Storrs specializes in 20th-century U.S. social and political history, particularly in the history of women, social movements, and social policy. Her current research examines the work of the U.S. social scientist Caroline Ware on international programs for community development and for women’s empowerment, primarily in Latin America, during the post-1945 decades. Caroline Ware was one of the protagonists of Storrs’ 2012 book, The Second Red Scare and the Unmaking of the New Deal Left (Princeton University Press, 2012). Using newly declassified government records, Second Red Scare showed that the federal employee loyalty program—created in the 1940s in response to fears that Communists were infiltrating the U.S. government—rigidly constrained policymaking in fields including public assistance, national health insurance, labor and consumer protection, civil rights, and international aid. The loyalty program not only destroyed or redirected the careers of many noncommunist officials, it prohibited discussion of social democratic policy ideas in government circles—narrowing the scope of American political discourse to this day. The book also documented the antifeminism of the Old Right, showing how conservatives exploited popular hostility to female government officials in order to discredit left-liberal policies.
Storrs’ first book, Civilizing Capitalism: The National Consumers’ League, Women’s Activism, and Labor Standards in the New Deal Era (University of North Carolina Press, 2000). analyzed female reformers’ campaign for state and national wage-hour laws during the Great Depression, when industry migration toward low-cost labor in the U.S. South was driving down wages nationwide.
Storrs came to the University of Iowa in 2012 from the University of Houston. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1994 and her B.A. from Yale in 1983.