Professor O’Brien received her Ph.D. at UCLA. She is the executive officer (chair) of the Ph.D./M.A. Program in Political Science and a professor of government at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Her primary teaching interest is American political development.
O’Brien has published several books including: Bodies in Revolt: Gender, Disability, and a Workplace Ethic of Care (Routledge, 2005); Crippled Justice: The History of Modern Disability Policy in the Workplace (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), which received an honorable mention from the Gustavus Meyers Center for the Study of Human Rights and Bigotry, 2002; and Workers’ Paradox: The Republican Origins of the New Deal Labor Policy, 1886-1935 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998).
O’Brien also has published articles in Polity, Texas Journal of Women and the Law, Studies in American Political Development, Labor Studies Journal, International Contributions to Labour Studies and Law and Social Inquiry as well as a forthcoming article in SIGNS entitled, "Other Voices at the Workplace: Gender, Disability and An Alternative Ethic of Care." O’Brien also edited and wrote legal analysis for Voices from the Edge: Narratives about the Americans with Disabilities Act (Oxford University Press, 2004).
O’Brien has served on the American Political Science Executive Program Committee as a co-chair (with Jeffrey Tulis) for the Politics and History section, as a member of the Politics and History Executive Council of the American Political Science Association, and Committee on the Status of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and the Transgender in the Profession. She directed a Fulbright State Department Summer Institute that hosted 18 international scholars for six weeks on American Political Development: The Rise to Globalism (read "America as Empire"). O’Brien was the 2003 nominee by KPFK (the radio station in Los Angeles that houses Pacifica) for the American Bar Association Silver Gavel Award for radio commentary on the judiciary, where she gives commentary regularly. Finally, she’s become the series editor for a speaker/book series published by Princeton Press, entitled The Public Square. Professor O’Brien and Risa Lieberwitz are currently editing a book of short stories that will illustrate the federal courts’ interpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
- Bodies in Revolt: Gender, Disability and a Workplace Ethic of Care. Routledge, 2005.
- O’Brien, Ruth ed. Voices from the Edge: Narratives about the Americans with Disabilities Act. Oxford University Press, 2004.
- Crippled Justice: The History of Modern Disability Policy in the Workplace. The University of Chicago Press, 2001.
- Workers’ Paradox: The Republican Origins of New Deal Labor Policy, 1886-1935. University of North Carolina Press, 1998.
- "Other Voices at the Workplace: Gender, Disability, and an Alternative Ethic of Care." Signs (Winter 2005).
- "From a Doctor’s to a Judge’s Gaze: Epistemic Communities and the History of Disability Rights Policy in the Workplace." 35 Polity. (2003).
- "A Subversive Act: The Americans with Disabilities Act, Foucault, and an Alternative Ethic of Care at the Global Workplace." 13 Texas Journal of Women and the Law. 1 (December 2003).
- "More Than a Historian: The Political and Economic Thought of Charles A. Beard by Clyde W. Barrow." 96 American Political Science Review (2002).
- "‘A Sweat Shop of the Whole Nation’: The Fair Labor Standard Act and the Failure of Regulatory Unionism." 15 Studies in American Political Development (2001).