Lois Banner

Professor Emerita of History

Research & Practice Areas

Professor of History: Women, gender, cultural history, nineteenth and twentieth century United States; masculinity studies, feminist studies, sexuality and queer studies.


A graduate of UCLA, with a Master’s Degree in European History and a Ph.D. from Columbia University in American history, Lois Banner was a founder of the field of women’s history in the 1970s. Along with Mary Hartman, she founded the Berkshire Conference in Women’s History, the biennial conference that has been held ever since and that is considered the major event in the field.
She was the first woman president of the American Studies Association, and in 2006 she won the Bode-Pearson prize of the American Studies Association for Lifetime Achievement in the field. Professor Banner is also a past president of the Pacific Coast Branch, American Historical Association, and of the Coordinating Committee in Women’s History of the American Historical Association.
She has also been a fellow of the Rockefeller Foundation, of the Radcliffe Institute of Harvard College, and of the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia.
Professor Banner is the author of ten books, including her acclaimed American Beauty (1983); In Full Flower: Aging Women, Power and Sexuality (1992), and the prize-winning Intertwined Lives: Margaret Mead, Ruth Benedict, and Their Circle (2003). All three books were published by Alfred A. Knopf in New York City. In addition, she has published a history of American women in the Twentieth Century: Women in Modern America: A Brief History, published by Thompson, and continuously in print since 1974.
That same year she co-authored with Mary Hartman a selection of papers from the first Berkshire Conference. Titled Clio’s Consciousness Raised: New Perspective on the History of Women, it has become a classic in the field of women’s history. Her biography of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, published by Little, Brown, has been continuously in print since 1979.
In 1998 she published an autobiographical study, focusing on her personal journey into the Muslim religion, following the example of her high school best friend, with Columbia University Press. The book is titled Finding Fran: History and Memory in the Lives of Two Women.
She has also published many scholarly articles, in journals such as the American Historical Review, the Journal of American History, the American Quarterly, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, and Cinema Studies, the journal of the Cinema Studies Association.
She has taught at a number of universities, including Princeton, Rutgers, Stanford, Hamilton College, George Washington University, the University of Maryland, and UCLA. She has been a professor of history and gender studies at USC since 1983. For several summers she taught at Josai University near Tokyo.
At USC she has chaired the history department and the gender studies program. She has won the Raubenheimer Award for outstanding achievement in teaching, scholarship, and college activities of the College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences. She has also won a general education award for teaching, the Mellon Foundation award for student mentoring, and the USC Associates Award for outstanding scholarship.
Professor Banner is currently at work on a two-volume study of glamour in the 19th and 20th centuries. She is currently at work on the second volume, a study of the life, image, and career of Marilyn Monroe. Her first book on Monroe, MM–Personal, will be published in Sept., 2010, by Harry Abrams.
Professor Banner has lectured widely in the United States, in Europe, and in Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. Her book reviews have appeared in innumerable journals.


  • Ph.D. , Columbia University, 1/1970
  • B.A. , University of California – Los Angeles
  • M.A. , Columbia College
  • Summary Statement of Research Interests

    Professor Banner has published numerous books on the history of women and gender in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She writes biography and cultural history and is now working in areas of feminist studies, queer theory, and masculinity studies. She is currently working on a two-volume study of the history of glamour in Europe and the United States, which includes a separate volume on the image of Marilyn Monroe in the 1950s.

    Research Keywords

    nineteenth century, twentieth century, gender, sexuality, culture, masculinity studies, queer theory

    Detailed Statement of Research Interests

    Lois Banner has written numerous books on the history of women, gender, culture, and sexuality, including American Beauty (Knopf, 1983); In Full Flower: Aging Women, Power, and Sexuality (Knopf, 1992); and Intertwined Lives: Margaret Mead, Ruth Benedict, and Their Circle (Knopf, 2003). Dr. Banner is especially known for her work on the history of physical appearance and for her biographies, including in-dept studies of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Margaret Mead, and Ruth Benedict.

    At present, she is working on a two volume study of glamour in Europe and the United States in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The first volume focuses on the precursors to the look of svelte elegance and passionate style that came to dominate fashion and beauty in the late 1920s through Greta Garbo. It includes detailed primary work in the history of dress, appearance, artistic representations, and popular theater.
    The second volume begins with a detailed study of Marilyn Monroe and broadens out to the history of her image as embedded in the history of glamour. This volume, as all of Prof. Banner’s work, is grounded in archival and primary research. It has also involved oral history and ethnographic work, as Prof. Banner has become involved in the world of Marilyn fans, personal friends, and collectors.

    Prof. Banner also has expertise in the history of religion. Her doctoral dissertation was on religious benevolence and reform in the antebellum era, and she has written a book on spiritual communes in the 1970s and their connection to Christian religions and Islam, in Finding Fran (Columbia Univ. Press, 1989).

    • Bode-Pearson Lifetime Achievement Award, American Studies Association, 2006-2007
    • Mellon Award for Excellence in Mentoring, 2005-2006
    • General Education Teaching Award, 2002-2003
    • USC Raubenheimer Outstanding Senior Faculty Award, , 1996
    • USC Phi Kappa Phi Faculty Recognition Award, , 1990
    • USC Associates Award For Creativity In Research And Scholarship, , 1989
    • Rockefeller Fellowship Recipient, Humanities Fellow, Rockefeller Foundation, 1978-1979