Margot Canaday

Dodge Professor of History
Office Phone
229 Dickinson Hall
Office Hours

On Leave 2024–2025


Margot Canaday is an award-winning historian who studies gender and sexuality in modern America. She holds a B.A. from the University of Iowa and a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. Her first book, The Straight State: Sexuality and Citizenship in Twentieth Century America (Princeton, 2009), offers a history of how the federal government first encountered homosexuality, decided this was a social problem, and developed policies to regulate it.  Her second book, Queer Career: Sexuality and Work in Modern America (Princeton, 2023), explores the ways that the workplace has mattered for queer people over time, both as a site of vulnerability and exploitation but sometimes also of deep meaning.

The relationship between Canaday's two books is that of a diptych or even a series. From a temporal standpoint, The Straight State mostly covers the first half of the twentieth century, and Queer Career addresses the second.  The two works complement each other as well, in that the first book is about the state discovering queer people and writing anti-homosexualism into the law, while the second book is about capital taking advantage of that aggressive state policing.  It is about the systematic exploitation of state-created legal vulnerabilities, in other words.  And, to the extent the market is shot through by the state, Queer Career is actually still a history of the straight state, but in a period of state formation that is more characterized by the hallmarks of neoliberalism.

With historians Nancy Cott and Robert Self, Canaday is also the co-editor of Intimate States: Gender, Sexuality, and Governance in Modern U.S. History (Chicago, 2021). Canaday has won fellowships from the Social Science Research Council, the Princeton University Society of Fellows, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Council of Learned Societies. She was elected to the Society of American Historians in 2016. With Thomas Sugrue, Stephen Pitti, Matt Lassiter, and Keisha Blain, she is co-editor of the series Politics and Culture in Modern America at the University of Pennsylvania Press.

Teaching Interests

Professor Canaday’s teaching interests include gender and women’s history, the history of sexuality, the history of work/labor, as well as American political and legal history. While at Princeton, she has taught seminars on the history of the American state, on work and inequality, on the history of women, gender, and sexuality, and on the twentieth-century United States. She regularly offers an undergraduate lecture course on gender and sexuality in modern America.

Selected Articles

"Intimate Matters at 25: Reflections on the History of Sexuality," Frontiers 35, No 1. (2014).

“Thinking Sex in the Transnational Turn: An Introduction,” American Historical Review 114 (December 2009).

“Heterosexuality as a Legal Regime,” in Michael Grossberg and Christopher Tomlins, eds., The Cambridge History of Law in America (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008).

“Building a Straight State: Sexuality and Social Citizenship under the 1944 G.I. Bill,” The Journal of American History 90 (December 2003).

Area of Interest
Gender & Sexuality
Labor History
Legal History
Political History
Home Department & Other Affiliations
20th Century
North America
United States