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 is currently writing a book titled Contested Labor: Social Reproduction, Work, and Law in the Neoliberal Age, which 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 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 is forthcoming in Volume 102 of the Virginia Law Review. Dinner has written several articles on the legal history of feminist activism, published in the Washington University Law Review, Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, Yale 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.


Contested Labor: Social Reproduction, Work, and Law in the Neoliberal Age(in progress)

Articles and Book Chapters

The Divorce Bargain: The Fathers’ Rights Movement and Family Inequalities 102 Virginia Law Review ___ (forthcoming 2016)

Strange Bedfellows at Work: Neomaternalism in the Making of Sex Discrimination Law, 91 Washington University Law Review 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 Harvard Civil Rights‑Civil Liberties Law Review 415 (2011).

Recovering the LaFleur Doctrine, 22 Yale Journal of Law and Feminism 343 (2010). 

The Universal Childcare Debate: Rights Mobilization, Social Policy, and the Dynamics of Feminist Activism, 1966-1974, 28 Law and History Review 577 (2010) (peer-reviewed).

Book Reviews     

Book Review, 33 Law and History Review ___ (forthcoming 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)). 


“Contested Labor: Social Reproduction, Work, and Law in the Neoliberal Age”

  • Association of American Law Schools Midyear Meeting, Workshop on Next Generation Issues of Sex, Gender and the Law (June 2015).
  • Tulane Forum on Law & Inequality (November 2014)                            

“Pregnant Workers: Economic and Health Security versus Anti-stereotyping,” Family Law Scholars and Teachers Workshop (June 2015) 

Comment, Gregg Strauss, “A Positive Right to Marry,” Family Law Scholars and Teachers Workshop (June 2015).

“The Struggle for Universal Labor Protections: Labor Feminism, Market Conservatism, and Masculinity,” Labor & Working Class History Assoc. Annual Meeting (May 2015).                      

“Is Antistereotyping Neoliberal?”The Rhetoric of Reproduction Conference, Case Western Reserve University (April 2015).

“Equal by what Measure? Title VII, Labor Feminism and the Forgotten Struggle for Universal Protective Laws”

  • Columbia University 20th Century Politics and Society Workshop (March 2015)
  • University of Pennsylvania Legal History Workshop (February 2015)
  • Indiana University Maurer School of Law Faculty Workshop (January 2015)
  • Boston University Women’s Liberation Conference (March 2014)

“The Divorce Bargain: The Fathers’ Rights Movement and the Dual System of Family Law”

  • Harry Krause Emerging Family Law Scholars Workshop, University of Illinois, College of Law (January 2015)
  • Emory University School of Law Faculty Workshop (November 2014)
  • American Society for Legal History Annual Meeting, Denver, Co (November 2014)

Panel participant, “Engendering Equality: A Conversation with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and New Voices in Women’s Legal History,” American Association of Law Schools Annual Meeting, (January 2015).

“An Alliance with Libertarians in Pursuit of Abortion Rights? An Historical Perspective on Risks and Benefits,” Center for Constitutional Rights (November 2014). 

“Liberated Patriarchs: The Fathers’ Rights Movement and the Revolution in Family Law, 1964-2000”

  • Yale/Harvard/Stanford Junior Faculty Forum (June 2014)  
  • Law & Society Association Annual Meeting (June 2014) 
  • Washington University School of Law (February 2014)
  • University of Missouri School of Law (February 2014)

“Pregnant Workers on the Job: A Renewed Contest Between Distributive Justice and Anti-Stereotyping”

  • American Bar Foundation, Legal History Workshop, Chicago, IL, May 2014 

“From Sex difference to Sex Neutrality: Legal Feminism and Social Policy in the Reagan Era”

  • Organization of American Historians Annual Meeting, (April 2014)

“Strange Bedfellows at Work: Neomaternalism in the Making of Sex Discrimination Law”

  • Saint Louis University School of Law (November 2013)
  • University of South Carolina School of Law (October 2013)

“The Costs of Life: Feminism, Choice and the Debate over Pregnancy Disability Benefits, 1974-1978”               

  • Yale/Harvard/Stanford Junior Faculty Forum, Boston, MA, June 2012
  • UVA Legal History Workshop, Charlottesville, VA, April 2012