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Catherine Denial


Catherine Denial

Mary Elizabeth Hand Bright and Edwin Winslow Bright Distinguished Professor & Chair of American History

2 East South Street

Galesburg, IL 61401



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Ford Center for the Fine Arts

Mary Elizabeth Hand Bright and Edwin Winslow Bright Distinguished Professor & Chair of American History; Director of the Bright Institute at Knox College

Catherine Denial

General Interests
"I’m currently writing a book called A Pedagogy of Kindness, under contract with West Virginia University Press, which explores the discipline of teaching with compassion. People often confuse kindness with simply “being nice.”  But kindness requires that a commitment to justice be front and center in our teaching in order for us to co-create incredible learning opportunities with our students.

My historical research has focused on nineteen-century marriage, divorce, pregnancy, childbirth, and infancy among Native and non-Native communities in what we currently call Minnesota. By looking at interpersonal relationships, I’m able to gain a new perspective on who had what power in the region at any given moment, and offer new ways to think about Native resistance to American colonialism."

Years at Knox: 2005 to present

Ph.D., History, 2005, University of Iowa.
MA, History, 1996, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
B.A., (Hons), American Studies, 1994, University of Nottingham.

Teaching Interests
Women, Gender, and Sexuality; Native and Indigenous History; Pedagogy.

Full Curriculum Vitae - (PDF)

Personal Website

Selected Professional Accomplishments


  • Exceptional Achievement Award, Knox College, 2020.
  • Philip Green Wright/Lombard College Teaching Award Winner for Tenured Faculty, Knox College, 2019.
  • American Historical Association, Eugene Asher Distinguished Teaching Award, 2018.
  • Knox College TRIO Program Outstanding Educator of the Year, 2018.
  • Selected for the Society of Historians of the Early American Republic’s Second-Book Writers’ Workshop, SHEAR Annual Meeting, July 19 2018.
  • Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowship, American Philosophical Society, June-July 2018, Philadelphia, PA, $3000.
  • FaCE Grant, with Katherine Tegtmeyer Pak, Adrienne Falcon, Emily A. Bowman, Eric Popkin, Javier Escandell, “Sharing Expertise in Community-Based Learning & Research Addressing Immigration,” Associated Colleges of the Midwest, $25,504, 2017.  


“Time to Get Serious: Training Graduate Students in Teaching,” Teaching History: A Journal of Methods, 46:1 (2021): 29.

“Feminism, Pedagogy, and a Pandemic,” Journal of Women’s History, 33:1 (Spring 2021): 134-139.

“A Pedagogy of Kindness,” in Jesse Stommel, Chris Friend, and Sean Michael Morris, Critical Digital Pedagogy: A Collection. Washington, D.C.: Hybrid Pedagogy, Inc, 2020, 212-218.

“Ethics and the Practice of History,” in Ron Iphofen, ed. Handbook of Research Ethics and Scientific Integrity. Cham, Switzerland: Springer Nature, 2020.

“Beginning Again: Online Pedagogy Sent My Teaching Back to Square One,” Eidolon, July 27.

“The Complexities of Certainty,” Guest Post, Just Visiting, Inside Higher Ed, April 26.

“‘Mother of all the living’: Motherhood, Religion, and Political Culture at the Ojibwe Village of Fond du Lac, 1835-1839,” Early American Studies. 17:4 (Fall 2019): 443-473.

“How I Met My Mother: The Tale of an Unexpected Pregnancy,” Nursing Clio, Wednesday, June 5, 2019.

“How to Actually Build Relationships With Your Professors,” Teen Vogue, October 11, 2018.

“The Privilege of Despair,” Nursing Clio, October 8, 2018.

"The Subjective Self: Teaching Student Historians to ask 'Who Am I?'"Syllabus. 5:2 (2016).

Making Marriage: Husbands, Wives, and the American State in Dakota and Ojibwe Country. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2013.

"Atoms, Honeycombs, and Fabric Scraps: Rethinking Timelines in the Undergraduate Classroom," The History Teacher, 46:3 (May 2013): 415-434.

