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Historian to Discuss Marriage and Divorce in 19th Century America, April 26

GALESBURG -- Historian Catherine Denial will discuss interactions of
white missionaries, military forces, and settlers with Native people
across the Upper Midwest in Knox College's 2013 Edgar S. and Ruth W.
Burkhardt Lecture in History.

Denial, an associate professor of history at Knox College, will give a
lecture, "More Questions Than Answers: The Strange Case of Margaret
McCoy's 1840 Divorce," at 4 p.m., Friday, April 26, in the Alumni
Room, Old Main, Knox College. The lecture is free and open to the
public.

McCoy, part Ojibwe, and her husband, Joseph Brown, a fur trader with
both Dakota Sioux and Ojibwe tribes, were divorced in 1840, following
four years of marriage. The divorce was unusual in that it required an
act of the Wisconsin Territorial legislature.

"According to the act, the grounds for the divorce were 'the hostile
incursions of the Sioux Indians' against the couple -- a situation
that would have more obviously solved by the parties relocating than
seeking a divorce," Denial explained. "The special attention given to
the dissolution of the Brown's marriage makes little sense, and for
the past several years, I've been trying to solve the puzzle of why it
was allowed."

Denial's research reveals a wealth of detail about the westward
expansion of the United States in the Upper Midwest, and the
resistance to that expansion offered by Dakota and Ojibwe communities.

"We may never know the reason Joseph and Margaret were allowed to
divorce," Denial said. "Joseph is a well known figure in Minnesota
history, but by moving Margaret's story to the center of our
narrative, we gain a new perspective on the interaction of
missionaries, military personnel, settlers, fur traders, and Native
people across the Upper Midwest."

Denial has taught at Knox since 2005. In addition to her research into
Historian Catherine Denial will discuss interactions of white
missionaries, military forces, and settlers with Native people across
the Upper Midwest in Knox College's 2013 Edgar S. and Ruth W.
Burkhardt Lecture in History.

Denial, an associate professor of history at Knox College, will give a
lecture, "More Questions Than Answers: The Strange Case of Margaret
McCoy's 1840 Divorce," at 4 p.m., Friday, April 26, in the Alumni
Room, Old Main, Knox College. The lecture is free and open to the
public.

McCoy, part Ojibwe, and her husband, Joseph Brown, a prominent
Minnesota politician who had been a fur trader with both Dakota Sioux
and Ojibwe tribes, were divorced in 1840, following four years of
marriage. The divorce was unusual in that it required an act of the
Wisconsin Territorial legislature.

"According to the act, the grounds for the divorce were 'the hostile
incursions of the Sioux Indians' against the couple -- a situation
that would have more obviously solved by the parties relocating than
seeking a divorce," Denial explained. "The special attention given to
the dissolution of the Brown's marriage makes little sense, and for
the past several years, I've been trying to solve the puzzle of why it
was allowed."

Denial's research reveals a wealth of detail about the westward
expansion of the United States in the Upper Midwest, and the
resistance to that expansion offered by Dakota and Ojibwe communities.

"We may never know the reason Joseph and Margaret were allowed to
divorce," Denial said. "Joseph is a well known figure in the history
of Wisconsin and Minnesota, but by moving Margaret's story to the
center of our narrative, we gain a new perspective on the interaction
of missionaries, military personnel, settlers, fur traders, and Native
people across the Upper Midwest."

The Burkhardt Lecture Series features work by members of the history
department at Knox College. Denial has taught at Knox since 2005. In
addition to her research into marriage, gender, sexuality, race and
nation-building in the 19th-century United States, Denial is active in
training K-12 social science educators. She is the lead historian for
a program, Bringing History Home, which helps grade school and high
school teachers enhance their classes by using primary source
research. Since 2001, Bringing History Home has served over 900
teachers, 45,000 elementary school children and 15,000 middle and high
school students across Iowa, Alaska, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New
Mexico, and Wyoming.

The lecture is sponsored by the Edgar S. and Ruth W. Burkhardt Fund
for History. The Fund is a gift from two dedicated Knox alumni and
distinguished scholars, Richard and Dorothy Burkhardt. The Burkhardts,
members of the Class of 1939 and now retired from positions at Ball
State University, established the Fund in memory of Mr. Burkhardt's
parents.

Founded in 1837, Knox College is a national liberal arts college in
Galesburg, Illinois. Knox enrolls students from 48 states and U.S.
territories and 51 countries. Knox's "Old Main" is a National Historic
Landmark and the only building remaining from the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas
debates.

 

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