Department ofHistory

Cathleen Cahill

Cathleen Cahill

Professor of History and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Walter L. Ferree and Helen P. Ferree Professor in Middle-American History
Acting Director, George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center
Schreyer Honors History Advisor

301 Weaver Building

University Park, PA 16802

Phone: (814) 863-0086

Cathleen Cahill Headshot



  1. Ph.D., in History, University of Chicago, 2004
  2. M.A., in Social Science, University of Chicago, 1996
  3. B.A., in History and B.A. in English, University of California, Davis, 1995

Cathleen D. Cahill is an associate professor of History at Penn State University. She is a social historian who explores the everyday experiences of ordinary people, primarily women. She focuses on women’s working and political lives, asking how identities such as race, nationality, class, and age have shaped them. She is also interested in the connections generated by women’s movements for work, play, and politics, and how mapping those movements reveal women in surprising and unexpected places. Her first book, Federal Fathers and Mothers: A Social History of the United States Indian Service, 1869–1932 (University of North Carolina Press, 2011), won the Labriola Center American Indian National Book Award and was a finalist for the David J. Weber and Bill Clements Book Prize.

Her most recent book is Recasting the Vote: How Women of Color Transformed the Suffrage Movement (University of North Carolina Press, 2020). Following the lead of feminist scholars of color it calls for alternative “genealogies of feminism.” It is a collective biography of six suffragists–Yankton Dakota Sioux author and activist Gertrude Bonnin (Zitkala-Ša); Wisconsin Oneida writer Laura Cornelius Kellogg; Turtle Mountain Chippewa and French lawyer Marie Bottineau Baldwin; African American poet and clubwoman Carrie Williams Clifford; Mabel Ping Hua Lee, the first Chinese woman in the United States to earn her PhD ; and New Mexican Hispana politician and writer Nina Otero Warren–both before and after the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment.

A volume she co-edited with Kent Blansett and Andrew Needham, Indian Cities: Histories of Indigenous Urbanization, was just published with the University of Oklahoma Press (2022).

She is currently working on two new research projects. Indians on the Road: Gender, Race, and Regional Identity reimagines the West Coast through the lens of Indigenous people’s relationships with the transportation systems that bisected their lands, forming corridors of conquest and environmental change while simultaneously connecting them in new and sometimes empowering ways to other people and places. She is also working on “Is New Mexico going to line up with Texas?”: African American Women and the Election of 1920 in the American West,” which uses a 1921 New Mexican court case contesting voter participation to explore Black women’s efforts to exercise their right to vote in the US West after the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. 

She also serves as steering committee chair for the Coalition for Western Women’s History and is a member of the editorial boards for the Journal of the Gilded Age & Progressive Era and the University of North Carolina Press’ Gender and American Culture Series.


Recasting the Vote: How Women of Color Transformed the Suffrage Movement (University of North Carolina Press, 2020)

Indian Cities: Histories of Indigenous Urbanism co-edited with Kent Blansett and Andrew Needham(University of Oklahoma Press, 2022)

“Our sisters in China are free”: Visual representations of Chinese and Chinese American suffragists. Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, 19:4  (Autumn 2020), 634-641

“‘Our Democracy and the American Indian’: Citizenship, Sovereignty, and Native Feminists in the 1920s,” Special Forum on 1920 Ed. Liette Gidlow, Journal of Women’s History 32:1 (Spring, 2020) 41-51

“A Matter of History: Carrie W. Clifford Claiming Freedom Through History” in Women Claiming Freedom: Slavery, Race, and Resistance Across the Americas Ed. Erica L. Ball, Tatiana Seijas, and Terri L. Snyder (Cambridge University Press, 2020)

Urban Indians, Native Networks, & the Creation of Modern Regional Identity in the American Southwest,” inRepresenting Native Peoples,” Special Issue of theAmerican Indian Culture and Research Journal Ed. Liza Black andNicholas Rosenthal (2018) Vol. 42, No. 3.

“‘An Old and Faithful Employee’: Obligation, Social Provision, and Federal Retirement Pensions in the U.S. Indian Service” The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (October 2015) Vol. 14 Issue 4

 “Making and Marketing Baskets: The WNIA and Indigenous Basketmakers in California,” in The Women’s National Indian Association, ed. Valerie Shear Mathes (University of New Mexico Press, 2015)

“‘Nobel women not a few’: The Women’s National Indian Association and the Lake Mohonk Conferences,” in The Women’s National Indian Associationed. Valerie Shear Mathes (University of New Mexico Press, 2015)

“Moving in Multiple Worlds: Native Indian Service Employees,” in Beyond Two Worlds, ed. Jim Buss and Joseph Genetin-Pilawa (SUNYUP, 2014)

“Marie Louise Bottineau Baldwin: Indigenizing the Federal Indian Service,” in“The Society of American Indians and Its Legacies,” a special combined issue of Studies in American Indian Literatures and American Indian Quarterly (edited by Chadwick Allen and Beth H. Piatote) 2013

“‘An Indian Teacher Among Indians’: Native Women as Federal Employees,” in Indigenous Women and Work: From Labor to Activism, ed. Carol Williams (University of Illinois Press, 2012)

“Seeking the Incalculable Benefit of a Faithful, Patient Man and Wife: Families in the Federal Indian Service” in On the Borders of Love and Power: Families and Kinship in the American West Ed David Adams and Crista DeLuzio (University of California Press, 2012)

Federal Fathers and Mothers: A Social History of the United States Indian Service, 1869-1932 (University of North Carolina Press, 2011)

“‘You think it strange that I can love an Indian’: Native Men, White Women, and Marriage in the Indian Service,” in Cathleen D. Cahill, Susan Gray, Jacki Thompson Rand and Kerry Wynn, eds., “Intermarriage in American Indian History: Explorations in Power and Intimacy in North America” Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies

Awards and Fellowships:

Charles Redd Center  Fellowship Award in Western American History (2018)

UNM Feminist Research Institute, Faculty Research Grant (2015)

Newberry Short-Term Fellowship, Newberry Library, Chicago (2013-2014)

Labriola Center American Indian National Book Award for Federal Fathers and Mothers (2012)

Finalist (one of two), Weber-Clements Book Prize, Clements Center for Southwest Studies, Southern Methodist University, for Federal Fathers & Mothers (2012)

Bill and Rita Clements Fellowship, William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies, Southern Methodist University (2009-2010)

Recent Courses:

Hist. 83 Women, Race, & the Right to Vote
Hist. 117/Wm Stds. 117 U.S. Women’s History
Hist. 445 The Emergence of Modern America, 1876-1932
Hist. 545 Grad Seminar: The US from 1877


Areas of Specialization: