jennifer reiss

jennifer reiss

MANALAPAN –  The Monmouth County Library  recently received an $800 grant from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History which will enable the library to virtually present a unique program from the Institute’s national initiative on Revisiting the Founding Era.

Donna Mansfield, at the Eastern Branch of the county library system, wrote the grant awarded by the Institute that teaches both scholars and the general public about American History. The Institute also maintains the Gilder Lehrman Collection and other archives to promote American history education.

The grant secured by Mansfield will feature a presentation by noted historian and doctoral candidate Jennifer W. Reiss highlighting the significant contributions of little known Founding Father Gouverneur Morris on  May 18. Information nonregistration for the program is included at the library’s web site at


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This program is part of Revisiting the Founding Era, a three-year national initiative of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History presented in partnership with the American Library Association and the National Constitution Center, with generous support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

“We are grateful to Donna for writing and securing this grant,” said County Commissioner Lillian G. Burry, liaison from the County Commission to the library. “Ms. Reiss is a unique historian who has long since proven she captures the personality, problems and best attributes of each of the personages in history whom she researches and presents. To have her present this program for our Monmouth County audience is one more example of how our library system is innovative and in the forefront of seeking the best and the most interesting, be it within the walls of the library or through the wonders of modern technology that brings our speakers directly into the homes of our members.”

Reiss,  a Ph.D. student working on the North Atlantic in the 18th century, is particularly interested in women and gender, early modern medicine and disability, British and early American legal history, popular and material culture, and Loyalism during and after the American Revolution.  As an undergraduate, she completed an internship in the Penn Archives on  the struggle for control of the University of Pennsylvania, which questioned the University’s hagiographic elevation of Benjamin Franklin in light of evidence he worked to undermine the institution in its early years. Her M.Phil. dissertation looked at 18th century female-led domestic medical practice in the context of globalization, enlightenment learning, and ideas of authority in the British Atlantic.  Her first research project in the Ph.D. program features Gouverneur Morris and the nuances of physical disability in Early America, and attempted to understand how Morris, the early American statesman and diplomat, negotiated his multiple physical impairments alongside class and gender expectations in the early Republic. Her most recent project uncovers an early discourse of publicity rights and earlier British copyright litigation.

Prior to in depth studies and research on American history, Reiss was an attorney practicing in New York and London and an associate at the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at New York University School of Law. She also worked with a Council of Europe legal team on the reorganization of the European Court of Human Rights and has represented asylum seekers in both the U.S. and U.K.  Reiss has published on European law, human rights law and intellectual property law, and continues to maintain an interest in the history of human rights and the impact of law on art and culture.

She holds degrees from the University of Cambridge (Corpus Christi College), Harvard Law School, University of Cambridge (Sidney Sussex College), and the  University of Pennsylvania, where she was also awarded college and Benjamin Franklin honors.

Mansfield had originally submitted for a grant from the Institute in 2018 and was invited to apply again for the most recent grant from the Institute to underwrite the cost of a single program. She selected Reiss’s presentation for the grant because of the educator’s large appeal to adults as well as high school students  The librarian also noted Morris is a particularly fascinating subject since he contributed so much to the founding the nation, yet appears to be a relatively unknown in the 21st century.

“I congratulate Ms Mansfield and the Monmouth County library staff,” said Library Commission Chairman Nancy Grebelja, “this is a very prestigious grant and the program selected by Donna is exceptional not only for the subject matter but also because of the excellence of Ms Reiss as a presenter.  Mr. Morris has often been referred to as “the Forgotten Founding Father,” and the speaker’s presentation will help people rediscover him. In Monmouth County where so many people and places played such vital and fascinating roles in the founding of the nation, this particular program will be a highlight among the many the library offers throughout the year.”

For more information on this and all the programs offered by the Monmouth County library, visit Registration for virtual programs is also available on the website, under Upcoming Events.

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Muriel J. Smith

Muriel J Smith

Muriel J Smith an award-winning journalist, former newspaper editor, book author and historian, Her newest venture is her blog, in...