My courses explore the lived experience of people in the American past through primary sources, and we also consider the how scholars construct history. I seek opportunities for interdisciplinary work, such as involving students in the creation of a local museum exhibit of historic photographs; or researching an art form such as African-American stepping and producing a documentary film based on their findings. Projects like these expand student understanding of what is historical and of different approaches to historical investigation.
In the modern American West, gender systems have both shaped and been influenced by cross-cultural encounters, conquest, colonization, and the expansion of capitalism, changing landscapes of privilege and exclusion. Gender in the West has been further complicated by ideological constructions of race, as well as by mythical constructions of the West itself. My published work explores how individuals and communities renegotiate boundaries of gender, race, and sexuality in the intermountain West, from the mid-nineteenth through twentieth centuries.
Ph.D., American Civilization, Brown University, 1995
History 105 – Introductory Seminar: The Mormons in Historical Perspective
History 105 – Introductory Seminar: Mormons in the American West
History 250 – Gender in 19th Century America
History 300 – The Historian′s Craft
History 341 – Native America and American History
History 354 – Interpreting American Lives
History 405 – Special Topics: Performative Cultures in Historical Context
History 441 – Interpretive Issues in Native American History
History 445 – Gender in the American West
History 485 – Senior Seminar
"Mormon Women at Winter Quarters," Women on the North American Plains, Eds. Renee Laegreid & Sandra Mathews (Lubbock, TX: Texas Tech University Press, 2011): 128-47.
Portraits of Women in the American West, Ed., Dee Garceau-Hagen (Routledge, 2005).
“Finding Mary Fields: Race, Gender, and the Construction of Memory,” Portraits of Women in the American West (Routledge, 2005): 185-242.
Across the Great Divide: Cultures of Manhood in the American West, Edited with Matthew Basso and Laura McCall (Routledge, 2001).
“Nomads, Bunkies, Cross-Dressers, and Family Men: Cowboy Identity and the Gendering of Ranch Work,” Across the Great Divide (Routledge, 2001): 149-68.
“Mourning Dove: Gender and Cultural Mediation,” Sifters: Native American Women’s Lives Ed.Theda Perdue (Oxford University, 2001): 108-26.
The Important Things of Life: Women, Work and Family in Sweetwater County, Wyoming, 1880-1929 (University of Nebraska, 1997).
"I Got a Girl Here, Would You Like to Meet Her?: Courtship, Ethnicity and Community in Sweetwater County, Wyoming, 1900-1925," Writing the Range: Race, Class and Culture in the Women′s West, Eds. Susan Armitage & Elizabeth Jameson (University of Oklahoma, 1997): 274-97.
"Single Women Homesteaders and the Meanings of Independence: Places on the Map, Places in the Mind," Frontiers: A Journal of Women′s Studies 15:3 (Fall 1995):1-26.
Filmmaking expands the possibilities for interpretation. In a film, one can layer interviews, still photographs, live action, voiceovers, period illustrations, landscapes, and music to create a multivalent historical investigation. Through film, one can also explore performances as cultural texts. I have produced two documentary films in which dance opens a window on collective memory.
“Stepping: Beyond the Line” (2011) explores the percussive dance invented by African-American fraternities and sororities, a practice through which performers remember key elements of black history, comment on current issues, and express changing gendered identities.
“We Sing Where I’m From” (2013) investigates the world of powwow dancers and drum singers among the intermountain Salish, the Blackfeet, and one group of urban Indians in Idaho Falls. Like stepping, powwow performances invoke collective memory as well as individual identities. Tribal and intertribal practices in the arena are syncretic, revealing processes of cultural evolution and persistence. Adoption stories and controversies over women at the drum further suggest the vitality of these processes.
A third film, “Remember Fort Pillow” (2013) currently in progress, was researched and produced with a team of 14 Rhodes students, working with a professional cinematographer. The Fort Pillow Massacre was a Civil War atrocity in which Confederate forces killed Union soldiers after they had relinquished their weapons. The film explores how and why the slaughter took place, and how the incident has been treated in popular history.