At Whitman, I teach courses on colonial and 19th century US history, and about social, cultural, and material histories  —  including gender history, race and migration history, and histories of people interacting with their physical surroundings (nature, built environment, infrastructure, ordinary "stuff"). All members of the department teach regularly in the general studies Encounters program, and in the department's classes in methodologies and in comparative history. I have also taught the senior seminar for the Race and Ethnic Studies major.

My research engages, most centrally, the interplay of knowledge about things, and expectations and opportunities for people. I ask not only how people learn about technologies, but who gets to learn how to do what, and what it means in a particular historical context to know (or not know) how to sew, operate a steam engine, bind a book, design a generator, cook on a stove, program a computer. These are questions about ideology and access as well as about materialities and processes, so they connect histories of technology, labor, gender, race, class, education, and more in ways that often reframe our habitual categories of thinking.

I came to the study of history by way of liberal arts education and work in computing and computer science, which led me to ask questions about how people used machines, and where the values underlying automation of human work had originated. I did my graduate work at the University of Pennsylvania in the Department of History and Sociology of Science, where I studied history of technology and history of medicine. I came to Whitman by way of teaching "Technology and Civilization" at Auburn University in Alabama, and a postdoctoral fellowship in Gender and Science in the History of Science and Technology program at the University of Minnesota.




  1. (509)527-5888

lermanne at whitman dot edu

current projects

Recasting Apprenticeship: paths to adulthood in an industrializing city

The Generator in the Backwoods: material experience, racialized technologies and industrial education

Children of Progress: industrial households, imagined citizens, and technological knowledge


AB Bryn Mawr College

PhD University of Pennsylvania

recent activities

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Associate Professor of History