Amy L. Sopcak-Joseph

Amy Sopcak-Joseph, PhD candidate, University of ConnecticutContact:
Office: On Fellowship Leave, 2018-2019

Current Research Interests:

I am a doctoral candidate in early American history with interests in gender and print culture.

My dissertation, “Fashioning American Women: Godey’s Lady’s Book, Female Consumers, and Periodical Publishing in the Nineteenth Century,” explores the production, dissemination, content, and reception of an exceptionally popular antebellum American periodical. Godey’s Lady’s Book evolved from a regional publication that primarily served a mid-Atlantic audience to a national magazine that achieved an astounding circulation of 150,000 copies per month just prior to the Civil War. Sarah Josepha Hale, the Lady’s Book’s well-known editor, has long been looked to as a chief arbiter of domesticity. However, her editorship itself cannot explain how the Lady’s Book’s circulation quadrupled from 1849 to 1860. I am particularly interested in recovering advertisements from the magazine’s paper wrappers. These were customarily thrown away when an owner had her issues bound together, a common nineteenth-century practice.

I argue that the Lady’s Book was central to the emergence of modern advertising and gendered consumerism. This project brings together the histories of gender, the early American economy, and periodical publishing to trace how publisher Louis Godey deviated from his colleagues and increasingly looked at women as eager participants in the market economy. I put the literary and visual content in conversation with Godey’s innovative implementation of advertising and a retail-by-mail operation, important parts of the magazine’s cultural appeal and business model that have gone unexamined by scholars. Godey’s and Hale’s innovations had a lasting influence on both periodical publishing and conceptions of gendered consumerism, creating a model that later mass-circulation women’s magazines emulated. While some scholars have argued that these developments only emerged in the late nineteenth century, I place them squarely in the antebellum period, shaped by the historical contingencies of this era.

Advisor: Cornelia H. Dayton


At the University of Connecticut, I earned a Graduate Certificate in College Instruction in 2016 and a Master’s degree in history in 2010. I graduated from Dickinson College with a Bachelor’s degree in English and history in 2004.

Prior to pursuing a PhD, I worked at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, MA, from 2006 to 2011.  As the Education Coordinator, I coordinated three $1 million Teaching American History grants in partnership with the Worcester Public Schools, developed resources and workshops for K-12 teachers, and ran one-day programs for TAH grants from around the country. I have also presented pedagogical sessions at both the National Council for History Education (NCHE) and the Northeast Regional Council for the Social Studies (NERC) annual conferences in 2010 and 2011.

Selected Fellowships and Awards:

Draper Dissertation Fellowship, University of Connecticut Humanities Institute, 2018-2019

Program in Early American Economy and Society (PEAES) at the Library Company of Philadelphia Dissertation Fellowship, 2016-2017

Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library Short-Term Fellowship, 2016-2017

New England Regional Fellowship Consortium Research Grant, 2015-2016

American Antiquarian Society, Jay and Deborah Last Fellowship, 2015-2016

Virginia Historical Society, Reese Award in American Bibliography and the History of the Book in the Americas, 2015

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

Library Company of Philadelphia, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowship, 2014-2015

Rare Book School, Directors’ Scholarship, 2012

Selected Presentations:

“The Fruits of Women’s Industry and Ingenuity: Politics, Gender, and the Bunker Hill Monument.” Society for Historians of the Early American Republic Annual Meeting. July 2018.

“Creating a Magazine worth Buying: Ownership and Attribution of Images and Texts in Godey’s Lady’s Book, 1830s-1850s.” Images, Copyright, and the Public Domain in the Long Nineteenth Century Conference, Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library. March 2018.

“Agents, Fraudsters, Subscribers, and Borrowers: Buying and Selling Godey’s Lady’s Book, 1830s-1870s.” American Historical Association Annual Meeting, co-sponsored by the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing and the Business History Conference. January 2018.

“Agents, Subscribers, and Borrowers: Buying and Selling Godey’s Lady’s Book, 1830s-1870s.” Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing Annual Meeting. June 2017.

“Home Shopping: Creating Consumer Desire and Access in Godey’s and Peterson’s.” American Studies Association Annual Meeting. November 2016.

“Turning Readers into Consumers: Advertising in Godey’s Lady’s Book.” Society for Historians of the Early American Republic Annual Meeting. July 2016.

“Fashioning American Women: Godey’s Lady’s Book in the Nineteenth Century.” Invited public lecture for Women’s History Month, Library Company of Philadelphia. March 2016.


Co-Liaison from the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading & Publishing to the American Historical Association, January 2015-present