About Melissa

Melissa R. Klapper (CBA ’16), PhD, is Professor of History at Rowan University in Glassboro, NJ, where she teaches American, Jewish, and women’s history, and has served as Director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program.  She is the author of Jewish Girls Coming of Age in America, 1860-1920 (NYU Press, 2005) and Small Strangers: The Experiences of Immigrant Children in the United States, 1880-1925 (Ivan R. Dee, Publisher, 2007).  Klapper is active in numerous scholarly societies and lectures frequently in academic and community venues.  Her scholarship has won numerous awards, grants, and fellowships from the American Jewish Archives Center, the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Schlesinger Library on the History of American Women at Harvard University, and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, among others.  Her most recent book, Ballots, Babies, and Banners of Peace: American Jewish Women’s Activism, 1890-1940 (NYU Press, 2013), won the 2013 National Jewish Book Award in Women’s Studies.

Ballet Class: An American History

Ballet Class: An American History explored the twentieth-century growth of ballet class as an extracurricular activity integral to a certain kind of gender, class, and race-inflected childhood. The significance of an elite art form to popular conceptions of childhood is apparent in the availability of ballet classes throughout all regions of the country, particularly post-World War II, and in the interest of racial and ethnic minority groups in providing ballet classes to their children as a means of displaying social mobility and aspirations for what was perceived as an “American” childhood. The book explored children’s own experiences while also contextualizing ballet as a critical field for socializing young people, improving children’s physical fitness, exposing mass audiences to modern and then postmodern art forms, and creating a set of highly gendered childhood experiences shared across class and racial boundaries that led to appreciation of the art and discipline of ballet.