2018 - present


Beyond Norma Rae: How Puerto Rican and Southern White Women Fought for a Place in the American Working Class

University of North Carolina Press, 2023 — order at this link

In the late 1970s, Hollywood producers took the published biography of Crystal Lee Sutton, a white southern textile worker, and transformed it into a blockbuster 1979 film, Norma Rae, featuring Sally Field in the title role. This fascinating book reveals how the film and the popular icon it created each worked to efface the labor history that formed the foundation of the film’s story. Drawing on an impressive range of sources—union records, industry reports, film scripts, and oral histories—Aimee Loiselle’s cutting-edge scholarship shows how gender, race, culture, film, and mythology have reconfigured and often undermined the history of the American working class and their labor activism.

Book Blogs

Page 99 Test, Campaign for the American Reader, Dec 2023

The Author’s Corner, Current, Nov 2023

Nontraditional Career, Unconventional History, UNC Press Blog, Nov 2023

Movie Are Not Mirrors, UNC Press Blog, Nov 2023

Book Post, UK Women’s History Network, Oct 2023

U.S. Imperialism and Puerto Rican Needleworkers: Sovereignty, Citizenship, and Women’s Labor in a Deep History of Neoliberal Trade,”

International Labor and Working-Class History – ILWCH (Fall 2020): 142-172.

In 1898, US occupation of Puerto Rico opened possibilities for experimentation with manufacturing, investment, tariffs, and citizenship because the Treaty of Paris did not address territorial incorporation. Imperial experimentation continued through the liberal policies of the New Deal and World War II, consistently reproducing drastic exceptions. These exceptions were not permanent, but the rearrangements of sovereignty and citizenship established Puerto Rico as a site of potential and persistent exemption. Puerto Rican needleworkers were central to the resulting colonial industrialization–not as dormant labor awaiting outside developmental forces but as skilled workers.

Cooptation of the needlework contract system led to colonial industrialization for export processing, which generated bureaucratic and financial infrastructure. Labor unions and aggrieved workers contested and resisted this colonial industrialization. They advocated their own proposals and pushed against US and insular economic policies. Throughout these fights, the asymmetrical power of the federal government and industrial capital allowed the colonial regime to assert US sovereignty while continually realigning exemptions for liberal economic objectives. It provided scaffolding for Operation Bootstrap, an economic plan devised in the 1940s that gave colonial export processing a gloss of modern business that carried it into neoliberal projects as export processing zones (EPZs).


Book Review, The Last Orator for the Millhands: William Jennings Bryan Dorn, 1916-2005, by John Herbert Roper

Journal of Southern History (May 2020): 537-538.

Puerto Rican Needleworkers in Colonial Migrations: Deindustrialization as Pathways Lost

Journal of Working-Class Studies (December 2019): 40-54.

When Puerto Rican needleworkers become visible in the history of the US textile and garment industry, their colonial migrations complicate deindustrialization, and its linear logic collapses. From the perspective of these colonial women, industrialization of Puerto Rico began at the turn of the twentieth century – the same time factories and mills increased in the South. Thousands of women also migrated to the Northeast metropole, especially from the 1950s to the 1970s, when many white workers were mourning the loss of textile and garment jobs. Puerto Rican women moved to the old factories of the Northeast, which had become outposts for large transnational corporations that did not relocate their manufacturing in a direct geographic path but rather spread their processes over any arrangement that offered the best cost-benefit analysis. For Puerto Rican women, employment in the plants of the Northeast during the 1960s and 1970s offered hope rather than despair, and many took pride in meeting their quotas and providing wages for their families. In the 1980s, when the Reagan administration initiated financial policies that made closing old plants a better return on investment, Puerto Rican women mourned the loss of jobs in an industry many experts had already declared ‘dead.’


Book Review, Knocking on Labor’s Door: Union Organizing in the 1970s and the Roots of a New Economic Divide, by Lane Windham

Canadian Journal of History (Winter 2019): 449-451.


Book Review, Department Stores and the Black Freedom Movement: Workers, Consumers, and Civil Rights from the 1930s to the 1980s, by Traci Parker

Black Perspectives (October 2019): www.aaihs.org.