Research Areas

American History; Public History/Museum Studies; Oral History; Gender Studies; Jewish History


Ph.D., Boston University

M.A., University of Massachusetts

A.B., Smith College


Curriculum Vitae (pdf)

Susan L. Porter

Susan L. Porter

Susan L. Porter

Susan Porter is an historian whose primary research fields are nineteenth-century American social history, gender history, child welfare history, and synagogue history. An experienced public historian/museum consultant who researches families and buildings for historic house museums and plans and implements museum interpretations, exhibitions, and oral history projects, she is currently doing a project for the National Park Service at the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park in Woodstock, Vermont.

Susan has been affiliated with the museum studies program at the Harvard Extension School since 2005. She has held several faculty positions and was Associate Professor of History at Simmons College (1990-1997). From 2000-2005 she was Research Manager at Historic New England (2000-2005). She was awarded two fellowships at Radcliffe (1989-1990; 1997-1999).

Susan’s publications include two co-authored books, Becoming American Jews (Brandeis University Press, 2009) and The Pierce House Historic Property Report (Historic New England, 2005), an edited book, Women of the Commonwealth, Work, Family, and Social Change in Nineteenth-Century Massachusetts (University of Massachusetts Press, 1996), and several articles.

Current Projects

In addition to her work as a museum consultant, Susan Porter continues to work on several projects relating to nineteenth-century social history, including a book on children who lived in early 19th century American orphanages and manuscripts on middle-class boarding houses and connections between Progressive Jews and Christians in Boston. 

Representative Publications

Porter, Susan. “A Good Home: Indenture and Adoption in American Orphanages, 1800-1850.”  Adoption in America: Historical Perspectives.  Edited by E. Wayne Carp.  Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2002.

Dwyer-Ryan, Meaghan, Susan L. Porter, and Lisa Fagin Davis, Becoming American Jews, Temple Israel of Boston. Waltham, MA: Brandeis University Press, 2009.