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Imagining Research, Researching Imagination

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Writers House at Rutgers University-Camden

305 Cooper Street

Camden, New Jersey 08102

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Novelist Janet Benton, author of Lilli de Jong, a novel about an unwed mother in 1883 Philadelphia, and historian Janet Golden (Rutgers-Camden) come together to explore the ways imagination and research inform the writing of both fiction and history, drawing on their mutual interest in the history of mothers and infants. Books will be for sale following the conversation.


Janet Benton’s debut novel, Lilli de Jong, is the diary of an unwed mother in 1883 Philadelphia (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, May 2017). Kirkus Reviews calls it a “monumental accomplishment.” Amazon picked it as a Best Book of May in Literature/Fiction. Other stellar reviews are out in Booklist, Library Journal (starred), BookPage, Publishers Weekly, and elsewhere. Her writings have appeared in the New York Times Modern Love column, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Writers Digest, Glimmer Train, and elsewhere. She has edited and co-written award-winning TV documentaries for The Great Experiment, a series on Philadelphia history. Benton holds an M.F.A. in fiction writing from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and a B. A. in religious studies from Oberlin College. She has taught writing at four universities and has taught private workshops for two decades. Through her business, The Word Studio, she mentors writers.

Janet Golden, Ph.D., is Professor of History at Rutgers University where she specializes in the history of medicine, history of childhood, women’s history and American social history. She is the author or editor of nine books, and the author or co-author numerous peer-reviewed articles. She co-edits the Critical Issues in Health and Medicine Series at Rutgers University Press and the Philadelphia Inquirer’s public health blog “The Public’s Health.”Dr. Golden is the recipient of numerous grants and fellowships, including those awarded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Commonwealth Fund, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. She is a member of the Sigerist Circle and of the Executive Council of Rutgers AAUP/AFT. She is currently writing a history of babies in twentieth-century America focused on the decline of collective interest in their welfare. The book interweaves medical, political, and cultural history, and draws from a vast array of primary sources. Support for this project comes in part from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Hartman Center Archives of Duke University, a Charles Donald O’Malley Research Fellowship from UCLA Medical School, and a research support grant from the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe. She was a Visiting Fellow at the University of Sydney, Australia, in spring 2015.

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Writers House at Rutgers University-Camden

305 Cooper Street

Camden, New Jersey 08102

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