Premilla Nadasen

Premilla Nadasen

Professor of History




816 Milstein Center / Office Hours: M 12-1pm (virtual) AND W 1-2pm (in 816 MLC)


Premilla Nadasen has published extensively on the multiple meanings of feminism, alternative labor movements, and grass-roots community organizing and is most interested in visions of social change, and the ways in which poor and working-class women of color fought for social justice. Her most recent book, Household Workers Unite, examines how African American domestic workers in the U.S. strategically used storytelling to develop a political identity and through their organizing reshaped the landscape of labor organizing. She is currently writing a biography of South African singer and activist Miriam Makeba.

Nadasen is a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians and serves on the scholarly advisory committee of the New York Historical Society's Center for Women's History. She is past president of the National Women’s Studies Association and was a Fulbright Visiting Professor at Oxford University in 2019. She is the 2020 inaugural recipient of the Ann Snitow Prize for outstanding feminist activist and intellectual work.

Professor Nadasen has bridged academic and activist work by making her scholarship accessible to people outside the university. She has been a museum consultant, has written op-eds for newspapers and on-line outlets, and served as expert witness before the New York State Assembly Committee on Labor as well as the federal Department of Labor.  She collaborated with the Institute for Policy Studies and the National Domestic Workers Alliance on the “We Dream in Black Project” to mobilize Black domestic workers in the South.

U.S. History

  • Women, Gender, and Sexuality in the 20th Century U.S.
  • Poverty, Race and Gender in the U.S.
  • Freedom Dreams: Struggles for Justice in the U.S. and Beyond
  • Maids and Madams: Nannies, Maids and Care Workers in a Global Economy

  • Distinguished Lecturer, Organization of American Historians
  • Sara A. Whaley Book Prize, National Women's Studies Association
  • John Hope Franklin Book Prize, American Studies Association
  • Berkshire Conference Article Prize


Household Workers Unite: The Untold Story of African American Women who Built a Movement  (Beacon Press, 2015)

Rethinking the Welfare Rights Movement (Routledge 2012)

Welfare in the United States: A History with Documents, co-authored with Jennifer Mittelstadt and Marisa Chappell (Routledge 2009)

Welfare Warriors: The Welfare Rights Movement in the United States (Routledge, 2005)

“Domestic Worker Organizing: Storytelling, History and Contemporary Resonances”  Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society, Spring 2016

“Citizenship Rights, Domestic Work, and the Fair Labor Standards Act” Journal of Policy History (January 2012)

“Is it Time to Jump Ship? Historians Rethink the Waves Metaphor” Kathleen Laughlin,  Julie Gallagher, Dorothy Sue Cobble, Eileen Boris, Premilla Nadasen, Stephanie Gilmore, and Leandra Zarnow Feminist Formations, (Spring 2010).

 “Power, Intimacy, and Contestation:  Dorothy Bolden and Domestic Worker Organizing in Atlanta in the 1960s” in Intimate Labors: Cultures, Technologies, and the Politics of Care, ed. Eileen Boris and Rhacel Parrenas (Stanford University Press, 2010)

“Sista’ Friends and Other Allies:  Domestic Workers United” in New Social Movements in the African Diaspora: Challenging Global Apartheid, ed. Leith Mullings (Palgrave MacMillan 2009) 

“We Do Whatever Becomes Necessary: Johnnie Tillmon, Welfare Rights, and Black Power” in Want to Start a Revolution?: Women in the Black Revolt, ed. Jeanne Theoharis, Dayo Gore, and Komozi Woodard (NYU Press, 2009)

“Domestic Workers Organize!” with Eileen Boris in Working USA: The Journal of Labor and Society(December 2008)

 “’Welfare’s A Green Problem’: Cross-Race Coalitions in the Welfare Rights Movement” in Feminist Coalitions, ed. Stephanie Gilmore (University of Illinois Press, 2008)

“From Widow to ‘Welfare Queen’:  Welfare and the Politics of Race” Black Women, Gender, and Families, (Fall 2007)

"Expanding the Boundaries of the Women's Movement:  Black Feminism and the Struggle for Welfare Rights" Feminist Studies (Summer 2002) 

In The News

The Ann Whitney Olin Professor of History has dedicated three decades of research to sharing the truth behind today’s “care economy” — and was recently awarded $250,000 to advance her scholarship.

October 9, 2023

Barnard welcomed the award-winning labor leader as the keynote speaker for the inaugural Grace Lee Boggs ’35 Lecture.

October 14, 2022

In celebration of 2022’s Women’s History Month (March), read about the work of 22 Barnard community members who champion feminist and gender issues.

March 7, 2022