Welcome! I’m Michelle Nickerson, a historian and author. I am an expert in the history of politics, women & gender, social movements, and religion in 20th-century America. I am proud to teach at Loyola University Chicago, where I take seriously its 150-year Jesuit and Catholic heritage of Cura Personalis—caring for and educating the “whole person.” I also recently taught as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Heidelberg in Germany.
As the author of two books and several articles, my scholarship has focused on the history of women, gender, and American conservatism. I have also written about the Sunbelt as a region born of political and economic developments after World War II. Years living in California and Texas during the early part of my career also contributed to this interest in how place and space shape political history.
I have since turned my attention to the left side of the political spectrum with a project on sixties radicals. I am currently writing about the Camden 28, an anti-war group of the Vietnam era apprehended, brought to trial, and acquitted after raiding a draft board office in 1971. They were part of a movement called the “Catholic Left” that became known for actions targeting the selective service system. This project brings me home to New Jersey, where I grew up in a suburb of Philadelphia attending Mass on Sunday and CCD on Wednesday. I was, at the time, completely unaware of these political events that unfolded in my backyard. I chose to write about the Camden 28 to explore the church’s social justice traditions, but the book has revealed a far more complicated story of ideology, faith, community, and personal relationships than I could have expected. The University of Chicago will publish this book, titled Spiritual Criminals: How the Camden 28 Put the Vietnam War on Trial in 2023.
This new project has benefitted from the financial support of several institutions. I launched this work with a faculty fellowship from the Gannon Center for Women and Leadership at Loyola. The Hank Center for Catholic Intellectual Heritage at Loyola and the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at Notre Dame have awarded me multiple fellowships for the research. I enjoyed a research leave fellowship from my university and a Sabbatical Grant for Research from the Louisville Institute.