Gillian Frank (gfrank1)

Gillian Frank


School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences


  • PhD (2009) Brown University (American Studies)



2023 - Op-Ed Columnist on Religion, Gender, and Sexuality, The Revealer.
The Revealer is an award-winning online magazine that explores religion and its many roles in society and people’s lives. Published ten times a year, The Revealer focuses on how religion shapes, and is shaped by, race, sexuality, gender, politics, history, and culture.

2017-Present Co-Host and Co-Creator, Sexing History
Founded in 2017, Sexing History is a grant-funded podcast that explores how the history of sexuality shapes our present by drawing from oral histories, archival sources and path-setting research. With a global listenership and over forty-thousand subscribers, Sexing History has helped audiences inside and outside of the academy think critically and creatively about the history of sexuality. This podcast is now in its fourth season.

2020 Host and Creator, Fern Hill
Founded in 2020, Fern Hill is a podcast that documents the experiences of young people navigating the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

2014-2017 Managing Editor, Notches: (re)marks on the history of sexuality.
Founded in 2014, Notches is a peer reviewed and international blog that encourages widespread engagement with the history of sexuality within and outside of the academy. Contributors include academics, activists, writers and public historians.


Book in Process:

A Sacred Choice: Liberal Religion and the Struggle for Reproductive Rights Before Roe v Wade. Forthcoming 2024: University of North Carolina Press.

A Sacred Choice reveals a transnational history of religious activists and their long struggle for women’s reproductive freedom. It traces the evolution of a liberal religious theology of choice from the contraceptive battles of the 1930s to the abortion rights struggles of the postwar period. The centerpiece of the book is the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion—one of the largest abortion referral services in the United States before Roe v. Wade. Made up of over 2000 liberal Protestant ministers, Jewish rabbis, dissident Catholic nuns and priests, and laity from a spectrum of denominations, the CCS created an international referral network that shepherded hundreds of thousands of women to reliable abortion providers within the United States and abroad. By 1970, with the reform or repeal of abortion laws in several states, CCS members established their own abortion clinics and pushed the organization into new forms of global medical activism that would continue well beyond the Roe v Wade decision.

General Information

Gillian Frank is a historian of reproductive politics in the United States. His scholarly specializations include histories of religion, medicine, gender, race, and sexuality in the United States.

Professional Service

  • LGBTQ Religious Archives Network Advisory Board
  • Totman Fellowship Program, Washington DC History Center Mentor

Selected Publications


Devotions and Desires: Histories of Religion and Sexuality in the 20th Century United States (co-edited with Bethany Moreton and Heather White). Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. February 2018.

Journal Articles, Book Chapters and Legal Scholarship:

2024 “A Religious Right to Reproductive Freedom: The Forgotten Legal Battles Over Religious Freedom before Roe v Wade,” Journal of American Constitutional History (forthcoming 2024)

2023 Individual Members of the Indiana Medical Licensing Board et al v. Anonymous Plaintiff, et al. #22A-PL-02938 (Indiana Court of Appeals, 2023). Lead-author and co-signer of Amicus Curiae Brief of Historians of Religion, Reproduction, and the Law in support of petitioner.

2023 “Doing it With Sound: Podcasting the History of Sexuality,” American Historical Review (June 2023)

2021 “Introduction: Sexuality in American Jewish History” (with Rachel Kranson and Jonathan Krasner), American Jewish History, 105 no. 1 (Spring 2021).

2016 “Think About that Special Man on His Way Home to You: Conservative Women and the Politics of Marriage in the 1970s,” Porno Chic and the Sex Wars: The Destabilization of American Culture and Politics in the 1970s. eds. Carolyn Bronstein and Whitney Strub. Boston: University of Massachusetts Press, 2016.

2014 “The Color of the Unborn: Anti-Abortion and Anti-Busing Politics in Michigan, 1967-1973.” Gender and History, 26, no. 2 (August 2014): 351-378.

2013 “‘The Civil Rights of Parents’: Race and Conservative Politics in Anita Bryant’s Campaign Against Gay Rights in 1970s Florida,” The Journal of the History of Sexuality, 22, no. 1 (January 2013): 126-160.

2012 “A Kiss is Never Just a Kiss: Introducing Students to the History of Sexuality in the United States,” Syllabus Journal. 1 no. 2 (October 2012).

2011 “‘Ideals of stability, order and fidelity’: The Love Dare Phenomenon, Convergence Culture and the Marriage Movement,” Journal of Religion and Popular Culture, 23, no. 3 (Summer 2011): 118-138.

2007 “Discophobia: Anti-Gay Prejudice and the 1979 Backlash Against Disco,” Journal of the History of Sexuality. 16, no. 2 (May 2007): 276-306.
Reprinted in: Queers in American Popular Culture (Santa Barbara: Praeger, 2010).
Currently being adapted for American Experience on PBS.

Public Scholarship:

Oct 2023 “The Cross and the Clinic: The Faith of Eleanor Yeo,” The Revealer

July 2023 “Moms Can Do Anything… Even Shape an Election,” The Meteor

June 2023 “Blaming Young People for the Fall of Roe is Like Holding Firefighters Accountable for Arson,” Religion Dispatches

Oct 2022 “For We Were Strangers: Trans Refugees and Moral Panics,” The Revealer

Aug 2022 “The Religious Network That Made Abortion Safe When It Was Illegal,” The Gender Policy Report

Aug 2022 “The American Clergy Who Helped Women Get Abortions Before Roe v Wade,” BBC History Magazine

June 2022 “People Helping Women Get Abortions Pre-Roe Were Heroes. It Wasn’t Enough,” Slate

May 2022 “What Everyone Gets Wrong About Evangelicals and Abortion,” with Neil J. Young, Washington Post

May 2022 “Won’t Someone Think About the Babies?” an interview with Lyz Lenz

April 2022 “A Theology of Choice,” Brown Alumni Magazine

March 2022 “The GOP’s Latest Tactic for Targeting Trans Kids,” with Lauren Gutterman, The Meteor

Dec. 2021 “The Abortionist,” Perspectives on History

Oct. 2021 “Peering into Windows and Wombs: Reflections on SB8,” Nursing Clio

June 2021 “This Critical Race Theory Panic Is a Chip Off the Old Block,” with Adam Laats, Slate

Oct. 2020 “Pricks in Public: A Microhistory,” Jezebel

Oct. 2020 “How the ‘Girl Watching’ Fad of the 1960s Taught Men How to Harass Women,” Jezebel

Jan. 2019 “The Deep Ties Between the Catholic Antiabortion Movement and Racial Segregation,” Jezebel

Dec. 2018 “Bill C-76 Re-enfranchises Expat Canadians. The SCC Should Follow Suit,” iPolitics

Nov. 2018 “How Flight Attendants Organized Against Their Bosses,” Jezebel

Sept. 2018 “Life Before Roe: The Story of a Back Alley Abortionist,” Jezebel

Nov. 2017 “Spring Type Bust Developer” with Lauren Gutterman, Patent History

Oct. 2017 “Why the Courts had to force the Trump administration let a 17 year old have an abortion” with Lauren Gutterman, Washington Post

May 2017 “The Surprising Role of Clergy in the Abortion Fight Before Roe v Wade,” Time Magazine

April 2017 “The History of Sexuality has a Jewish Problem,” Notches, Reprinted in Public Seminar

March 2017 “Remembering the Game Show Creator who Created the Gender Wars,” Jezebel

March 2017 “The Miseries and Heartbreak of Backstreet Abortion” with Ronit Stahl, Nursing Clio. Reprinted with a revised introduction in the Nursing Clio Reader (forthcoming Rutgers University Press, 2024)

