Daina Coffey

Daina Coffey, CSRPC Residential Fellow; Ph.D. Candidate, Dept. of History

CSRPC Residential Fellow; Ph.D. Candidate, Dept. of History

Daina Coffey is a Ph.D. Candidate in United States History and a Residential Fellow at the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture. Her teaching and research focuses on race, gender, and capitalism as well as urban and legal history.

Coffey’s dissertation project is essentially a social history of the Great Depression in Los Angeles, in which she examines how categories of race, gender, and immigrant status structured the city’s labor market and the day-to-day experiences of the city’s residents. The city of Los Angeles had experienced decades of explosive growth when the Depression hit, and it continued to experience a population gain during the course of the 1930s (one of only two major U.S. cities to encounter this). Coffey’s project thus examines a highly multicultural and rapidly growing city and focuses on the material aspects of daily survival and the structural impediments to economic mobility—all during a severe crisis in capitalism. To do this, she weaves together sources such as employment agency receipt books listing Mexican day-laborers and diaries of seamstresses and schoolteachers as well as city council meeting minutes, chamber of commerce newsletters, personal correspondence, newspapers, and contemporary sociological studies.

This research, drawing on sources from several archives, has been generously supported by the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA and the Social Sciences Division at the University of Chicago.

Prior to moving to Chicago, Coffey earned a BA in History and Spanish at the University of California, Berkeley. She also worked for several years as an administrative director at a nonprofit substance abuse recovery program in Berkeley, and she has previously worked as an intern at the Seaver Center for Western History Research at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles.