From her first days at Scarsdale High School, Liz Cohen was marked as a student of nearly limitless potential. Prior to her senior year, she was selected an AFS student to Japan. In 1973, Cohen was admitted to Princeton University in the cohort of women who were the first to be enrolled there. At Princeton she majored in History. Her senior paper was entitled Beneath Cotton and Lace: the Plantation Legacy of the Southern Woman.
After graduation, Cohen taught briefly at the Needham, Massachusetts junior high school. For her, the highlight of that experience was a visit to Old Sturbridge Village. Later she secured a grant that enabled her to introduce a parsonage with a role-playing parson.which remains one of the highlights of a visit to Old Sturbridge Village today.
Following a period of work at history and art museums, Cohen returned to university life at the University of California, Berkeley, where she earned a masters degree and a Ph.D. College teaching followed, first at Carnegie Mellon University, then New York University, and finally Harvard University, where she holds the Howard Mumford Jones chair in American Studies.
She is the author of a number of essays ranging from political history to material and popular culture. In 1990, she wrote Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919-1939. That work was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in history and won the Bancroft Prize for Distinguished Work in American History. Four years ago, Cohen completed a second book, A Consumer’s Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Post-War America.
In the secondary school world, Lizabeth Cohen is a very well-known name. Her textbook, The American Pageant, which she co-authored with David Kennedy, is by yards the most used text in Advanced Placement United States History classes in the United States. Cohen continues her interest in secondary education to this day, most recently participating in a conference at the University of Virginia on the education of future history teachers.