Jan. 2017 “Faith Reproductive Politics and Resistance,” Nursing Clio

Aug. 2016 “Phyllis Schlafly’s Legacy of Anti-Gay Activism, ” Slate Magazine

Oct. 2016 “Words of Warning for Historians of Sexuality: Indemnity Clauses and Publishing Contracts,” Notches

June 2016 “When Rabbis Broke the Law to Help Women in Crisis,” The Forward

June 2016 “One Abortion Battle Won – Supreme Court Ruling Invites More Battles,” The Forward

Feb. 2016 “Gay Rights and Religion: A NOTCHES Special Issue,” Notches

Jan. 2016 “Martin Luther King Jr. and the History of Sexuality,” Notches

Jan. 2016 “David Bowie and the History of Sexuality,” Notches

Jan. 2016 “After Roe: Students Engage the Lost History of the Abortion Debate,” Notches

Dec. 2015 “The Death of Jacqueline Smith,” Slate

Nov. 2015 “The Anti-Trans Bathroom Nightmare Has Its Roots in Racial Segregation,” Slate
Reprinted in Bedford/St. Martin’s Custom Select Database.

Oct. 2015 “AIDS, Sexuality and American Religion: An Interview With Anthony Petro,” with Lynne Gerber, Notches

July 2015 “The Obergefell Syllabus: Historicizing Same-Sex Marriage in the United States,” Notches

April 2015 “Doing it with Food: Cooking and the History of Sexuality,” Notches

Feb. 2015 “Straight After Death: Remembering the Queer Life and Times of Rod McKuen,” Notches Reprinted on The Huffington Post

Jan. 2015 “Radical Relations: An Interview with Daniel Rivers,” Notches

Nov. 2014 “Believe it: Finding Religion in the History of Sexuality” with Rebecca Davis, Bethany Moreton and Heather White, Notches

Sept. 2014 “Introducing Students to the History of Sexuality,” Notches

Aug. 2014 “The Yellow Star and the Pink Triangle: Jews and Gay Rights in the 1970s,” Notches

July 2014 “Rethinking Bussing in the 1970s: The Sexual Politics of School Integration in the United States,” Notches

June 2014 “Stranger Danger and the Sexual Revolution,” Notches


Stevens Institute of Technology:
Foundations of Writing and Critical Inquiry (undergraduate seminar)
Knowledge, Nature, Culture (undergraduate seminar)

Courses taught at previous institutions:

Theories and Methods of American Studies (undergraduate seminar)
Reproductive Politics in US History (undergraduate seminar)
Sexual Politics (undergraduate lecture / undergraduate seminar)

Reproductive Politics in the US and Abroad Since 1945 (undergraduate seminar)
Introduction to American Studies (undergraduate lecture)
Religion and Conservatism Since 1945 (undergraduate seminar)
United States History 1920-1974 (preceptor, undergraduate lecture)

History of Sexuality in the United States, 1865-1990 (undergraduate seminar and lecture)
Gay and Lesbian History in the United States, 1850-1980 (undergraduate seminar and lecture)
Race, Sexuality and the Nation State (graduate seminar)
Youth, Culture and Politics in the 20th Century United States (undergraduate seminar)
Civil Rights Movements in the United States (undergraduate seminar)
United States History Since 1865 (graduate seminar)

Comparative Civil Rights Since 1945 (undergraduate seminar and lecture)
Senior Research Seminar in the History of Race and Ethnicity (undergraduate seminar)
Senior Research Seminar in the History of Childhood and Youth (undergraduate seminar)
American History Since 1945 (undergraduate seminar)

Introduction to Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies (undergraduate seminar)
Sexual Variance in the United States Since 1850 (undergraduate seminar)
Civil Rights and Their Discontents From Brown V. Board to DOMA (undergraduate seminar)
History of Sexuality in the United States, 1880-1980 (undergraduate seminar)
Feminist Theories and Methodologies (undergraduate seminar)