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Yvonne M. Pitts

Yvonne M. Pitts

Associate Professor // History

Associate Professor // Cornerstone

Affiliated Faculty // American Studies // SIS

Affiliated Faculty // Critical Disability Studies // SIS

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

Research focus:
American Legal and Constitutional History, Citizenship, Sexual Regulation

Curriculum vitae

Office and Contact

Room: BRNG 6127

Office hours:

  • Tuesdays, 9:30-10:30 AM
  • or: By Appointment on Zoom


Phone: (765) 496-2758

Fax: (765) 496-1755


HIST 382 - U.S. Constitutional History to 1896
HIST 383 – U.S. Constitutional History from 1896 to Present
HIST 488 – History of Sexual Regulation (xlisted with WGSS)
HIST 480 – History of Madness and the Asylum
SCLA 102 – Transformative Texts – Cornerstone Program
SCLA 200 – Cornerstones in Constitutional Law – Cornerstone Program
HIST 651 – Readings in U.S. History (graduate course)

Ph.D. University of Iowa, 2006


U.S. History, U.S. Legal and Constitutional History, History of Sexuality

Professor Pitts studies American legal culture, legal and constitutional history, the history of sexuality, the history of criminality, and queer (LGBTQ) history.

Her book is Family, Law, and Inheritance in America: A Social and Legal History of Nineteenth Century Kentucky (2013, Cambridge University Press). It won the Cromwell Foundation Book Prize, awarded by the American Society for Legal History.

It explores the tensions and contradictions in the standard of sanity required to write a valid will. Focusing on nineteenth century Kentucky as a legal and geographical border state, it examines questions of moral obligation, free will, and how ordinary people understood their most intimate relationships. Traversing the histories of property, disability, insanity, and women, it analyzes how ordinary people and legal elites understood family and used law to make claims on each other.

Her current project explores how legal actors understood and regulated vice and sex work in the nineteenth century. She is examining the Civil War era system of licensing and regulating prostitution imposed by the U.S. military in occupied Nashville, TN from 1863 to 1865. This system generated spaces in which sex workers and military authorities renegotiated ideas about sexual danger, contagion, and the proper targets of surveillance and legal discipline. As sex work became quasi-legal, disorderly soldiers rather than licensed prostitutes became the subjects of regulation. Local civilian police, Army surgeons, and provost marshals (the Army’s law enforcement arm) clashed with each other as they challenged the meanings of sex work and criminality.

Dr. Pitts co-teaches a study abroad program, Sex, History, and the Cities which explores LGBTQ history and culture from the eighteenth to the twenty-first centuries in three cities: New York City, Berlin, Germany, and Paris, France. It examines the changing meanings of sexual desire, acts, and identities, uncovering how people formed communities around shared sexual and gender identities often in the face of devastating, often violent, social, legal, and economic oppressions.

Check out the 2017 Sex, History, and the Cities student blog:

Dr. Pitts is currently accepting graduate students in the fields of American legal/constitutional history, 19th & 20th century vice/criminal regulation, and history of sexuality.

Family Law and Inheritance in America by Yvonne Pitts, Cambridge University Press







Family, Law, and Inheritance in America: A Social and Legal History of Nineteenth Century Kentucky, by Yvonne Pitts, Cambridge University Press, 2013