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Bright Professor & Chair of History
2 East South Street
Galesburg, IL 61401-4999
Bright Institute Director
Bright Professor of American History and Chair of the Department of History at Knox College
Cate Denial has taught at Knox for 12 years and her classes have included The History of Birth Control and Reproduction in the United States; Museums, Monuments, and Memory; and Women, Gender, and the American Revolution. She is a first-generation college student who loves to teach, and draws on those identities as the academic director of SPARK, the college's summer bridge program. Cate also has a particular interest in training future educators to create fun, dynamic classrooms.
Cate's current research examines the early nineteenth-century experience of pregnancy, childbirth, and child-rearing in Upper Midwestern Ojibwe and missionary cultures. By analyzing oral tradition, Ojibwe pharmacological knowledge, and the documents left by traders, missionaries, and government officials, she explores 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 Cate's previous book, Making Marriage: Husbands, Wives, and the American State in Dakota and Ojibwe Country (2013), 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, Cate traced the uneven fortunes of American expansion in the early nineteenth century, and the nation-shaping power of marital acts.
Cate is a member of the Educational Advisory Committee of the Digital Public Library of America.