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Jessica Pliley

Jessica PlileyOffice:  TMH 223
Phone:  512.245.6756

Curriculum Vitae

Jessica R. Pliley is an assistant professor of women’s history at Texas State University and holds a PhD from the Ohio State University. Harvard University Press published her book, Policing Sexuality: The Mann Act and the Making of the FBI, in 2014. It joins a body of work that asserts that sex trafficking has long been an issue for activists of various traditions. Yet it encourages us to consider not only how reformers have organized to eradicate sex trafficking, but also how the policies they championed were ultimately implemented. For more information, visit her website at

She has served as the inaugural Human Trafficking and Modern-Day Slavery Fellow at the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University. Additionally, she has authored an article exploring the feminist politics within the League of Nations Committee on the Trafficking of Women and Children in the Journal of Women’s History and has another article that examines how concerns about white slavery served to bolster some women’s rights advocates’ claims that women be included in the federal immigration service at the turn of the century published in the Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. Her most recent article looks at the FBI’s investigations into elite, brothel-based prostitution in New York City in the 1930s and was published by the Journal of the History of Sexuality.

Lastly, Jessica Pliley is a co-editor with Robert Kramm and Harald Fischer-Tiné of a forthcoming anthology from Cambridge University Press entitled Global Anti-Vice Activism: Fighting Drink, Drugs, and ‘Immorality’. The book brings together scholars working on the history of anti-vice activism and initiatives throughout the world. The essays explore anti-vice activism from the late nineteenth century into the twentieth century. It focuses on attempts to regulate the body, noxious substances like alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes, but also ‘immoral’ sexualities such as prostitution.

Previous Publications

“Vice Queens & White Slavery: The FBI’s Crackdown on Elite Brothel Madams in 1930s New York City,” Journal of the History of Sexuality 25, no. 1 (Jan 2016): 137-67.

“The Petticoat Inspectors: Women Boarding Inspectors and the Gendered Exercise of Federal Authority,” Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era 12, no. 1 (Jan 2013): 95-126.

“Claims to Protection: The Rise and Fall of Feminist Abolitionism in the League of Nations’ Committee on the Traffic in Women and Children, 1919-1936,” Journal of Women’s History 22, no. 4 (winter 2010): 90-113.

“Voting for the Devil: Unequal Partnerships in the Ohio Woman Suffrage Campaign of 1914,” Ohio History 115 (Spring 2008): 4-27.

Courses Taught

HIST 1310  History of the United States, 1877 to the Present
History 1310 examines American history from conquest (1492) to 1877. The goal of this course is to prepare students to engage intelligently with important aspects of several historical debates What makes America American? Why are different American regions distinctive? What factors have shaped American race relations? How radical was the American Revolution? What role did religion play in shaping the nation? What caused the Civil War? To help students develop their own answers to questions such as these, this course aims to give them basic factual knowledge of American history before 1877, to teach them to think critically about historical sources, and to help them analyze and construct historical arguments.

HIST 1320  History of the United States to 1877
History 1320 surveys the course of American history from the end of Reconstruction to the present. It is, then, the story of our times, of the forces, events, ideas, and individuals who have shaped the way the way we live. The course will focus on three interlocking themes: 1.) In the years since the Civil War, Americans have been shaped by and have attempted to shape the tremendous power of corporate capitalism. 2.) At the same time, they have grapples with the question of whether the promise of equality applies to all Americans or only a portion of society. 3.) Americans have also struggles to define the United States’ response to other nations, often with profound consequences for both domestic condition and the worlds’ response to the United States and its citizens. This class seeks to help students make connections between America’s economic development, its position within global politics, and the ongoing struggle to define the obligations and expectations of citizenship.

HIST 3373  US Women's History
History 3373 examines the expectations and experiences of women in the United States from the colonial era to the present. It explores the gendered nature of citizenship with in the United States, while also paying close attention to women's productive and reproductive labor. At its heart, the course challenges students to consider how class, race, and ethnicity have shaped women's experiences and brought women together and torn them apart.

Hist 4350U Slaveries: Past and Present
Hist 4350U explores the significance of slavery in world history from the colonial period to today, from the emergence of racial trans-Atlantic chattel slavery in the 17th century to human trafficking now. We will read the works of historians, journalists, and activists.

Hist 5315A American Sexualities
History 5345 addresses the history of sexualities in the United States from the colonial era to present to shed light on the ways that sexuality has shaped social life, establish conventions, and created spaces to defy norms.

Hist 5316B Women and Empire
From 1492 until World War II the globe was dominated by imperialism. Hist 5316A course considers the ways that women, in the metropoles of Europe and throughout colonial settings, found their lives shaped by empire.

Hist 5345 Gender and Citizenship
History 5345 is designed to introduce graduate students to the literature in United States Women’s history that addresses the relationship of women to the state from the colonial period to the present. This course considers five historiographical approaches to understanding women’s citizenship that also correspond to five chronological time periods; in other words, the course is structured both thematically and chronologically.

Hist 5351F Women in Modern America
History 5351F offers graduate students an introduction in the topics, themes, and issues that animate the history of women in modern America (defined as 1861 to present). During this semester we will examine the historiography of Women History, as well as analyzing how women’s status as women has defined their opportunities in the United States, while also looking at how women’s experiences diverge from one another.

Honors College - From White Slavery to Sex Trafficking
This course seeks to historicize the globalized migration of sex workers and the modern-day anti-sex trafficking movement by tracing the origins of the anti-white slavery movement in the late nineteenth to the debates about sex work and sex trafficking of the twenty-first centuries. While this course is focused on the United States, it seeks to place the U.S. in a transnational and comparative context while also considering various interdisciplinary approaches.