Smithsonian curator of political history to speak at Sweet Briar on youth vote

Posted on March 16, 2017 by Janika Carey

Sweet Briar College will present a lecture by Jon Grinspan, curator of political history at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 21, in the Fitness and Athletics Center’s 1948 Theater.

Book cover of Jon Grinspan's “The Virgin Vote” Jon Grinspan’s debut, published in 2016, is available on Amazon.

Free and open to the public, “The Virgin Vote: When Young People Used to Vote, and How They Can Again” is sponsored by the College’s anthropology program and the Lectures and Events Committee. The talk will be followed by a dessert reception. Grinspan will also have lunch that day at the Sweet Briar Museum with anyone who is interested.

Debbie Durham, a professor of anthropology and organizer of the event, is excited to host Grinspan — particularly because his talk will combine several areas in the liberal arts.

“We will have students from arts management, history, government and, of course, anthropology and archaeology,” Durham said. “It’s a fantastic opportunity to pull all of them together out of their separate majors.”

According to his bio on the National Museum of American History’s website, Grinspan’s work explores the “reciprocal relationship between politics and popular culture in American history.”

In his first book, “The Virgin Vote: How Young Americans Made Democracy Social, Politics Personal, and Voting Popular in the Nineteenth Century,” Grinspan “uncovers a forgotten era when young men and women fueled American democracy,” according to the website.

Grinspan is currently researching a second book on the struggle for control of American politics between the end of the Civil War and the beginning of the 20th century. He also works on a variety of other subjects — “from Civil War coffee to young people’s courtships to political rioting in 19th-century America” — and has written for the New York Times and The Atlantic, among others.

He holds a bachelor’s degree from Sarah Lawrence College and a master’s and Ph.D. in history from the University of Virginia.

For more information, email Debbie Durham at