To go along with our ongoing AHA Member Spotlight we have introduced an AHA Council Spotlight series featuring short interviews with our elected council officers. Like our membership, the AHA Council is composed of historians with wide-ranging specializations, interests, and stories. We hope this feature will let our membership get to know their elected officials in a different way.
Mary Louise Roberts (Lou) is professor of history at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She is currently a councilor in the AHA’s Professional Division and has been an AHA member since 1987.
Alma mater/s: PhD, Brown University; MA, Sarah Lawrence College; BA, Wesleyan University
Fields of interest: history of women and gender, France, Second World War
When did you first develop an interest in history?
When I was in second grade I developed an avid interest in the Norse explorer Leif Erickson. I edited a small newspaper for my street called the Riverette, and I always made sure to include at least one article about Leif Erickson.
Have your interests changed since graduate school? If so, how?
My research interests in gender and French history have remained consistent. However, I have become fascinated by the intersections of race and gender in the past. In addition, my work has become increasingly transnational.
What projects are you working on currently?
I just finished a book called What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American G.I. in World War II France, which will be published in May by the University of Chicago Press. It concerns relations—in particularly sexual relations—between American GIs and French women during the US military presence in France, 1944–46. I am also editing and translating a book of French memoirs called D-Day through French Eyes: Memoirs of Normandy 1944.
What do you value most about the history profession?
I most value the creative opportunities offered by the profession. In my career, I have been completely free to develop courses and to pursue research in areas which interest me. I also love going to archives and libraries abroad, in my case, in France.
Do you have a favorite AHA annual meeting anecdote you would like to share?
I remember the AHA in Atlanta in 1996. There was a gigantic snowstorm on the Sunday of the conference and the airport shut down. Atlanta, of all places! Graduate students could not afford the hotel, so they slept in rooms with faculty who took pity on them! It was the ultimate nightmare: the AHA meeting that never ends!
Other than history, what are you passionate about?
I am passionate about the fiber arts. I love to design, sew, and knit my clothes.