Born in Louisville, Kentucky into a journalism family, Emily early on decided she wanted to write. Among her grade-school efforts was a poem inspired by the typewriter he father gave her as a child, and on which he would type bedtime stories as he told them. The poem, “Type Writer,” weighed the options: poet, novelist, journalist.
She wrote for several newspapers prior to graduating from college and spent a summer happily reading the slush pile at a New York publishing house. After earning a B.A. in history from Harvard under southern historian and biographer David Herbert Donald, Emily pursued academic work at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. For her Ph.D. dissertation, she took the unusual step of writing a family biography. Her great-aunt Henrietta’s extraordinary courage and allure first struck her when, as a graduate student, she conducted an an oral history project with her grandmother, Mary Caperton Bingham (above right).
Since returning to Kentucky, Emily has taught at Centre College in Danville and at Bellarmine University, University of Louisville, and St. Francis High School in her home town. She has lectured on her research on domestic labor and the evolution of the state song, “My Old Kentucky Home,” and her essays, articles, and reviews have appeared in Vogue, The Journal of Southern History, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, and New England Review. Her books are Irrepressible: The Jazz Age Life of Henrietta Bingham (2015), Mordecai: An Early American Family (2003), and, as editor with Thomas A. Underwood, The Southern Agrarians and the New Deal: Essays After I’ll Take My Stand (2001). She and her husband, Stephen Reily have three children.