By Tricia Duke '19
Cate Denial, Bright Professor of American History, received a library fellowship from the American Philosophical Society to support research for her second book, tentatively titled Mother of All the Living.
Continuing her past research on marriage and gender roles in the communities of Ojibwe and American missionaries in the 1800s, Denial turns her focus to the representation of motherhood.
"Ojibwe and American missionary women had radically different concepts of what motherhood was, how it was best fulfilled, and what it meant to their community, all rooted in their religious and spiritual belief systems," Denial said.
The fellowship, which Denial is completing this summer, includes a stipend to covers living expenses near the American Philosophical Society Library in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as well as one month of full-time research in the library. "There is a vast treasure trove of oral histories that I can listen to," Denial said. "I'm very excited to dig into the society's collections regarding Ojibwe communities."
Denial focuses on one missionary couple, Catharine and Edward Ely, and the Ojibwe in the village of Fond du Lac (now Duluth, Minnesota) between 1830 and 1845. Half Ojibwe herself, Catharine Ely's case provides a unique perspective on the intersection and conflict between styles of motherhood. Through her current research, Denial looks for further context for the different views on parenting.
"Ojibwe parents were very fond of and indulgent of their children, and governed by example," Denial said. "To the Ojibwe, the missionaries practiced child abuse in the name of God."
In addition to the American Philosophical Society fellowship, Denial was also accepted into the Second-Book Writers' Workshop at the Society of Historians of the Early American Republic (SHEAR) annual meeting in July. The workshop provides learning and discussion for historians seeking to publish their second book. She is one of 16 historians selected for the event.
Denial has also been chosen by the Organization of American Historians for its prestigious Distinguished Lectureship Program. She joins scholars affiliated with some of the nation's top universities, like Princeton, Carnegie Mellon, MIT, and Harvard, to speak to audiences across the country each year.
At Knox, Denial serves as the Director of the Bright Institute, a three-year program for professors of American history before 1848 at liberal arts colleges from across the United States.