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Elizabeth Fones-Wolf, Ph.D.


Teaching Fields

  • Twentieth-century U.S.
  • Cold War
  • U.S. business
  • Economic and labor history
  • Hollywood and history


  • Ph.D., University of Massachusetts, 1990
  • M.A., University of Maryland, 1979
  • B.A., University of Maryland, 1976

Research Interests

Dr. Fones-Wolf's scholarship has focused on different aspects of twentieth century political, economic, and social history. A major theme of much of this work has been the struggle between organized labor and business to shape the ideas and images that constituted America’s political culture. Her first book Selling Free Enterprise: The Business Assault on Labor and Liberalism (1994) examined the ways business’s political and economic ideology permeated American society from the shop floor to the classroom, to the church, and the political arena during the late forties and fifties. It offers an answer for one of the most important questions in recent American history: how did a majority of Americans come to give uncritical support for big business and the market while growing increasingly suspicious of organized labor and government? 

This project led to a second book, Waves of Opposition (2006), in which she explored in greater depth organized labor’s efforts to challenge corporate domination of the mass media, particularly radio. Through the Depression and World War II, unionists vigorously fought efforts to ensure that labor had access to broadcasting, and they joined a loose coalition of reformers which fought unchecked commercialism, promoted public service, and sought to make radio more representative and democratic.

She recently published a book co-authored with Ken Fones-Wolf, Struggle for the Soul of the Postwar South: White Evangelical Protestants and Operation Dixie (University of Illinois Press, 2015) exploring religion, class relations, and politics in modern America. This work began in the early eighties with an article on the Progressive Era in an path-breaking labor history collection, Working Class America (1983). She and Ken have come back to the topic in the ensuing years. Indeed, Selling Free Enterprise explored the interaction of the business community and Protestant churches following World War II. In 1998 and 1999, she published two articles with Ken Fones-Wolf on the relationship between Protestantism and organized labor’s struggle for social justice. The latter article won the 1999 Woodrow Wilson Award for best scholarly article in American Presbyterian/Reformed history and Struggle for the Soul of the Postwar South won the 2015 Organization of American Historians David Montgomery Book Prize.

Selected Publications

Struggle for the Soul of the Postwar South: White Evangelical Protestants and Operation Dixie), University of Illinois Press, 2015 (Winner of Organization of American Historians David Montgomery Book Prize)

Waves of Opposition: Labor and the Struggle for Democratic Radio, 1933-58, University of Illinois Press, 2006.

Selling Free Enterprise: The Business Assault on Labor and Liberalism, 1945-60, University of Illinois Press, 1994 (winner of Phi Alpha Theta’s First Book Award, 1995).

Co-author, “Shirtsleeve Religion:  Business and the Post-War Industrial Chaplain
Movement,”  Business History Review (Spring 2015)

Co-author, An Adversary for Mr. Bryan:  West Virginia’s Forgotten Contribution to the Antievolution Crusade,” West Virginia History (Fall 20`4):  47-69

Co-author, “Religion, Human Relations, and Union Avoidance in the 1950s: The Electrical Industry’s Southern Strategy and Its Limits,” Enterprise and Society (March 2012): 154-85.

“No Laughing Matter: The UAW and Gender Construction in Labor Radio in Fifties America,” Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas 8 (Spring 2011): 77-108.

Co-author, “No Common Creed: White Working-Class Protestants and the CIO’s Operation Dixie,” in Donna Haverty-Stacke and Daniel J. Walkowitz, Continuum Companion to United States Labor History, Continuum Books, 2010.

Co-author, “Sanctifying the Southern Organizing Campaign: Protestant Activists in the CIO’s Operation Dixie,” Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas, Spring 2009 (winner, Labor Best Article Award, 2009).

“Broadcasting Unionism: Labor and FM Radio in Postwar America,” in Michael C. Keith, ed., Radio Cultures: The Sound Medium in American Life, Peter Lang, 2008.