Ruth Percy

Ruth Percy is a college lecturer at St Hilda's College. She is a historian of the nineteenth and twentieth century United States and Britain with a particular interest in cities, immigrants, women, and workers.

Her current book project, tentatively entitled ‘I am not a feminist’: Equality, Rights, and Working Women’s Culture in London and Chicago, 1870s-1920s, is a comparative study of the early women's labour movement in those two cities. Drawing on archived oral histories, trade union and personal papers, memoirs, and newspapers, the manuscript examines the way in which ideas of equality, rights, and work informed and were informed by individual and collective experience, discursive contexts, and social relations.

She has recently finished a smaller project on female Londoners as young consumers in the First World War. This also made use of archived oral histories and investigated their form through consideration of the significance of tone and pace, for example, while also critically reflecting on how memories are constructed and recalled.

Having lived and worked in Mississippi before moving to Oxford, she plans to return to a project she started there on the Mississippi catfish industry, using a 1990 strike, the largest strike of African Americans in the state's history, as the focal point.


Featured publications

  • ‘“It Didn’t Worry Me a Bit”: Coming of Age in London in the First World War’. In Histories, Memories and Representations of Being Young in the First World War, eds. Maggie Andrews, N.C. Fleming and Marcus Morris. Palgrave, 2020.
  • ‘Memory and language: Re-evaluating women’s activism through archived voices’. In Beyond Women’s Words: The Personal, Political, and Ethical Challenges of Doing Feminist Oral History, eds. Katrina Srigley, Stacey Zembrzycki, and Franca Iacovetta. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018.
  • ‘Picket lines and parades: Garment workers and urban space in early twentieth century London and Chicago’. Urban History, 41.3 August 2014: 456-477.
  • ‘Death at the machine: Critiquing industrial capitalism in the fiction of labour activist Lizzie M. Holmes’. Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas, Fall 2009: 65-88.