Faculty Profiles

Deborah  Dinner

Deborah Dinner

Associate Professor

Areas of Expertise

Employment Discrimination, Family Law, Legal History, Property

Curriculum Vitae

Deborah Dinner is a legal historian whose scholarship examines the interaction between social movements, political culture, and legal change. Her research focuses on questions of gender and class equity in the legal regulation of the workplace and labor markets, family relationships, the hybrid public-private welfare regime, and insurance law. Her courses and curricular interests include Property, Employment Discrimination, Legal History, the Fourteenth Amendment, and Family Law.

Dinner’s forthcoming book, The Sex Equality Dilemma: Work, Family, and Legal Change in Neoliberal America (forthcoming, Cambridge University Press 2019) examines legal and political debates about the meaning of sex equality in the late twentieth century. The book argues that the dynamics of market and social conservatism yielded an asymmetry in the institutionalization of feminist goals. Feminists made dramatic strides toward eliminating gender stereotypes under law, while opposition in courts, state and federal legislatures, and administrative agencies largely blocked their attempts to expand social insurance and social welfare entitlements. 

Dinner’s most recent article “Beyond ‘Best Practices’: Employment Discrimination in the Neoliberal Era,” published in the Indiana Law Journal, shows that the rise of antidiscrimination ideals in the late twentieth century was intertwined with the deregulation of labor and with cutbacks in the welfare state.  Her article “The Divorce Bargain: The Fathers’ Rights Movement and Family Inequalities,” Virginia Law Review (2016) (selected presentation at the 2014 Harvard/Stanford/Yale Junior Faculty Forum) offers the first legal history of the fathers’ rights movement and analyzes its consequences for class-differentiated experiences of fatherhood. Dinner has published additional articles in the Washington University Law ReviewHarvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law ReviewYale Journal of Law & Feminism, and Law & History Review. Dinner is currently developing a new project, which analyzes the rise of the actuarial sciences as a source of legal authority and of private insurance as a mechanism by which law shapes Americans’ disparate experiences of everyday life: the family, neighborhood, body, and home.

Dinner joined Emory in 2015, after serving as an associate professor at Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. Dinner earned her JD and PhD in history at Yale. Following law school, she clerked for Judge Karen Nelson Moore of the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and served as the Raoul Berger–Mark DeWolfe Howe Legal History Fellow at Harvard University and the Samuel I. Golieb Fellow in Legal History at New York University School of Law.

Education: JD 2005, PhD 2012 Yale University; BA 1999, Yale College


The Sex Equality Dilemma: Work, Family, and Legal Change in Neoliberal America (forthcoming, Cambridge University Press 2020).

Articles and Book Chapters

Sex in Public: Gender and Public Accommodations Law (co-authored with Elizabeth Sepper) 29 Yale L. J. (forthcoming)

Sex Equality and the U.S. Welfare Regime: The Story of Geduldig v. Aiello, in Reproductive Rights & Justice Stories (Melissa Murray, Kate Shaw, & Reva Siegel, eds., forthcoming 2019)

Beyond “Best Practices”: Employment Discrimination Law in the Neoliberal Era, 92 Ind. L. J. 1059 (2017) 

Equal by What Measure? The Lost Struggle for Universal State Protective Labor Standards (chapter, Martha Albertson Fineman, Vulnerability, Employment and Labor (forthcoming Ashgate Press, 2016))

The Divorce Bargain: The Fathers’ Rights Movement and Family Inequalities 102 Va. L. Rev. 79 (2016)

Strange Bedfellows at Work: Neomaternalism in the Making of Sex Discrimination Law, 91 Wash. U. L. Rev. 453 (2014)

Law and Labor in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, in Sally E. Hadden and Alfred L. Brophy, eds., A Companion to American Legal History (2013)

The Costs of Reproduction: History and the Legal Construction of Sex Equality, 46 Harv. C.R.-C.L. L. Rev. 415 (2011)

Recovering the LaFleur Doctrine, 22 Yale J. L. & Feminism 343 (2010)

The Universal Childcare Debate: Rights Mobilization, Social Policy, and the Dynamics of Feminist Activism, 1966-1974, 28 L. & Hist. Rev. 577 (2010) (peer-reviewed)

Nupur Chaudhuri Article Prize recognizing the best first article by a member of the  Coordinating Council for Women in History

Book Reviews     

Engendering the History of Legal Aid, Jotwell (forthcoming Jan. 2017) (reviewing Felice Batlan, Women and Justice for the Poor: A History of Legal Aid, 1863-1945 (2015)

Book Review, 103 J. Am. Hist. 1096 (2016) (reviewing Risa L. Goluboff, Vagrant Nation: Police Power, Constitutional Change, and the Making of the 1960s (2016)

Book Review, 33 L. & HIST. REV. 1019 (2015) (reviewing Sophia Z. Lee, The Workplace Constitution from the New Deal to the New Right (2014)) 

A Firebrand Flickers, Legal Affairs (March/April 2006) (reviewing Catharine MacKinnon, Women’s Lives, Men’s Laws (2005) and Are Women Human? and Other International Dialogues (2006))


Conference for Reproductive Rights and Justice Stories (Foundation Press), Yale Law School (upcoming December 2017)

  • Invited contributor, “The Story of Geduldig v. Aiello” 

American Society for Legal History Annual Meeting (upcoming, October 2017)

  • Invited speaker, Presidential Panel on Labor   
  • Commenter, Panel on “Seeing Difference,” Michael Boucai, Marie-Amelie George, Allison Tait

Rutgers Center for Gender, Sexuality, Law and Policys (upcoming, October 2017)

  • Invited talk, “Working Families: Gender, Labor, and the Limits of Law in Neoliberal America”

University of Georgia School of Law Faculty Workshop (upcoming, October 2017)

  • Invited talk, “‘Displaced Homemakers’”: Feminist Activism and Women’s Domestic Labor from the Civil Rights to the Reagan Era”           

Berkshire Conference of Women Historians, Hofstra Univ., June 2017

  • “Equal by What Measure: Masculinity, Antidiscrimination Law, and Labor Protection, 1964-1991” 

Society for U. S. Intellectual History Annual Meeting, Stanford Univ., Oct. 2016

  • Invited speaker, “Plenary Session Panel on “The Many Faces of Gender in American Thought: Considering Our Methods”
  • Panelist, “Maternity, Class, and Conservatism: Recasting Divides in Feminist Legal Theory during the 1980s”

Emory University School of Law Faculty Colloquium, Atlanta, GA August 2016

  • “Beyond ‘Best Practices’: Employment Discrimination Law in the Neoliberal Era 

Workshop on Vulnerability & Social Justice, Leeds Univ., England June 2016

  • “Fetal Protection, Reproductive Health and the Triumph of Autonomy”

Law and Society Association Annual Meeting, New Orleans, June 2016  

  • Panelist, “Beyond ‘Best Practices’: Employment Discrimination Law in the Neoliberal Era”