Course Meeting Times

Seminar: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session


Application to the Graduate Consortium in Women’s Studies.


The North American West of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries provides a fascinating case study of the shifting meanings of gender, race, citizenship, and power in border societies. As the site of migration, settlement, and displacement, it spawned contests over land, labor disputes, inter-ethnic conflicts and peaceful relations, and many kinds of cultural productions.

This course explores how gender shapes the historical experiences and cultural productions in the North American West during the time it was being explored, settled, and imagined. Challenging the myths of western expansion as an exclusively male endeavor, and the formation of western myth and enterprise as exclusively male domains, the course pays particular attention to the roles of women in promoting, resisting, transforming, and constructing the trans-Mississippi West as reality and imaginary.

The course uses primary sources (diaries, letters, novels, photographs) and secondary source readings to examine gender identity and practice across racial-ethnic groups, geographic region, local economies, and class lines. It does so through the lenses of social and cultural theory, history, sociology, film, literature, craft, and art. The readings consistently prompt questions about the sources of evidence—whose voice is recorded, whose image is captured, whose art is preserved—and how the twenty-first century scholar can interpret them. The methodological limitations of certain sources and the implications of their use will be part and parcel of our quest to understand this multifaceted history.

Course Requirements

Participation 40%
Research Paper 60%

Required Readings

Babb, Sanora. Whose Names Are Unknown. University of Oklahoma Press, 2006. ISBN: 9780806137124. [Preview with Google Books]

Bernardin, Susan, Melody Graulich, et al. Trading Gazes: Euro-American Women Photographers and Native North Americans, 1880–1940. Rutgers University Press, 2003. [Preview with Google Books]

Calof, Rachel. Rachel Calof’s Story: Jewish Homesteader on the Northern Plains. Indiana University Press, 1995; repr. 1936. ISBN: 9780253209863. [Preview with Google Books]

Cather, Willa. My Antonia. Edited by Joseph R. Urgo. Broadview Press, 2003. ISBN: 9781551114910.

Gordon, Linda. The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction. Harvard University Press, 2003. ISBN: 97806743600419. [Preview with Google Books]

Hansen, Karen V. Encounter on the Great Plains: Scandinavian Settlers and the Dispossession of Dakota Indians, 1890–1930. Oxford University Press, 2013. ISBN: 9780199746811. [Preview with Google Books]

Lee, Mary Paik. Quiet Odyssey: A Pioneer Korean Woman in America. University of Washington Press, 1990. ISBN: 9780295969695. [Preview with Google Books]

Silko, Leslie. Ceremony. Penguin Classics, 2006; repr. 1976. ISBN: 9780143104919. [Preview with Google Books]

See the Readings section.

Course Info

Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments with Examples
Instructor Insights