Jennifer Helgren

Jennifer Helgren

Room 230
Wendell Phillips Center
Email Address
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PhD, U.S. History, Claremont Graduate University, 2005

MA, U.S. History, Claremont Graduate University, 1999

BA, History, University of California at Los Angeles, 1994

Curriculum Vitae
Teaching Interests

My courses aim to make students curious about the past.  I want students to wonder about the antecedents of all kinds of political and cultural debates, including reproductive rights, immigration reform, and the war on terror. So often we hear that some issue is unprecedented when, in fact, we just don't know its history.  Not knowing history can leave us uprooted and disempowered. 

As Linda Kerber and Jane Sheron DeHart write in the introduction to Women's America, "[One] consequence of women's educational deprivation was their ignorance of history and, therefore, their lack of an intimate acquaintance with other historical actors-male or female-who had faced challenges that in some way resembled their own. Lacking a history of their own, they had few models--heroes to emulate or strategies to adopt. ... Marginality in the past thus confirmed and reinforced marginality in the present."  History opens our ideas to possibilities and potentialities.  

History--telling stories about the past--is also fun. My students pour over primary sources, visit the archives, and even conduct oral history interviews to chart their family and community histories.  In addition, film, novels, music, and debate engage students beyond the textbook.  

My classes examine the production of history, the construction of the past through interpretation and its political implications. Especially in the public history classes, we learn how history is preserved (from archival techniques to the politics of acquiring historic status for sites), and analyze how local and national history is conveyed to the public through museums, national and state parks, film and television, and electronic media.  Field trips explore first hand how museum exhibits work as interpretive texts.  

Research Focus

Dr. Jennifer Helgren’s main body of research focuses on U.S. girlhood and citizenship through the lens of youth organizations. She is the author and editor of three books: The Camp Fire Girls: Gender, Race, and American Girlhood, 1910-1980 (University of Nebraska Press, 2022); American Girls and Global Responsibility: A New Relation to the World during the Early Cold War (Rutgers University Press, 2017); and Girlhood: A Global History, edited with Colleen Vasconcellos, (Rutgers University Press, 2010; Paperback, 2012). 

She is the author of numerous articles on U.S. girlhood including “Finding ‘Hidden Heroines’: Girls’ Organizations, Public History, and the 1976 American Bicentennial,” in The Public Historian (2021); "Native American and White Camp Fire Girls Enact Modern Girlhood, 1910-39" in American Quarterly (2014); and “A ‘Very Innocent Time’: Oral History Narratives, Nostalgia and Girls’ Safety in the 1950s and 1960s,” in the Oral History Review (2015). 

Dr. Helgren is also interested in digital history. She has served as a humanities consultant on numerous digital history projects on California and University history at the University of the Pacific including Tiger Strides: Walk with Me, Summer 2021 Library Fellowship; Little Manila Recreated, Virtual Reality Game and Exhibit, Filipino American National Historical Society, with the Digital Delta Program Summer Fellowship Team, 2018 (demo; html page); and the Digital Delta Project Website, and the course site (2017). She will be participating in a digital humanities certificate program at George Mason University in 2022-2023.