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Sharra Vostral

Sharra Vostral

Professor // History

Professor // SIS

Affiliated Faculty // Student Services

Affiliated Faculty // College of Engineering // Engineering Education

Affiliated Faculty // American Studies // SIS

Affiliated Faculty // Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies // SIS

Affiliated Faculty // Critical Disability Studies // SIS

Office and Contact

Room: UNIV 307

Office hours: By appointment


Phone: (765) 494-4132

Fax: (765) 496-1755


HIST 303 Food in Modern America
​HIST 313 Medical Devices & Innovation
​HIST 314 STEM & Gender
​HIST 315 American Beauty
​HIST 651 Historical Readings; Science, Technology & Society

Sharra Vostral received a B.A. from the University of Michigan, a M.A. from St. Louis University, and a Ph.D. from Washington University in St. Louis. Her research and teaching focuses on the relationships between gender, technology and society.


Gender, Science and Technology; Science, Technology & Society; Health & Popular Culture; Material Culture

Vostral's work examines the historical, social, and cultural meanings of technologies, and the influences they have amongst everyday users. This requires historical methods and approaches, but also a deep understanding of technological innovation and scientific practices. ​

Toxic Shock: A Social History (NYU Press, 2018) presents a significant case study regarding consumer safety and product liability by focusing specifically on the emergence of tampon-related toxic shock syndrome (TSS). The book argues that the identification of TSS with tampons was a paradigm shift in the way that illness manifests because the supposedly inert tampon technology interacted with a common bacterium to cause sickness in otherwise healthy women.

Under Wraps: A History of Menstrual Hygiene Technology (Rowman and Littlefield, 2008) examines the cultural environment of the United States in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, shedding light on how attitudes about women’s health, women’s citizenship, and technological innovation provided conditions favorable to the development of new absorptive menstrual technologies.

Feminist Technology (University of Illinois Press, 2010) with Linda L. Layne and Kate Boyer, examines whether or not technologies can embody feminist politics, and what it would mean to keep feminist tenets at the forefront of product development. The essays center upon the gendered aspects of technology, encouraging thoughtful gender-conscientious design practices that consider the many variables of women’s specific wants, needs, and desires.

List of Publications