" Pelagie Farribault's Island: Property, Kinship, and the Contested Meaning of Marriage in Dakota Country," Minnesota History. 62:2 (Summer 2010): 48-59.


Keynote Speaker, Florida Southwestern Community College Summer Institute Series, Florida Southwestern Community College, (Virtual), June 21, 2021.

“Making the Grade: An Introduction to Ungrading,” LectureBreakers Summer Conference 2021, (Virtual), June 10, 2021.

“Pelagie Faribault’s Island: Marriage, Land, and Resistance in Nineteenth-Century Mni Sota Makoce,” Mendota After Hours, (Virtual), May 14, 2021.

Keynote Speaker, Fourth Biennial Teaching History Conference, University of California-Davis (Virtual), May 8, 2021.

“Decolonizing Museum Labels,” Digital Stories for Knowledge Equity, Socially Just Academia (Virtual), January 26, 2021.

Workshop leader, “A Pedagogy of Kindness,” Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture (Virtual), January 21, 2021.

Keynote Speaker, “A Pedagogy of Kindness,” Teaching and Learning Symposium, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (Virtual), January 14, 2021.

Workshop leader, “Creating Breathing Room for Our Students and Ourselves,” Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, December 17, 2020.

Fridays at Four, “Five Things I’ve Learned About Online Teaching,” November 13, 2020.

Guest Speaker, PSY 665: Teaching Practicum, Northern Arizona University (via Zoom). 2020.

Lead Co-Facilitator with Gabrielle Raley, Introduction to Intergroup Dialogue (three-hour workshop) at Lake Forest College’s Diversity Summit, Lake Forest, Illinois, January 25, 2020.

Panelist, “Teaching Students How to Write History,” roundtable at the American Historical Association Annual Meeting, New York, NY, January 6, 2020.

Panelist and Panel Organizer, “I Got It!”: Primary Source Analysis and Formative Assessment in an Introductory-Level Classroom,” for the panel “What Are We Learning?: Innovative Assessments and Student Learning in College-Level History Classes.” Co-sponsored by the Teaching Division. American Historical Association annual meeting, Chicago, Illinois, January 3-6, 2019.

Chair, "Seven Weddings and a Funeral: Life, Death, Ritual, and Meaning in the Early Republic," Society for Historians of the Early American Republic annual meeting, July 19-22, 2018.

“Conceptions of Motherhood in Early Nineteenth-Century Ojibwe Country,” American Philosophical Society Brown Bag Lunch Series, Philadelphia, PA, July 3, 2018.

Co-organizer, Engage Immigration Conference, June 14-15, 2018, St Olaf College, Northfield, MN. 

Campus & Community Involvement

  • Appointed Member, Editorial Board of Commonplace: A Journal of Early American Life, 2021-2023
  • Appointed Member, H-Net Advisory Board for the Vice-President of Teaching, 2021-2022
  • Appointed Member, Editorial Board of the Western Historical Quarterly, 2020-2022
  • Appointed Member, University of Iowa Graduate College External Advisory Board, 2017-2019
  • Appointed to the Organization of American Historians’ Distinguished Lectureship Program, 2018-2021
  • Outside Reviewer, Lake Forest College, Department of Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies, March 2020
  • Outside Reviewer, College of St Benedict and St John’s University, Department of History, November 2019
  • Outside Reviewer, Illinois College, History Program, November, 2018
  • Outside Reviewer, Lake Forest College, Department of History, December, 2014

Faculty Ombudsperson

  • Volunteer, Community Hygiene Pantry, Galesburg, IL, 2020
  • Board Member, Family Planning Service of Western Illinois, 2020
  • Board Member, Safe Harbor Family Crisis Center, Galesburg, IL, 2017-2019 

What Students Say

“I love Cate Denial so much. Every time I’m in her class, she comes at each point with a really thoughtful and articulate, conscious—something. That final thing that I don’t know. She just really comes in thinking about everyone who’s in the room and everyone who’s not in the room, and I really admire that.”

- Sadie Cheney, ‘21

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Printed on Friday, February 3, 2023