Susan Benson (1943–2005)

Author of Presenting The Past : Essays on History and the Public

Includes the names: Susan Porter Benson

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Susan Porter was born in Washington, Pennsylvania, the daughter of storekeepers. She graduated from Simmons College in 1964, and earned a master's degree in American civilization from Brown University in 1968. She began teaching at Bristol Community College that same year. She took a leave of absence for several years to do labor education for the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Worker's Union, funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). It was the first of three times Prof. Porter Benson was funded by NEH; the second was in 1992 for a book on the ways families make economic decisions, and the third was in 2002 for a book on the way workers saw their work lives. She earned a PhD in History from Boston University in 1983. Her book Counter Cultures: Saleswomen, Managers, and Customers in American Department Stores (1986) pioneered the historical analysis of service industry labor, and is considered of major importance to the history of labor and women in the USA. Prof. Porter Benson also taught at the University of Warwick, UK, the University of Missouri-Columbia, and Yale University, before joining the University of Connecticut in 1993 as director of the Women’s Studies Program. In 1998, she returned to full-time teaching and research in the history department at UConn. The author of many scholarly articles and co-editor of a special issue of Radical History Review, Prof. Porter Benson generated much interest in the study of public history. Her last book on consumer culture was Household Accounts: Working-Class Family Economies in the Interwar USA (2007), published after her death. She was survived by her husband Edward Benson.
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