Julie Novkov and Victoria Woeste Take Over Landmark Law Cases Series at Kansas

by David Congdon

The University Press of Kansas (UPK) welcomes renowned legal historians Julie Novkov and Victoria Saker Woeste as the new editors of the long-running and esteemed series of books on Landmark Law Cases and American Society. The Landmark Law Cases series began in 1997 under the guidance of Peter Charles Hoffer and N. E. H. Hull, who brought together a group of leading historians, law professors, and political scientists to discuss the nation’s most important legal decisions. To date, UPK has published 79 titles in the series, with over a dozen more in the works.

Professor Novkov is the dean of Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy and a professor of political science and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at the University at Albany, SUNY. Her research and teaching are situated at the intersection of law, history, US political development, and subordinated identity. A scholar of constitutional development, she is particularly interested in the way that the law defines and translates categories associated with identity, such as race and gender, and the ways that these categories transform and are transformed by legal discourse. Professor Novkov is the author of three books, most recently coauthoring, with Carol Nackenoff, American by Birth: Wong Kim Ark and the Battle for Citizenship (Kansas, 2021)—a volume in the Landmark series that tells the story of how a late-nineteenth-century case involving a Chinese American cook established the principle that the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees citizenship to persons born in the United States. Her other books include Racial Union: Law, Intimacy, and the White State in Alabama, 1865–1954 (Michigan, 2008), which was the corecipient of the American Political Science Association’s 2009 Ralph J. Bunche Award for the best scholarly work in political science, and Constituting Workers, Protecting Women: Gender, Law and Labor in the Progressive Era and New Deal Years (Michigan, 2001).

Professor Woeste is an adjunct professor of law at Indiana University McKinney School of Law and an affiliated research professor at the American Bar Foundation. Her research interests lie at the intersection of social and legal change. She studies how law, rather than being a static statement of values, is a dynamic, integral part of how societies develop over time. By examining how individuals and organizations understand and use law to improve their lives or to legitimate discrimination and oppression, she sheds light on the effects of legal change on social practices and economic mobility. Her most recent book, Henry Ford’s War on Jews and the Legal Battle Against Hate Speech (Stanford, 2013), relates the story of Ford’s antisemitic, libelous campaign against prominent Jewish Americans during the 1920s using previously undiscovered, unpublished sources. Her first book, The Farmer’s Benevolent Trust: Law and Agricultural Cooperation in Industrial America, 1865–1945 (North Carolina, 1998), tells the unknown history of monopolistic organizations that enabled farmers to set prices for their crops much as labor unions act on behalf of workers.

Professors Novkov and Woeste are interested in acquiring books on a range of topics for the series, including new histories of the Supreme Court’s economic rights jurisprudence since 1952, work on the changing nature and shape of the administrative state, nineteenth-century women’s work and property, and the uses and misuses of history in law and jurisprudence. They hope to recruit books on more of the unheralded New Deal cases, such as those dealing with economic federalism (i.e., Parker v. Brown, 1943), and post-Brown desegregation controversies that are particularly relevant to the recent affirmative action cases.