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Catherine Denial


Catherine Denial

Bright Professor & Chair of History

2 East South Street

Galesburg, IL 61401-4999



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Ford Center for the Fine Arts

Bright Professor of American History, Chair of History

Catherine Denial

General Interests
"My research examines the early nineteenth-century experience of pregnancy,childbirth, and child-rearing in Upper Midwestern Ojibwe and missionary cultures. By analyzing at oral tradition, Ojibwe pharmacological knowledge, and the documents left by traders, missionaries, and government officials, I explore the differences between each cultural group's ideas about infancy and childhood. These differences add to our understanding of why the Ojibwe so firmly rejected the practices of the missionaries through to 1850 - to Ojibwe eyes, the missionaries practiced nothing less than child abuse.

This research is an outgrowth of my previous book, Making Marriage, which focused on marriage in Minnesota before 1850, particularly as a means of understanding gender, sexuality, race and nation-building in the region. Marriages of all kinds, and the households that marriages created, were inextricably bound up with questions of nation and identity for the Dakota, the Ojibwe, mixed-heritage individuals, and Americans who interacted in the Upper Midwest. Through the stories of married - and divorcing - men and women in the region, we can trace the uneven fortunes of American expansion in the early nineteenth century, and the nation-shaping power of marital acts."

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
American Indian History, Women and Gender in North America, Sexuality and Marital Law.

Full Curriculum Vitae - (PDF)

Selected Professional Accomplishments


College Faculty Career Enhancement Grant, awarded to Knox College by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, research funding, 2014.
The Illinois Humanities Council, funding for "People and Place," the 2014 Museums, Monuments and Memory class exhibit, 2013.
The Knight Endowment for Religious Studies, Knox College, course development funding, 2013.
College Faculty Career Enhancement Grant, awarded to Knox College by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, research funding, 2010-11 and 2011-12.
Council of Independent Colleges / Gilder Lehrman American History Seminar participant, New York University, June 24-30, 2007.
Seashore Dissertation Fellow, University of Iowa, 2004-2005.
Newberry Library/Centers for Institutional Cooperation Research Fellow, 2003-2004.
Charles Strong Research Fellow, Department of History, University of Iowa, 2003-2004.


"Puzzling Out Primary Sources: Teaching Analysis in the College Classroom," The American Historian, in progress.

"The Subjective Self: Teaching History Students to ask 'Who Am I?'," Syllabus, under revision.

2015 Review of Susan Sleeper-Smith, Juliana Barr, Jean M. O'Brien, Nancy Shoemaker, and Scott Manning Stevens, eds., Why You Can't Teach United States History Without American Indians. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015, in Minnesota History, 64:8 (Winter 2015-16): 337.

Review of Linda M. Clemmons, Conflicted Mission: Faith, Disputes, and Deception on the Dakota Frontier, St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2014, in The Western Historical Quarterly, 46:3 (Autumn 2015): 368-369.

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.

Review of Saliha Belmessous, ed., Native Claims: Indigenous Law Against Empire, 1500-1920. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012, in The Historian, 75:2 (Summer 2013): 423-424.

Review of Mary Butler Renville, A Thrilling Narrative of Indian Captivity: Dispatches from the Dakota War. Edited by Carrie Reber Zeman and Kathryn Zabelle, Derounian-Stodola. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2012, in Minnesota History, 63/5 (Spring 2013): 213.

Review of Ann Durkin Keating, Rising Up From Indian Country: The Battle of Fort Dearborn and the Birth of Chicago. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012, in Journal of Illinois History, 15 (Spring 2012): 51-52..

Review of Colette A. Hyman, Dakota Women's Work: Creativity, Culture, and Exile. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2012 in The Annals of Iowa, 71:4 (Fall 2012): 357-358.

Review of James Joseph Buss, Winning the West with Words: Language and Conquest in the Lower Great Lakes. Norman, University of Oklahoma Press, 2011, in Western Historical Quarterly, 43:4 (Autumn 2012): 383-384.

Review of Mary Lethert Wingerd, North Country: The Making of Minnesota. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010, in American Indian Culture and Research Journal, 36:1 (2012): 213-216.

Review of Carl J. Ekberg, Stealing Indian Women: Native Slavery in the Illinois Country. Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 2007, in The Annals of Iowa, 70:1 (Winter 2011) 67-69.

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

"Ethics for Historians: The Perspective of One Undergraduate Class." Perspectives on History.


"Fridays at Four: Faculty Dialogue," with Gabrielle Raley, Knox College, Galesburg, IL, February 12, 2016.

Invited participant, Assignment Charette, American Historical Association Annual Meeting, Atlanta, Georgia, January 8, 2014.

Invited Lecturer, "Teaching Women's History," Online Panel, Western Governors University, Women's History Month Celebration, March 25, 2013.

Invited Speaker, "Historical Thinking Skills in the K-16 Classroom," University of Iowa Department of History, Iowa City, November 21, 2013.

Keynote Address: "Primary Sources and Other Useful Tools: The Bringing History Home Experience of Raising Literacy Across the Curriculum." History and Social Science Teachers Conference, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, Illinois, October 24, 2013.

"Source, Observe, Contextualize, Corroborate: Primary Source Analysis in the K-12 Classroom." History and Social Science Teachers Conference, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, Illinois, October 24, 2013.

"'Am I a Woman that I Should Hoe Corn?': Marriage as Imperialism, Marriage as Resistance: Dakota Country, 1835-45," A World of Citizens: Women, History, and the Vision of Linda K. Kerber," University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, Oct. 5-6, 2012.

"SOCC it to 'em: Teaching Historical Thinking Skills in High School and College," Organization of American Historians Annual Meeting, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, April 18, 2012.

"Catherine Denial" at Women Changing Iowa, the History Corps Project, University of Iowa, February.

"Strategies for Teaching History at the Undergraduate Level," Presentation at Graduate History Instructor Workshop, University of Iowa, Department of History, Iowa City, Iowa, August 19, 2010.

"The Digital Early Republic," Roundtable Panelist, Society for Historians of the Early American Republic Annual Meeting, Rochester, New York, July 22-25, 2010.

Campus & Community Involvement

Elected positions

  • Executive Committee of the Faculty, 2013-2016
  • Chair, Faculty Affairs Subcommittee, 2014-2015
  • Observer to the Board of Trustees, 2011-2013

Faculty Committees

  • Academic Standing Committee, 2012-2013.
  • Cultural Events Committee, 2012.
  • Curriculum Committee, 2007-2010

Other Service

  • Academic Director, SPARK Summer Bridge Program, 2016

What Students Say
"Catherine Denial is not just a professor; she is a friend to many students and yet she maintains respect and discipline in her classes. She focuses on the forgotten aspects and people of history and finds ways to make the most dull events exciting."
-Sara Patterson, Chemistry and History double major

"I couldn't ask for more from a professor and advisor. Catherine continually provides her students with new perspectives on history, and she is committed to her students' success both inside and outside of the classroom."
-Erin Souza, History major

A women's tennis match.
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