As a historian, Susan Pedersen has sought to incorporate the insights of gender analysis into the study of European politics. Her first book, Family, Dependence, and the Origins of the Welfare State: Britain and France, 1914–1945 (Cambridge University Press,1993), showed how welfare states were shaped by and came to promote particular family relations and gender roles. Her more recent work has addressed the involvement of British women in colonial policymaking. In this and other work, Pedersen has sought to specify the complex processes through which political and social change happens.
While researching various aspects of British politics between the two world wars, Pedersen often found herself encountering the figure of Eleanor Rathbone, the feminist and social reformer. Rathbone led the movement for family allowances; she also became an important parliamentary defender of women’s interests, a prominent critic of appeasement, and an advocate for refugees from Franco’s Spain and Hitler’s Germany. Pedersen will spend her year at the Institute completing a biography of this visionary feminist thinker and politician.
Pedersen earned her BA in social studies and her PhD in history from Harvard University. Her work has received awards from the Social Science History Association, the North American Conference on British Studies, and the Journal of Modern History. She recently completed a term as dean of undergraduate education at Harvard.