Paula Tarankow

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Paula Tarankow holds a Ph.D. in history and specializes in the history of animal welfare in the United States. She taught a range of history courses that incorporate scholarship on human–animal relations into traditional topics at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, before founding, in June 2021, History She Wrote, LLC, to “align my background in research and education with my desire to help mission-driven organizations thrive.”

In 2016, Paula received a CAF grant to allow her to conduct critical archival research in Louisiana and Washington, D.C., for her dissertation, “Loyal Animals, Faithful Slaves: American Animal Advocacy, Race, and the Memory of Slavery,” which was successfully defended at Indiana University in 2019. (The project was subsequently renamed “The Lost Cause and the Animal Cause: The Southern Origins of American Animal Welfare,” and examined the ways in which white memories of slavery as a positive good influenced the origins and development of humane sentiment within the states of the former Confederacy and beyond.) This funded research enabled her to bring her immediate findings to the ASI-UIUC Summer Institute for Human–Animal Studies in 2017. Paula has since brought her work into conversation with historians, animal studies scholars, animal rights activists, animal welfare lawyers, and scholars of animal law and policy. She writes:

My research recovers the unexamined cultural roots and impact of institutional and grassroots animal advocacy campaigns in the states of the former Confederacy. I investigate the complex reform visions held by animal welfare advocates between 1870 and 1920 among Civil War veterans as well as former abolitionists, slaveholders, and slaves. My dissertation asks how this diverse group of individuals defined the problem of animal cruelty and endeavored to make the humane treatment of animals a cornerstone of societal understandings of a shared humanity. Using archival sources from my summer trip, I discussed a portion of my research in April 2017 at the annual meeting of the California American Studies Association. Here, in a panel on “Interspecies Violence,” I presented a conference paper titled “Cases of Inhumanity: Surveilling and Prosecuting Animal Cruelty in the Nation’s Capital.”