Premilla Nadasen

Premilla Nadasen

Research Interest


Premilla Nadasen joined the Barnard faculty in 2013 and is affiliated with the American Studies and Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies programs.  She teaches, researches, and writes about race, gender, social policy, and organizing. Her most recent book, Household Workers Unite, examines how African American domestic workers in the U.S. strategically used storytelling to develop a political identity and through their organizing reshaped the landscape of labor organizing.  She has won numerous awards and honors for her work.  She is currently writing a biography of South African singer and activist Miriam Makeba.

Nadasen is a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians, serves on the scholarly advisory committee of the New York Historical Society's Center for Women's History, and is co-chair of the National Women's Studies Association's Annual Conference.

Professor Nadasen has bridged academic and activist work by making her scholarship accessible to people outside the university. She has been a museum consultant, has written op-eds for newspapers and on-line outlets, and served as expert witness before the New York State Assembly Committee on Labor as well as the federal Department of Labor.  At the moment she is collaborating with the Institute for Policy Studies and the National Domestic Workers Alliance on the “We Dream in Black Project” to mobilize Black domestic workers in the South.


  • Women, Gender, and Sexuality in the 20th Century U.S.
  • Poverty, Race and Gender in the U.S.
  • Freedom Dreams: Struggles for Justice in the U.S. and Beyond
  • Maids and Madams: Nannies, Maids and Care Workers in a Global Economy

Awards & Honors: 

  • Distinguished Lecturer, Organization of American Historians
  • Sara A. Whaley Book Prize, National Women's Studies Association
  • John Hope Franklin Book Prize, American Studies Association
  • Berkshire Conference Article Prize



Household Workers Unite: The Untold Story of African American Women who Built a Movement  (Beacon Press, 2015)

Rethinking the Welfare Rights Movement (Routledge 2012)

Welfare in the United States: A History with Documents, co-authored with Jennifer Mittelstadt and Marisa Chappell (Routledge 2009)

Welfare Warriors: The Welfare Rights Movement in the United States (Routledge, 2005)

Selected Articles

“Domestic Worker Organizing: Storytelling, History and Contemporary Resonances”  Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society, Spring 2016

“Citizenship Rights, Domestic Work, and the Fair Labor Standards Act” Journal of Policy History (January 2012)

“Is it Time to Jump Ship? Historians Rethink the Waves Metaphor” Kathleen Laughlin,  Julie Gallagher, Dorothy Sue Cobble, Eileen Boris, Premilla Nadasen, Stephanie Gilmore, and Leandra Zarnow Feminist Formations, (Spring 2010).

 “Power, Intimacy, and Contestation:  Dorothy Bolden and Domestic Worker Organizing in Atlanta in the 1960s” in Intimate Labors: Cultures, Technologies, and the Politics of Care, ed. Eileen Boris and Rhacel Parrenas (Stanford University Press, 2010)

“Sista’ Friends and Other Allies:  Domestic Workers United” in New Social Movements in the African Diaspora: Challenging Global Apartheid, ed. Leith Mullings (Palgrave MacMillan 2009) 

“We Do Whatever Becomes Necessary: Johnnie Tillmon, Welfare Rights, and Black Power” in Want to Start a Revolution?: Women in the Black Revolt, ed. Jeanne Theoharis, Dayo Gore, and Komozi Woodard (NYU Press, 2009)

“Domestic Workers Organize!” with Eileen Boris in Working USA: The Journal of Labor and Society(December 2008)

 “’Welfare’s A Green Problem’: Cross-Race Coalitions in the Welfare Rights Movement” in Feminist Coalitions, ed. Stephanie Gilmore (University of Illinois Press, 2008)

“From Widow to ‘Welfare Queen’:  Welfare and the Politics of Race” Black Women, Gender, and Families, (Fall 2007)

"Expanding the Boundaries of the Women's Movement:  Black Feminism and the Struggle for Welfare Rights" Feminist Studies (Summer 2002)