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 Jewish 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 completing a project for the National Park Service at the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park in Woodstock, Vermont.

Susan 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)  and from 2005-2012 she was affiliated with the museum studies program at the Harvard Extension School. She was awarded two fellowships at Radcliffe (1989-1990; 1997-1999).

Susan’s publications include three co-authored books, Becoming American Jews (Brandeis University Press, 2009),  The Pierce House Historic Property Report (Historic New England, 2005), and   Historic Furnishings Report, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, 3 volumes, 2013; 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

Susan Porter continues to work as a museum consultant and oral historian. Her scholarly projects include a book on children who lived in early 19th century orphanages and manuscripts on several aspects of 19th century social history: adoption, domestic service, the politics of genteel boarding houses, architect and designer client relationships, and Progressive era connections between 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.