Bod Magazine – Kelly Erby Profile – DO NOT PUBLISH

Anzhelika Tolstikhina

In the quiet atmosphere of the history department, one can find Kelly Erby, a professor with energy and enthusiasm in spades.

This September will mark the publication of Erby’s book “Restaurant Republic: The Rise of Public Dining in Boston,” which will take its readers back to the 19th century American culinary scene where the dining out trend boomed in correlation with the nation’s mass urbanization and industrialization.

Before joining Washburn’s faculty, Erby was a dual instructor and teaching assistant at Emory University in 2007. She later moved on to teach at Oglethorpe University, working as a Mellon Graduate Teaching Fellow in Agnes Scott College and was a visiting lecturer for Georgia State University.

Ever since her childhood, Erby has read historical fiction and written stories. The pivotal period in Erby’s life was at the beginning of her undergraduate education when she enrolled as a history and pre-law double major. After taking a few history classes Erby realized her natural desire to research and write about history, which affected her decision to take up law to better focus on historical research.

“I saw history as a way to write and do research, and I just liked the idea of it,” Erby said.

In graduate school, she became fascinated with 19th century U.S. history.

“This period was foreign and introduced many new traditions that our society now takes for granted, such as eating out at restaurants,” Erby said. “I was really interested in how America had democratic values on one hand, trying to forge the sense of national identity, but at the same time there are all of these differences in society when it becomes more stratified.”

Having received a bachelor of arts from Ohio State University and a master’s of arts from Emory University, Kelly continued her education by conducting her doctorate research on 19th century American social and cultural history of cuisine and dining. Beginning her thesis back in 2007, Erby has finally finished her extensive research that has culminated into a more than 200-page book.

Erby said that her original dissertation topic was on diplomacy in the Cold War, but the summer before the doctorate work began she had read a book called “Something from the Oven.”

“The author wrote about how in 1950 cooking was empowering to women, which fascinated me,” Erby said.

In her own book “Restaurant Republic,” Erby uses commercial dining as a lens to the 19th century America in which it promotes the growing fragmentation of race, class and gender. Her work will be published by the University of Minnesota Press.

“Minnesota Press sent out the draft of ‘Restaurant Republic’ to peer reviewers, which have expertise in my topic,” Erby said. “So then they have read my book and provided the feedback.”

“Restaurant Republic” will be available on and in the Ichabod Shop.