Specializes in United States history, particularly women's and gender history and the history of the American South. Professor Spruill teaches courses in U. S. women's history, southern history, recent American history, and historical methodology. She is the author of New Women of the New South: The Leaders of the Woman Suffrage Movement in the Southern States (Oxford University Press) and the editor of One Woman, One Vote: Rediscovering the Woman Suffrage Movement (NewSage Press);VOTES FOR WOMEN! The Woman Suffrage Movement in Tennessee, the South, and the Nation (University of Tennessee Press). She is co-editor of The South in the History of the Nation: A Reader (Bedford/St. Martin's); the three-volume anthology South Carolina Women: Their Lives and Times, (University of Georgia Press), and a two-volume Mississippi Women: Their Histories, Their Lives. Spruill has served as a member of the Executive Committee of the Southern Historical Association, and president of the Southern Association for Women Historians. She has served on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Southern History and is currently on the Editorial Board of the Journal of American Studies, the journal of the British Association for American Studies (BAAS). She was a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University in 2006-2007. In 2010-2011 she was a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. In 2011-2012 she had a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and was a Resident Associate at the National Humanities Center. Her work has also been supported by the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation.
Spruill has a new book entitled DIVIDED WE STAND: The Battle Over Women’s Rights and Family Values That Polarized American Politics. (Bloomsbury 2017). It is about the transformation of American political culture and the origins of the highly partisan, deeply polarized politics of today. Spruill focuses on the 1970s, particularly the federally-sponsored International Women’s Year conferences of 1977 when feminists drafted a National Plan of Action and conservative women, organizing in opposition, created a “Pro-Family Movement” to counter feminist influence in politics. An epilogue continues the story from 1980 through the 2016 presidential election. Spruill argues that the great debates of the 1970s over women's rights and social roles were transformative. While in the early 1970s both major political parties supported the goals of the women’s rights movement, after 1980 – when the GOP chose to cast itself as the defender of family values -- American politics would never be the same. Spruill argues that the issues that divided American women into warring camps in the 1970s and divided the major parties have continued to shape the political discourse that dominates national politics, devaluing moderation and compromise and producing political gridlock.