Authors: Louise A. Tilly

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American historian, feminist, and sociologist

Author Works


The Rebellious Century, 1830-1930, 1975 (with Charles Tilly and Richard Tilly)

Women, Work, and Family, 1978, 2d edition 1987 (with Joan W. Scott)

Computer Chips and Paper Clips: Technology and Women’s Employment, 1986 (with Heidi Hartmann and Robert Kraut)

Politics and Class in Milan, 1881-1901, 1992

Individual and Gender Inequality, 1993

Edited Texts:

Class Conflict and Collective Action, 1981 (with Charles Tilly)

Feminist Re-Visions: What Has Been and Might Be, 1983 (with Vivian Patraka)

Women, Politics, and Change, 1990 (with Patricia Gurin)

The European Experience of Declining Fertility, 1850-1970: The Quiet Revolution, 1992 (with John Gillis and David Levine)

European Integration in Social and Historical Perspective: 1850 to the Present, 1997


Mémé Santerre: A French Woman of the People, 1985 (of Serge Grafteau)


Louise Audino Tilly has been a pioneer in using sociological and statistical methods in the historical study of women, labor, and family life in modern Europe. She was the daughter of Hector (an engineer) and Piera (an artist) Audino. After graduating with a B.A. with high honors in history from Rutgers University in 1952, she married sociologist Charles Tilly in 1953. Two years later, she graduated with an M.A. from Boston University and in 1974 was awarded a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto. She is the mother of four children: Christopher, Kathryn, Laura, and Sarah.{$I[A]Tilly, Louise A.}{$I[geo]WOMEN;Tilly, Louise A.}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Tilly, Louise A.}{$I[tim]1930;Tilly, Louise A.}

Tilly has had an active and successful academic career. In 1971, she began her teaching career at the Flint campus of the University of Michigan, and since then she has taught at several major universities, including the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and Princeton University. In 1984, she became a professor of history and sociology at the New School for Social Research in New York, where she also served as chair of the Committee on Historical Studies. She has evaluated grant proposals for numerous foundations, including the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 1993, she was elected president of the American Historical Association, one of the most prestigious achievements within the historical profession.

Her writings have dealt with various aspects of social history, conditions of workers, and changing gender roles. In methods, she has emphasized quantitative data, sociological concepts, and comparisons among various places in the world. Her works have examined the lives of average persons rather than leaders and the wealthy elite; they have focused on the small-scale effects of large-scale social change within particular historical settings. Like many social historians, she has attempted to orient her work to themes relevant to current issues and possible social reforms.

Tilly has authored or coauthored at least eleven books and has published scores of scholarly articles in journals of history and sociology. Her first book, The Rebellious Century, written with Charles and Richard Tilly, was a comparative analysis of violent upheavals in France, Italy, and Germany, from the revolution of 1830 until the eve of Adolf Hitler’s accession to power. The highly influential work Women, Work, and Family, written with Joan Scott, is a comparative study of working-class women’s lives in Europe. It explores the impact of the Industrial Revolution on women’s employment opportunities and family relations. Using sophisticated statistical techniques, Scott and Tilly demonstrated that women generally worked because of the financial needs of their families and that, in the workplace, they were under male authority with increasing frequency.

Tilly’s book Politics and Class in Milan, 1881-1901 explores the relationship between the working class and the rise of the socialist movement in the city of Milan. Tilly also translated and edited Mémé Santerre: A French Woman of the People, which gives a firsthand account of a poor woman who was born in 1891. Because the family of Mémé Santerre migrated seasonally between work in the hand-weaving of linen and commercial agriculture, Tilly believes that the book provides an exceptionally rich description of work early in the twentieth century.

Tilly has not written her books and articles for a large audience; she has written them mostly for professional historians and social scientists. Early in the twenty-first century, she was busy working on an ambitious project concerning the ways in which modernization, socioeconomic classes, and the development of welfare states have shaped gender relations and family structures throughout the world.

BibliographyScanlon, Jennifer, and Shaaron Cosner. American Women Historians, 1700’s-1900’s: A Biographical Dictionary. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996. An excellent summary of the lives, careers, and writings of a large number of female historians, including Tilly.Zinsser, Judith P. History and Feminism: A Glass Half Full. New York: Twayne, 1993. An interesting and informative account of feminist historiography since the 1970’s, with an emphasis on individual writers.
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