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Lynn Sacco

Associate Professor


My book, Unspeakable: Father-Daughter Incest in American History, (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009) uses sources from medicine, law, social reform, and popular culture to document both the occurrence of incest and the noisy silence around the subject. Focusing on discourses about the etiology of gonorrhea in girls, my book argues that as scientific breakthroughs in the 1890s improved doctors’ ability to detect the disease, their social biases diminished their ability to see the obvious evidence before them. When they discovered evidence that gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted disease, was “epidemic” among all classes of girls—not just girls from socially marginalized families—health care professionals and reformers revised their views about gonorrhea, not incest.

Being a historian is my second career. I practiced law for fifteen years in Chicago and am a retired member of the Illinois Bar.


Ph.D., University of Southern California; 2001

J.D., John Marshall Law School, Chicago, Illinois; 1979

Awards and Recognitions

  • David V. and Kathryn G. White Undergraduate Teaching Award, UTK, 2012
  • Diversity Leadership Award, College of Arts and Sciences, UTK, 2011
  • 2010 Thomas Jefferson Prize, UTK
  • QUEST Scholar of the Week, UT, 2009
  • Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, UT, 2008
  • David V. and Kathryn G. White Undergraduate Teaching Award, UT, 2008
  • Faculty Advising Service Award, College of Arts and Sciences, UT, 2007
  • University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow, Women’s Studies Program, UC Santa Barbara, 2001 – 2003
  • Judith Lee Ridge Article Prize, Western Association of Women Historians, 2003
  • Woodrow Wilson-Johnson & Johnson Dissertation Grant in Women’s Health, 1999

Selected Publications

  • Unspeakable: Father-Daughter Incest in American History, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009
  • “Sanitized For Your Protection: Medical Discourse and the Denial of Incest in the United States, 1890-1940.” Journal of Women’s History 14 (autumn 2002): 80
  • “If We’re So Smart, Why Are We Still in School?” American Studies Association Newsletter 23 (March 2000): 1

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