Elinor Accampo

Professor Emerita of History

Research & Practice Areas

Nineteenth and twentieth century French social and cultural history, history of the working class, history of the family, women, gender and feminism; biography; cultural history of disease.


  • Ph.D. , University of California, Berkeley, 1/1984
  • Tenure Track Appointments

    • Professor, Department of History, University of Southern California, 09/01/2006 –
    • Vice Dean, USC College, Graduate Programs, University of Southern California, 07/01/2007 – 06/30/2008
    • Acting Chair, Department of History, University of Southern California, 07/15/2006 – 07/14/2007
    • Associate Professor, Department of History and Gender Studies, University of Southern California, 09/01/1988 – 08/31/2006
    • Acting Chair, Program for the Study of Women and Men in Society, University of Southern California, 06/01/1988 – 09/01/1989
    • Assistant Professor, Department of History, University of Southern California, 09/01/1983 – 08/01/1988
    • Instructor, Denison University, 02/01/1982 – 06/01/1983
    • Visiting Instructor, Department of History, Colorado College, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 09/01/1979 – 08/01/1981
  • Summary Statement of Research Interests

    Professor Accampo is a Modern Europeanist with a specialization in French social and cultural history. She has focused her research on gender and family issues, 19th and 20th century France, and European social and culural history. She has written two books, and co-edited of a third. She has also authored several articles and book chapters. Her first book was a study of the impact of industrialization on working-class family life and the decline in fertility. Her most recent book is a biography of Nelly Roussel (1878-1922), a French feminist and publicist of birth control. Her current research reflects her on-going interest in the relationship between feminism and reproductive rights, and a new interest in government responses to the flu pandemic of 1918.

    Research Keywords

    19th-20th Century Europe, fin-de-siecle, belle epoque, France, social history, cultural history, gender, women, masculinity, feminism, birth control, biography, Nelly Roussel, epidemics, disease, World War I, 1918 flu pandemic

    Detailed Statement of Research Interests

     I am researching cultural, medical, and governmental responses to the flu pandemic of 1918-1919 in France, with the intention of developing a comparative perspective with research on the U.K and the United States. Despite having killed 50 to 100 million people,  this flu stands out for having been “forgotten” in collective memory until the 1990s (when its genome was sequenced). My research focuses on how information about the flu was communicated  among victims, doctors, the military, and officials within and between allied governments. .I am investigating national and cultural differences in reactions to the outbreak, to perceptions about the flu’s epidemiological paths, and to its influence on medicine, public health, and cultural perceptions about disease through the 1920s. While some recent histories of this pandemic take a global approach, none has been comparative. Censorship and the chaos and aftermath of World War I help explain the “amnesia,” but my research will investigate cultural perceptions of and approaches to disease that should offer further explanation active forgetting. My intent is that this research will not only contribute to our understanding of the flu’s long-term impacts, but will yield results relevant to current efforts to prepare more effectively for deadly pandemics

    Most of the major work done on the flu does not investigate thoroughly how war-related cultural attitudes within those countries on whose soil the war was fought influenced its global spread. This project will demonstrate the importance of national variations and international linkages in diagnoses, prognoses, and social practices. Three of many examples include 1)  French military doctors quickly adopted American flu-related medical practices that translated into long-term changes in French public health; a 2) cultural beliefs about gender and race (toward colonized Africans in the military and in Africa) played a role in flu-related medical understandings and practices; and 3) there were significant national variations in press censorship and what precisely was reported in the press.

    One subject that has received little attention from historians is the lethality the flu had for pregnant women and the relative silence surrounding that medical fact. Unlike other diseases that favor certain population groups, the 1918 flu was assumed to attack without prejudice all social classes, races, cultures, and countries (belligerent or not). However, this virus had important variations that were often forgotten or overlooked in the collective amnesia that everywhere developed in its wake.  The so-called “Spanish flu” was not gender blind. In some regions it favored women, and everywhere a disproportionate number of pregnant women fell ill and died. Health officials and the press said almost nothing about this fact, even as the numbers of women who became pregnant rose markedly through 1918, a surprising trend unto itself that no one then or since seemed to notice. The silence surrounding women’s vulnerability in France is all the more perplexing given the increased wartime concern over “depopulation”—a result of the nation’s notoriously low birth rates– and the ardent pronatalist campaign that escalated after 1915 because of massive war-related losses. While at first sight it might seem ironic or anomalous that a culture so focused on replenishing its war-torn population would overlook the flu’s ravages on pregnant women, my research suggests the culture of pronatalism made women’s vulnerability appear as biological fate and another culturally accepted form of female self-sacrifice. While doctors studied pregnant victims, they did not share the information with the public—a silence that contrasts sharply with the highly publicized impact of  H1N1 on pregnant women this past year. My research  seeks to restore some of the overlooked realities of women’s experience and to problematize the relative silence about them through an array of sources that provide new ways of considering the interrelationship between war, conceptions of motherhood and female health, and disease as a form of disaster.

