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. Dinner’s research focuses in particular on how law responds to vulnerabilities that derive from familial and employment relationships, at home and at work. Her courses and curricular interests include Property, the Fourteenth Amendment, Family Law, Employment Discrimination, and Legal History.

Dinner’s book-in-progress Contested Labor: Gender and the Law in Neoliberal America(forthcoming Cambridge University Press) examines debates about the meaning of sex equality in the late twentieth century. The book argues that neoliberal ideology, the rise of the New Right, and the transition from an industrial to a service economy foreclosed feminists’ efforts to achieve greater state protection for workers and caregivers, even as women made significant strides toward equal employment opportunity. 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” offers the first legal history of the fathers’ rights movement and analyzes its consequences for class-differentiated experiences of fatherhood. The article was selected for presentation at the 2014 Yale/Stanford/Harvard Junior Faculty Forum and was published by Virginia Law Review in 2016. Dinner has published several other articles on the legal history of gender, work, and the welfare state in the Washington University Law ReviewHarvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law ReviewYale Journal of Law & Feminism, and Law & History Review.

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


Contested Labor: Gender and the Law in Neoliberal America (under contract, Cambridge University Press)

Articles and Book Chapters

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”