Publication Date

July 18, 2023

Perspectives Section

Member Spotlight, Perspectives Daily


  • Europe


Social, Women, Gender, & Sexuality

Jessica Ann Sheetz-Nguyen is an adjunct professor of history at the University of Maryland Global Campus and professor emerita at the University of Central Oklahoma. She lives in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania, and has been a member since 2011.

Headshot of Jessica Ann Sheetz-Nguyen

essica Ann Sheetz-Nguyen

Alma maters: BA (history and philosophy), Cabrini College, 1973; Teaching Certification, Millersville University, 1989; MA (history), Millersville University, 1990; PhD (history), Marquette University, 1999

Fields of interest: Britain, social, European, women’s, and global histories

Describe your career path. What led you to where you are today?

At an early age, I recognized that time is fleeting; from this, a sense of nostalgia and a passion for history emerged. Unfortunately, I felt deprived in high school history classes. When I went to Cabrini College, however, I had a Mona Lisa Smiles experience that mirrored the 2003 movie by Julia Roberts. The idea that women like Dr. Jane Benjamin and Dr. Kathleen Gavigan could become history professors inspired my professional aspirations.

What do you like the most about where you live and work?

Since retiring from classroom instruction at the University of Central Oklahoma, I have continued to teach online for the University of Maryland Global Campus.

What projects are you currently working on?

I am working on a collection of essays, With Italy as Their Muse: Victorian Women Travelers, 1789-1901, co-edited with a colleague and friend, Dr. Marilyn Button; the Palgrave Macmillan publication date is set for fall 2023. The second is a co-written essay with Marilyn Button on Anglo-American women and preaching, 1880–1920; Brill will publish this chapter in fall 2024. The third project is a three-volume sourcebook on the history of the London Foundling Hospital, based on my first monograph, Victorian Women: Unwed Mothers and the London Foundling Hospital (2013). Routledge will publish these volumes in fall 2025.

Have your interests evolved since graduation? If so, how?

My personal interest in British women’s history has not changed; however, the focus has expanded to a global perspective because I was required to teach world history at Oklahoma City Community College. Although I was woefully underprepared to teach Asian, African, and Latin American histories, I had the good fortune to take part in the postgraduate programs offered by the Asian Studies Development Program at the East-West Center at the University of Hawaii.

What’s the most fascinating thing you’ve ever found at the archives or while doing research?

The most important items I found while researching the Victorian London poor were letters from Charles Dickens to Secretary John Brownlow at the Foundling Hospital. The documents were bundled in a petition for admission of an out-of-wedlock baby. At the time of discovery at the London Metropolitan Archives, the Dickens’s connection to the institution had not been confirmed.

Is there an article, book, movie, blog etc. that you could recommend to fellow AHA members?

If I were asked to choose 10 books and articles that provided the most insight, inspiration, and joy to scholarship, I would select the following: Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, 1971; Lawrence Stone, Family, Sex, and Marriage, 1977; Joan Wallach Scott, “Gender: A Useful Category of Analysis,” American Historical Review, 1986; Leonore Davidoff and Catherine Hall, Family Fortunes, 1987; Eamon Duffy, Stripping of the Altars, 1992; Judith Walkowitz, City of Dreadful Delight, 1992; and Anna Clarke, Struggle for the Breeches, 1995. Involvement in the Asian Studies Development Program prompts suggestions for critical texts that shaped personal perspectives on China. Therefore, I recommend Jonathan Spence, The Search for Modern China, 2013; Gail Hershatter, The Gender of Memory: Rural Women China’s Collective Past, 2011; and Gail Hershatter and Wang Zheng, “Chinese History: A Useful Category of Gender Analysis,” American Historical Review, 2008. Finally, The Cultural Revolution: A People’s History, 1962–1975 by Frank Dikötter, 2016, expands understanding of China’s history in the recent past.

What do you value most about the history discipline?

Although my research and teaching interests focus on other histories, I believe effective teaching of US history is imperative; it is an American civic duty. The content is too important to be left to chance. We must ensure that our youth understand the application of inalienable rights under the law, and the best place to learn this is in our history classrooms.

Why is membership in the AHA important to you?

Membership in the AHA community offers a web of connections to a community of individuals who shaped our understanding of the past and will touch the future through their research, writing, and teaching.

AHA members are involved in all fields of history, with wide-ranging specializations, interests, and areas of employment. To recognize our talented and eclectic membership, Perspectives Daily features a regular AHA Member Spotlight series.

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