Age in America

The Colonial Era to the Present

352 pages

6 halftones

May, 2015

ISBN: 9781479831913



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Corinne T. Field, a Lecturer in the Corcoran Department of History and Women, Gender, Sexuality Program at the University of Virginia, is the author of The Struggle for Equal Adulthood: Gender, Race, Age, and the Fight for Citizenship in Antebellum America.

All books by Corinne T. Field

Nicholas L. Syrett is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Northern Colorado and the author of The Company He Keeps: A History of White College Fraternities.

All books by Nicholas L. Syrett

Eighteen. Twenty-one. Sixty-five. In America today, we recognize these numbers as key transitions in our lives—precise moments when our rights and opportunities change—when we become eligible to cast a vote, buy a drink, or enroll in Medicare. This volume brings together scholars of childhood, adulthood, and old age to explore how and why particular ages have come to define the rights and obligations of American citizens.  
Since the founding of the nation, Americans have relied on chronological age to determine matters as diverse as who can marry, work, be enslaved, drive a car, or qualify for a pension. Contributors to this volume explore what meanings people in the past ascribed to specific ages and whether or not earlier Americans believed the same things about particular ages as we do.  The means by which Americans imposed chronological boundaries upon the variable process of growing up and growing old offers a paradigmatic example of how people construct cultural meaning and social hierarchy from embodied experience.  Further, chronological age always intersects with other socially constructed categories such as gender, race, and sexuality.  Ranging from the seventeenth century to the present, taking up a variety of distinct subcultures—from frontier children and antebellum slaves to twentieth-century Latinas—Age in America makes a powerful case that age has always been a key index of citizenship.

   Instructor's Guide


  • "An exceptionally satisfying intellectual project, Age in America reveals the fundamental ways of understanding what age means, why it is important, and how this category has changed over time. This excellent and innovative collection will push scholars forward in their thinking of how age can be used as an analytic category better to understand important features of United States history."

    —Paula S. Fass, author of Children of a New World: Society, Culture, and Globalization

  • "Impressive and original, Age in America is a fascinating collection of scholarship that will find wide readership across many disciplines. Admirable for its chronological scope and focus, the editors have brought together many of the pioneers of age studies as well as childhood studies, resulting in a unique and synthesizing volume that is sure to open up new avenues for further research." 

    —Howard Chudacoff, author of How Old Are You?: Age Consciousness in American Culture

  • "This volume provides much-needed historical perspective to our understanding of age, including shifts in age consciousness and the categorization, institutionalization, and personal experience of age....Many anthologies are quite rightly criticized for lacking focus, conceptual coherence, or uniformly high standards of quality and rigor. Age in America rebuts such criticism and demonstrates that age is an analytic category that is, in its own way, as important as gender, class, and ethnicity in understanding subjective experience, law, and public policy over the course of American history."

    The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth