Aimee Loiselle

Aimee Loiselle, Doctoral Student, History, University of Connecticut


Wood Hall, Room 206


Regional Field: United States
Topical Field: Women, Gender, Race and Sexuality in Modern U.S.
Concentrated Field: The “Global South”

Advisor: Micki McElya

B.A. Dartmouth College, 1992
M.A. University of Vermont, 1998
Thesis: “Corpse, Lover, Mother: Feminism and American Commercial Films of the 1970s-1980s”

Dissertation Title: “The Norma Rae Phenomenon: Crystal Lee Sutton, Puerto Rican Needleworkers, and a Neoliberal Icon”

Current Research Interests:

My major field of study is twentieth-century U.S. history with a particular focus on working-class women, gender, and race since World War II. I plan to study images of working-class women and the ways in which media use them to articulate cultural narratives about work, labor, and women in the late-twentieth and early twenty-first century. These narratives intersect with national economic policies and global transformations in corporate capital.

My dissertation, “The Norma Rae Phenomenon: Crystal Lee Sutton, Puerto Rican Needleworkers, and a Neoliberal Icon,” analyzes the process of generating the pop Norma Rae icon, which was accessible for various uses. The process exposes the way commercial symbols of “rebelliousness” often rest on the intensive labor or activism of many people while denying the realities of that collective work. Tightly intertwined with a history of the movie, Crystal Lee Sutton’s experiences track the economic and cultural politics for many women working in wage jobs during the 1970-1990s. When the movie Norma Rae (1979) appropriated her personal story, it condensed decades of opposition by mill workers and union activists into a fictionalized individual. A 1984 public history project about Puerto Rican women in the garment industry provides another comparative layer, connected to women on the intensifying global assembly lines. Ultimately, the cultural narrative embedded in the Norma Rae icon can either celebrate individual rebelliousness or reinforce the neoliberal ideal that an individual rational actor serves as the primary mode of political and economic action. As an alternative narrative, Crystal Lee continued to call for organizing as a means to improve the conditions of the working poor. She used the title “the real Norma Rae” to highlight the people and collective efforts beyond the movie.

I am grateful to visiting scholars Linda Kerber, Jennifer Guglielmo, and Linda Gordon for sharing their ideas with me. My teaching experience includes a variety of student backgrounds and settings, such as public high schools, youth programs, and community college. I have also explored literary publication with a commitment to short fiction. For more information, please see my website,

Recent Publications:

“The Norma Rae Icon: Protest as a Spectacle of the Inspirational Individual,” In Media Res: A Media Commons Project,, May 8, 2017.

“A Laboratory for Neoliberalism: Puerto Rican Needleworkers,” El Sol Latino,, May 2017.


June 2017, “Working the Exemptions: Puerto Rican Needleworkers, Pliable Citizenship, and a Scaffolding for Neoliberalism,” Labor and Working-Class History Association Conference, Scales of Struggle, Seattle, WA.

April 2017, “A Laboratory for Neoliberalism: Puerto Rican Needleworkers, Flexible Labor Markets, and Rationales for Exemptions and Incentives,” Puerto Rico: Savage Neoliberalism, Colonialism and Financial Despotism, Center for Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies Conference at UMass Amherst.

March 2017, “Sovereignty, Citizenship, and Labor: Puerto Rican Needleworkers and a Deep History of Neoliberalism,” American Political History Institute Conference, Boston University. Winner, APHI Most Outstanding Paper Award

March 2017, “Experiments in Citizenship, Migration, and Labor Recruitment: Puerto Rican Needleworkers and a Deep History of Neoliberalism,” Mobility & Marginalization, GHA Conference, UMass Amherst.  Winner, Outstanding Paper Prize.

April 2014, “The Norma Rae Phenomenon: Southern Textile Workers as Raw Material for a Pop Culture Icon,” New England Historical Association, Springfield, MA.

November 2013, “The Norma Rae Phenomenon: Textile Workers, Crystal Lee Sutton, Twentieth Century Fox and a Pop Culture Icon,” Film & History, Madison, WI.

March 2001, “Worker or Woman: American Women and New Deal Labor Policy,” Annual Women’s History Conference, Lehman College, Bronx, NY.

Fellowships and Prizes:

Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship: The Graduate School, University of Connecticut, 2016

100 Years of Women Scholarship Award: Women’s Center, University of Connecticut, 2015-2016

Outstanding Scholars Program Fellowship: History Department, University of Connecticut, 2012-2015

Albert E. and Wilda E. Van Dusen Award: History Department, University of Connecticut, 2015

Predoctoral Award: El Instituto – Institute of Latina/o, Caribbean, and Latin American Studies, University of Connecticut, 2015

Bruce M. and Sondra Astor Stave Prize in Recent American History: History Department, University of Connecticut, 2014

Research Fellowship: History Department, University of Connecticut, 2013 and 2014

Fusco Travel Award: History Department, University of Connecticut, 2013

Phi Beta Kappa: Alpha of Vermont, University of Vermont, 1998

Thompson-Bickford Fellowship: History Department, University of Vermont, 1996-1998