  • Book

    • Forth, Christopher E; Accampo, Elinor A. (Ed.). (2010). Confronting Modernity in Fin-de-Siecle France. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
    • Noble, T. F., Strauss, B., Neuschel, K. B., Accampo, E. A., Roberts, D. D., Cohen, W. B. (2010). Western Civilization: Beyond Boundaries. (Vol. A, B, C) Boston, MA: Wadsworth Cengage.
    • Noble, T. F., Strauss, B., Osheim, D. J., Neuschel, K. B., Accampo, E. A., Roberts, D. D., Cohen, W. B. (2007). Western Civilization: Beyond Boundaries. Boston and New York: Houghton-Mifflin.
    • Accampo, E. A. (2006). Blessed Motherhood, Bitter Fruit: Nelly Roussel and the Politics of Female Pain in Third Republic France. Johns Hopkins University Press.
    • Accampo, E. A., Fuchs, R. G., Stewart, M. L. (1995). Gender and the Politics of Social Reform in Third Republic France. Johns Hopkins University Press.
    • Accampo, E. A. (1989). Industrialization, Family and Class Relations: Saint Chamond, 1815-1914. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

    Book Chapters

    • Accampo, E. A. (2002). Class and Gender in Revolutionary France: 1788-1880. (Vol. Revolutionary France, 1788-1880) pp. 30. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    • Accampo, E. A. (2000). Private Life, Public Image: Motherhood and Militancy in the Self-Construction of Nelly Roussel, 1900- 1922. (Vol. The New Biography: Performing Femininity in Ninete) pp. 43. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press.

    Journal Article

    • Accampo, E. A. (2003). The Gendered Nature of Contraception in France: Neo-Malthusianism, 1900-1920. Journal of Interdisciplinary History/MIT Press. Vol. Volume 34, pp. number 2.
    • Accampo, E. A. (1996). The Rhetoric of Reproduction and the Reconfiguration of Womanhood in the French Birth Control Movement, 1890-1920. The Journal of Family History. Vol. Vol 21 (3), pp. 20.
    • Innovative Undergraduate Teaching Award, Center for Excellence in Teaching, University of Southern California, 2000-2001
    • College Awards for Research Excellence, University of Southern California, 1997-1998
    • Hewlett Foundation Grant, 1995-1996
    • Zumberg Faculty Research and Innovation Award, 1993-1994
    • American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship Recipient, Grant-in-Aid, 1990-1991
    • USC Phi Kappa Phi Faculty Recognition Award, for book, INDUSTRIALIZATION, FAMILY LIFE, AND CLASS RELATIONS, Fall 1990
    • National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship Recipient, Travel-to-collections Grant, Summer 1990, Spring 1990
  • Administrative Appointments

    • Vice Dean of USC College, 07/01/2007 – 06/30/2008
    • Acting Chair, Department of History, 08/16/2006 – 08/15/2007


    • Chair, Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of History, 2011-2012
    • Member, University Committee on Curriculum, 2007-2008
    • Chair, (President) Faculty Council, 2006-2007
    • Vice President, College Faculty Council

      Chair, Faculty Caucus, College Faculty Council

      Member, Academic Senate

      Chair, Task Force to revise Student Course Guide, Academic Senate

      Member, Programs Committee, History Department

      Member, Appointments Committee, History Department

      , 2005-2006

  • Administative Appointment

    • President, Society for French Historical Studies, 04/01/2010 – 04/01/2012

    Conferences Organized

    • President, Society For French Historical Studies, Los Angeles, 04/01/2010 – 03/24/2012

    Editorships and Editorial Boards

    • Editorial Board, French Historical Studies, 1998 – 2001

    Professional Memberships

    • Western Association of Women Historians, 01/04/2005 –
    • Society for French Historical Studies, 09/01/1983 –
    • Western Society for French History, 09/01/1983 –
    • American Historical Association, 09/01/1978 –
    • Executive Council, Western Society for French History, 10/30/2003 – 10/30/2006
    • Society for French Historical Study, Executive Council, 1999 – 2002