Deirdre Cooper Owens

Associate Professor


Areas of Specialty

History of Medicine; Slavery; 19th Century U.S. History; Women’s History


Deirdre Cooper Owens believes she was born to be a historian. Born to Gullah/Geechee parents from South Carolina’s Low Country, she was raised around folks who told oral histories of their family members, historical events, and the enslaved. Her mother is the family’s genealogist and her father worked at the National Archives for over 30 years. It was this background in both SC and Washington, DC that nurtured her love of the past. Today, Prof. Cooper Owens is a popular public speaker, writer, and reproductive justice advocate. She  has published both scholarly and popular pieces on issues that concern African American historical experiences ranging from slavery to contemporary reproductive justice. She is an Organization of American Historians’ (OAH) Distinguished Lecturer, a past American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Fellow and has won several prestigious honors and awards for her scholarly and advocacy work in history and reproductive and birthing justice. She is also proud of the advocacy and consulting work she provides to those institutions dedicated to dismantling the current black birthing crisis. Her first book, Medical Bondage: Race, Gender and the Origins of American Gynecology garnered a Darlene Clark Hine Prize from the Organization of American Historians. It has recently been translated into Korean and is being translated into Brazilian Portuguese. She is currently working on a popular biography of Harriet Tubman that examines the revolutionary through the lens of disability and a monograph about the history of race, medical discovery, and the C-section.

She is jointly-appointed faculty with the Africana Studies Institute.


Harriet Tubman’s Disability and Why it Matters,” Ms. Magazine (2022)

“Black Maternal and Infant Health: Historical Legacies of Slavery” by Deirdre Cooper Owens and Sharla Fett, American Journal of Public Health (2019)

Medical Bondage: Race, Gender, and The Origins of American Gynecology (UGA Press, 2017)

Keynote Speaker, III Oporto Biomedical Summit, Porto, Portugal
Keynote Speaker, Exploring the Contours of Wellness and Health, Sorbonne University
Keynote Speaker, Law, Difference, and Healthcare Conference, Princeton UniversityKeynote Speaker, Stephanie Camp Memorial Lecture, University of WashingtonKeynote Speaker, Crown Forum, Morehouse College
National Institute of Health High Priority, Short-Term Project Award (R56), “Reduce health disparities in Black women,” $4288, November 2022Agnes Dillon Randolph Award, University of Virginia, School of Nursing’s Eleanor Crowder Bjoring Center for Nursing Historical Inquiry, $500, March 2022
Society of Early Americanist Historians, Scholar of the Month, October 2021
Winner of the 2018 Darlene Clark Hine Book Prize for the best book on African American women’s history or gender history, Organization of American HistoriansContributor to Understanding and Teaching American Slavery (University of WI Press, 2016), 2019 James Robinson Prize for the most outstanding contribution to the teaching and learning of history in any field, American Historical Association


Associate professor of history, Deidre Cooper Owens
Contact Information
Phone(860) 680-5355
Fax(860) 486-0641
Mailing Address241 Glenbrook Road, Wood Hall U-4103, Storrs CT 06269
Office LocationWood Hall, Rm 234
CampusCampus: Storrs
Office HoursOn Leave 2023-2024
LinkDeirdre Cooper Owens