April Haynes

My research to date has focused primarily on intersections of gender, race, and sexuality in women’s activism and feminist though in the early United States. My first book, Riotous Flesh: Women, Physiology, and the Solitary Vice in Nineteenth-century America (University of Chicago Press, 2015), tells a new story about how proscriptions against the “solitary vice” of masturbation became a dominant sexual discourse in the northern United States between 1830 and 1860. Prior historians have analyzed anti-masturbation discourse as a means of instilling white men with the restraint required of republican citizens and middle-class economic actors. I argue instead that white female moral reformers and black abolitionist women led the campaign against the solitary vice as part of their larger quests to dismantle the sexual double standard and racialized ideals of femininity. Their campaign reconfigured notions of bodily sovereignty and sexual citizenship. It ultimately normalized heterosexual pleasure for married women and made sexual conformity a key aspect of hegemonic feminism. Riotous Flesh received Society for Historians of the Early American Republic.

My current research project, Tender Traffic: Intimate Labors in the Early American Republic, examines markets for domestic labor during the period of gradual slave emancipation in northern states. Although people of all genders performed housework and sex work, these services were strongly associated with femininity. Women controlled this gendered sector, claiming to rescue poor, enslaved, and immigrant workers from sexual trafficking. The language of rescue enabled women of the employer class to procure and “place” domestic servants in areas where demand for their work was strongest. Tender Traffic shows that the exchange of gendered labor was central to capitalist expansion as the United States turned from settler republic to antebellum empire.

  • Ph.D. History, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Doctoral Emphasis, Feminist Studies
  • M.A. History, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • B.A. History and Women’s Studies, San Francisco State University


Riotous Flesh: Women, Physiology, and the Solitary Vice in Nineteenth-Century America (University of Chicago Press 2015).  View Book Page

Selected Publications

  • “Female Intelligence Offices and Women’s Emigration Societies, 1830-1860,” article manuscript in progress.

  • “Sex-Ins, College-Style: Black Feminism and Sexual Politics in the Student YWCA, 1968-1980,” in Women’s Activism and ‘Second-Wave’ Feminism: Transnational Histories, ed. Barbara Molony and Jennifer Nelson (London: Bloomsbury, forthcoming).
  • “The Trials of Frederick Hollick: Obscenity, Sex Education, and Medical Democracy in the Antebellum United States,” Journal of the History of Sexuality, Volume 12: Number 4 (October 2003), pp. 543-574.

Selected Awards

  • James F. Broussard best first book prize, Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, 2016.  View Interview

History Courses Taught

April Haynes

Assistant Professor



4119 Mosse Humanities

4018 Mosse Humanities

Office Hours: