am interested in the history of money, labor rights as human rights, and the history of the study of wages.

My most recent book publication is a volume of essays in the history of human rights, co-edited with Jean Quataert: the Routledge History of Human Rights (Routledge, 2020). This volume includes new research on the 19th century and on places outside of Europe and the US. These eras and places have remained under-researched in current scholarship on human rights.

My second book is The Language of Human Rights in West Germany (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013). It explores questions such as: In the years after the Nazism, what causes did West Germans define as “human rights” causes? What controversies emerged among West German human rights activists? How does situating these activists in their domestic political setting change how we see their work?

My first book was German Women for Empire, 1884-1945 (Duke University Press, 2001). It analyzes German women’s participation in Europe’s most intense period of imperial expansion, and especially white German men’s and women’s ideas about racial classification.

I teach courses in HIST and SWGS, including HIST 101 “Modern Europe, 1500-1789,” SWGS 101 “Introduction to the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality,” HIST 108 “World History since 1492,” HIST 305 “Reading Histories of Work,” HIST 445 “Writing Histories of Work,” HIST 455 “History of Human Rights,” HIST 459 “Nazism and the Holocaust,” and FWIS 169 “What Are Human Rights?” Please contact me if you are interested in any of these courses so that I can let you know when they will be taught. In Spring 2024 I will teach a Big Questions course: “What is Capitalism?”

I welcome inquiries from undergraduates interested in independent research projects. They may be for 4-6 weeks in the summer, a semester-long independent study, or for a year-long HIST, SWGS, Mellon Mays, or Rice Undergraduate Scholars Program (RUSP) thesis.

I welcome inquiries from current and prospective graduate students. Often my graduate mentorship has taken the form of a general examination field in the history of women and gender for HIST students. I teach graduate courses in the department as needed; in the past, these have included the Introduction to Doctoral Studies course as well as courses on human rights, nationalism, and various aspects of the history of women and gender. I am glad to serve on dissertation committees, and have done so for doctoral students at Rice in History, English, Anthropology, Religion, and Music.

I received my Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1994, and came to Rice in 2003 after teaching at Pitzer College, M.I.T., and Texas A&M University.

Selected Publications: 

  • Routledge History of Human Rights (Routledge, 2020).
  • “Imagining Threatened Peoples: The Society for Threatened Peoples (Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker) in 1970s West Germany.” In Imagining Human Rights, 101-117. Ed. Susanne Kaul and David Kim. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2015.
  • The Language of Human Rights in West Germany (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013).
  • German Women for Empire, 1884-1945 (Duke University Press, 2001).


History of Human Rights Language of Human Rights German Women for Empire

Research Areas

Modern Germany; European Women and Gender; Human Rights; Modern Colonialism; Meanings of Wages


PhD, University of Michigan

MA, University of Michigan

Albert-Ludwigs-Universität, Freiburg, Germany. German Academic Exchange Program one-year post-bachelor's degree fellowship administered by Rice University

BA, Rice University


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