Virginia Cain

Virginia Cain


  • United States History
  • Gender and Women's History
  • History of Race
  • Southern History



  • MA, The University of Alabama, 2014
  • BA, Furman University, 2010

Research Interests

  • Long 19th Century in the U.S.
  • Gender and Race in the U.S. South
  • Sex, Sexuality, and Vice in the Urban U.S. South
  • LGBTQ+ U.S. History
  • American Reform Movements

Current Projects

  • My dissertation explores how sex workers affected the development of Birmingham, Alabama and Nashville, Tennessee between 1870 and 1920. At the turn-of-the-century, both cities experienced explosive growth that outpaced organized infrastructure and political, legal, moral, and economic institutions. My work centers sex workers as subjects, rather than objects of reformers’ attention or members of a criminal fringe element. Female sex workers capitalized on the chaos by spending money or leveraging their social connections to protect their own interests against reform efforts. Several madams became powerful enough to direct some elements of urban development.

Recent Publications

  • “Grace’s Places: One Madam’s Reign in Nashville, Tennessee 1894-1933,” accepted for publication in the Tennessee Historical Quarterly.
  • “Red Mountain Ladies: How Prostitution Shaped Birmingham, Alabama from 1871-1920,” Alabama Review 76, no.2 (April 2023): 87-120.

Awards & Honors

  • Christopher G. Swindle Teaching Award, Department of History, The University of Alabama, 2017
  • Departmental Graduate Research Fellowship, Department of History, The University of Alabama, 2019
  • Graduate Teaching Fellow, Department of History, The University of Alabama, 2020.