Lea VanderVelde

Lea VanderVelde (2)
Josephine R. Witte Chair

Lea VanderVelde researches 19th century lives, court decisions, and other occurrences that significantly impacted the course of American law, particularly in the areas of slavery, work, property, and the Constitution.  She is the author of Mrs. Dred Scott, the biography, Redemption Songs, and The Labor Vision of the Thirteenth Amendment.  Her current biography projects are William M’Intosh and the heroes of the Reconstruction Congress.

She is currently using digital research technologies to examine American national expansion in the critical years before the Civil War and the Reconstruction Congress debates that enhanced American freedom.

She works with Kailash Satyarthi, who she nominated for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, to end child slavery and child labor and consulted on the film, The Price of Free, which won the Sundance Film festival award for best documentary in 2018.  She is working with the Missouri Archives to create the VanderVelde Calendar of the Chouteau Papers on the Fur Trade.  

As principal investigator for The Law of the Antebellum Frontier project at the Stanford Spatial History Lab, she is analyzing the legal and cultural mechanisms at work in developing states out of U.S. territories. More about the project can be found here. In 2011 she was the Guggenheim fellow in Constitutional Studies and she was just recently, 2019, awarded the May Brodbeck fellowship for the Humanities.

For more on Professor VanderVelde's scholarship in the studio series, visit vandervelde.studio.uiowa.edu.

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Practice and Teaching: 

  • Constitutional Law
  • Slavery and Freedom 
  • 19th c. American Legal History
  • Property Law
  • Land Use
  • Labor, Employment, & Work Law
  • Gender & the Law
  • Law of the Frontier


  • BS, University of Wisconsin, 1974
  • JD, University of Wisconsin, 1978


  • Wisconsin Bar
  • Labor Law Group
  • American Law Institute