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Lorraine Dias Herbon



Lorraine Herbon is a historian of the nineteenth-century United States, pursuing a doctorate after a twenty-five-year career with the California court system.  Her interest in Jessie Benton Frémont began when, as a teenager, she read Irving Stone’s novel Immortal Wife.  Lorraine’s research focuses on the ways in which Jessie Frémont served as the politician, the breadwinner, and the engine that kept her family afloat after her husband’s various failures.  Jessie took on these very public roles under the title “wife.”  Examining the idea of a “public wife,” one who lent credibility (or even diminished the credibility) of her husband, sheds new light not only on Jessie but may help future historians illuminate the lives of many other prominent nineteenth-century wives.  As a popular writer, Jessie was the architect of the image of herself and her husband that predominates in the historiography and in popular culture, even today, as well as an authoritative voice in crafting the narrative of U.S. westward expansion and the “conquest” of California.

Lorraine’s research has been supported with travel funds from the University of Tennessee Department of History, University of Tennessee Humanities Center, and the Bancroft Library at the University of California.  She has worked as a graduate teaching assistant in courses covering U.S. history, world history, and western civilization.  As a graduate research assistant, she has worked at the Papers of Andrew Jackson at the University of Tennessee and the McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture. 

Research Interests

Nineteenth-Century United States History, focused on women, politics, culture, westward expansion, and abolition.


  • PhD Candidate, The University of Tennessee.
  • MA, United States History, California State University, Sacramento, 2014.
  • BA in History, California State University, Sacramento, 2011.

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