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Ruth Beecher

  • Overview



    Ruth is a social and cultural historian with interests in race, gender and sexuality, children and families, medicine and psychiatry and popular culture in the US and UK in the twentieth century.

    Ruth joined the Department of History, Classics and Archaeology at Birkbeck in October 2018 as a post-doctoral research fellow working with the Wellcome Trust-funded Sexual Harms, Medicine and Medical Encounters Research hub (see website: 

    Ruth also leads an oral history project which involved interviews with Irish women or those who are part of the diaspora to examine how their lives and attitudes evolved during each decade of the twentieth century. The project is staffed by volunteers and is ongoing. See website: for further information.

    Ruth trained as an applied researcher in the social sciences and worked from the 1990s until 2018 in children's services in policy, strategy, commissioning and leadership roles. 

    During that time, she undertook a PhD (2015) which investigated the strange career choices of African American poet and literary critic Sterling A. Brown. Although he was a celebrated poet and literary critic, he turned away from his creative aspirations in the 1930s and involved himself in a range of projects in the social sciences – in folklore, in black history and the Federal Writers’ Project, in the Carnegie Myrdal ‘Study of the American Negro,’ and in ethnographic journalism. The thesis explored the challenges faced by black intellectuals and civil rights activists in mid twentieth century America through Brown’s alliances with white intellectuals. It exposed the commonalities and the fractures, alongside the progress and the misunderstandings between intellectuals across the racial divide.


    • Listen to this fantastic public panel on Writing, Researching, and Surviving Sexual Trauma: A Creative Response held on 26 May 2021 with novelist Winnie M Li, poet Clare Shaw, Professor Joanna Bourke and me.

      Watch the video here.

      Note that there are references to sexual violence which you may find distressing. See

    • Read my article: 'Revealing “The Struggle and the Dream”: Sterling A. Brown’s Role in Producing An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy,' Journal of African American Studies, (July 2021 online), 1-20. 

      DOI 10.1007/s12111-021-09546-2. 

      SharedIt link:

    • Watch my talk 'Dangerous Development: Historicising Responses to Children Exhibiting Harmful Sexual Behaviour' at the SHaME international, interdisciplinary academic symposium (March 2021).

      Watch the talk here. 

      Note that there are references to sexual violence which you may find distressing. See


    • PhD, University of London, 2015
    • Masters in Applied Research, University of Sheffield, 2001
    • BA (Hons), University of London, 1997

    Web profiles

  • Research


    Research overview

    Ruth’s current research focuses on the ways community-based nurses, doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists have responded to (or ignored) the possibility that a child is being sexually abused by a family member since the 1960s in the UK and the US. How have their thoughts, behaviours, public utterances, and clinical practices changed over time? The aim is to bring a historical perspective to a problem that is often seen only in a particular cultural moment through archival research and collecting oral histories from current and retired community health practitioners. See more information about Ruth's current research at

    Research clusters and groups

    • Conflict and violence
    • Difference, race and inequality
    • Mind and Body
    • Public history
  • Supervision and teaching

    Supervision and teaching


    I have supervised a number of undergraduate and masters dissertations on US and UK history and popular culture topics including: abolitionism, Booker T. Washington’s strategy for civil rights, black rock and roll, the effect of American civil war on the Lancashire cotton industry, political attitudes to the Vietnam War, depictions of the Vietnam War in film, representations of mothering in literature, educational achievement of white working class boys.


    I have previously convened American History since 1600 and Popular Culture in American History as an Associate Lecturer in American History, at Birkbeck (between 2008/9 and 2011/12, and 2015/16).

  • Publications



  • Business and community

    Business and community


    ‘The Betrayed Girls’ Film Screening and Panel Discussion on child sexual exploitation organised as part of Bloomsbury Festival, Oct 2020. I organised this event and participated as a panellist alongside the film’s director Henry Singer, consultant paediatrician Dr Deborah Hodes and young people’s practitioner Abosede Onaboye. See for video recording of the event. 

    ‘Writing, Research, and Surviving Sexual Trauma: A Creative Response,’ public event organised as part of author Winnie. M. Li’s Writer in Residence programme. See video of the event at

    ‘Spotlight On: Jon Bird, National Association for People Abused in Childhood,’ video interview hosted by SHaME: