Midwest History 23

Midwestern History Conference 2023: Many Histories, One Midwest?


This conference continues a vibrant discussion that has grown significantly over the last eight years by placing Midwestern studies at the center of American historiography. Scholars from many different career paths and stages with original research gather at this annual meeting, striving to cultivate a rigorous historical understanding of a complex, dynamic, and often misunderstood region.

This year's conference was held on Thursday, May 18 and Friday, May 19 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The ninth annual Midwestern History conference had the following schedule...

Thursday, May 18, 2023

7:30 a.m. MHA Business Meeting / Welcome

Panel Session #1

8:30 - 10 a.m.

Room 310: Teaching Midwestern History: A Roundtable

Camden Burd - Eastern Illinois State University

Cory Haala – Central Lakes College

Dustin Gann – Midland University

Jennifer Stinson Saginaw Valley State University

Ramya Swayamprakash – Grand Valley State University

Jazma Sutton – Miami University


Room 312: Mapping People, Activities and Congregations in Indiana

Cory Balkenbusch – Ball State University

Jennifer Mara DeSilva – Ball State University

Emily K. McGuire – Ball State University

Wendy F. Soltz – Ball State University


Room 314: The Midwest During the Civil War

Chair: R. Douglas Hurt - Purdue University

Scott Anderson – University of Missouri, Columbia – Serious Matter or Joke? The Black Brigade and he Defense of Cincinnati in the Civil War

Robert Hill – Concordia University – Providence and Emancipation: The Views of Midwestern Chaplains and Soldiers

Megan Van Gorder – Governors State University – Many Motherhoods, One Mother Bickerdyke: Civil War Era Maternal Identities in the American Midwest

Panel Session #2

10:15 - 11:45 a.m.

Room 310: Race and Ethnicity in the Expanding Antebellum Midwest 

Chair: Miles Smith IV - Hillsdale College

Gail Blankenau – Independent Scholar Journey to Freedom from Nebraska Territory

Roy Finkenbine – University of Detroit Mercy – How Potawatomi Hospitality Explains the Experience of Two Freedom Seekers


Room 312: Global Influences & Local Conflicts: Political, Religious, and Conservation Influences in the Early 20th Century Midwest

Chair: Andrew Klumpp - State Historical Society of Iowa

Nathan Chaplin – University of Iowa – The Gateway to the Universe: Midwesterners and the Nicaraguan Canal, 1885-1902

Tina Langholm Larsen – University of Southern Denmark – Socialism and the Institution of Marriage: The Geleff Divorce

Jason Rose – Western Michigan University – Contested Spaces and Identities: Rooted Cosmopolitanism and the Fight Against the Klan


Room 314: Navigating Business, Finance, and Crisis in Midwest Economies

Chair: Dustin Gann - Midland University

William Kostlevy – Asbury Theological Seminary – Depression in America’s Dairy Land: Merlin Hull’s Constituents’ Eye Witness Accounts of the Economic Crisis of the 1930s

Jeff Schultz – Luzerne County Community College – Bay City’s Forgotten Fleet: DeFoe Shipbuilding, 1905-1976

Nancy Schumm – Independent Scholar – The Impact of the Midwest on National Banking in the 1850s

Paul Spyhalski Minnesota State University, Mankato – Angus and Kalo as Exemplars of the Rise and Decline in the Iowa Coal Industry and Extraction Based Communities

11:45 a.m. - 12:45 p.m. – MHA Awards Lunch

Panel Session #3

1:00 - 2:30 p.m.

Room 310: The Many-Sided Natures of Settler Conflict, Colonization, and Cohesion

Chair: Ann Vlock

Kathryn Bean – Northern Illinois University – Northern Wisconsin Forests, Railroad Expansion, and Settler Colonization, 1870s-1920s

Michael Belding – Iowa State University – Wall Building: Settler Colonialism in the Midwestern Agrarian Landscape

Tony Mullis – U.S. Army Command and General Staff College – When Settlers Compete: A Nuanced Perspective of Settler Colonialism and Violence in Territorial Kansas


Room 312: Roundtable Discussion of The Good Country: A History of the American Midwest, 1800-1900

Chair/Facilitator: Jeff Bremer - Iowa State University

Comment: Jon Lauck Middle West Review

Brad Birzer - Hillsdale College

Brent Campney - University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

Nicole Etcheson - Ball State University

R. Douglas Hurt - Purdue University

Chris Laingen- Eastern Illinois University


Room 314: Women, Activism, and the Transformation of Gender Roles and Politics in the Early 20th Century Midwest

Chair: Lisa DuRose - Inver Hills Community College

Stefanie M.P. Aulner – North Dakota State University – Cook Cars and Threshing Crews: North Dakota Women 1900-1925

Justin Clark – Indiana Historical Bureau/Indiana State Library – The Guardian Angel and the Hoosier Senator: The Political Alliance of Mother Jones and John W. Kern

Tracie Grube-Gaurkee – Texas Christian University - Girls Doff Skirts for Overalls: World War I Preparedness, the Women’s Land Army of America, and the Illinois Training Farm for Women, 1918-1920

Panel Session #4

2:45 - 4:15 p.m.

Room 310: Race and the Law in the Early Midwest

Chair: Patrick Pospisek - Grand Valley State University

Mary Elise Antoine – Wisconsin Historical Society – Continuance of Slavery in the Northwest Territory

Jeff Forret – Lamar University – The Indigenous Origins of the Dred Scott Case

Gregory Rose – The Ohio State University at Marion – Did the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and the Civil War Impact the Distribution of African Americans in the Old Northwest between 1850-1870?


Room 312: Postwar Politics and Reform in Greater Chicago

Chair: Edward (Ted) Frantz – University of Indianapolis

Emiliano Aguilar – University of Notre Dame – Americanizing Programs, Dehon College, and Building Latino Political Power

Ashley Johnson Bavery – Eastern Michigan University – Murder at the Broadway Lounge: Race, Islam, and the Underground Politics of Postwar Gary, Indiana


Room 314: The Ongoing History Jobs Crisis

Chair/Facilitator: Kevin Mason – Waldorf University

Megan Birk – University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

Andrew Offenburger – Miami University

Miles Smith IV – Hillsdale College


Room 316: Making Our History: How Artists Rendered Lincoln’s Legacies

Chair: Megan VanGorder - Governors State University

Brytton Bjorngaard – University of Illinois Springfield

Graham Peck – University of Illinois Springfield

Friday, May 19, 2023

7:30 - 8:30 a.m. - Continental Breakfast

Panel Session #5

8:00 - 9:30 a.m.

Room 310: Fire, Flora, and Family

Chair: Cate LiaBraaten - Loyola University

Catherine Lambrecht – Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance

Jeff Stern – Highland Park Historical Society and Fire Museum of Greater Chicago

Nancy Webster – Highland Park Historical Society and Highland Park Public Library


Room 312: Political and Technological History in the Modern Midwest

Chair: Cory Haala – Central Lakes College

Jacob Bruggeman – Johns Hopkins University – The Rise and Fall of Cleveland’s Freenet: Reflections on the Lost History of Midwestern Histories of Technology

A. James Fuller – University of Indianapolis – Mitch Daniels and Conservative Revolution in the 21st Century Midwest

Phillip Grant – Pace University – Midwestern Cabinet Members During the Presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt

Joshua Kluever – Binghamton University (SUNY) – Grassroots Radicalism: Socialist Politics in the Early 20th Century Midwest


Room 314: Education and Community Connections

Chair: Annie Whitlock - Grand Valley State University

Maxwell Harrison – Iowa State University – In the Hands of the People Themselves: Standard Schools, Consolidation, and Community Control in Rural Michigan

Chloe Hawkey – Johns Hopkins University – Errand into the Wilderness: American Studies at the University of Minnesota, 1945-1960

Wilson Warren – Western Michigan University – Democracy’s Institutions: History Teacher Preparation at Midwestern Teachers Colleges

Panel Session #6

9:45 - 11:15 a.m.

Room 310: Leisure, Labor, Health and Reform in the Progressive Era

Chair: Megan Birk, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

William Hansard – Theodore Roosevelt Center – The Great Circus War of 1903: Circus Competition and Riled Roustabouts in the Marvelous Midwest

Elena Palazzolo – Johns Hopkins University – "'I could not avoid visiting them' - Touring the Union Stock Yards, 1880-1893."

Gari-Anne Patzwald – Independent Scholar – In Order to Completely Exterminate Influenza: Masking During the Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919 in the Midwest

Ann Vlock – University of Nebraska-Lincoln – Innocent Victims or Vile Women? Midwestern Discourse and Leadership in the Age of Consent Reform Campaign, 1885-1920


Room 312: Public History: Using Midwestern Spaces and Visual Tools to Engage Audiences

Chair: Rachel Wheeler, IUPUI

Michael Leverett Dorn – Independent Scholar – Historical Memory Work Along the Lincoln Highway in 1926

Kevin Moskowitz – University of Texas at Arlington – Mapping North American Automobile Manufacturing Networks, 1910-1950s

Melissa Paduk – Western Michigan University – A Walk Through Western Michigan University’s History


Room 314:  Race and Conflict in the Urban Midwest

Chair: Emiliano Aguilar, University of Notre Dame

Robert Zeidel – University of Wisconsin, Stout – A Question of Ethnicity of Race: The Quixotic U.S. Senate Career of James Shields

Edward Frantz – University of Indianapolis – Confronting Community: Black Radical Action in Indianapolis, 1969

Jordan Zdinak – Ohio University – The Lynching of Christopher Davis and the Roles of the Media in the Midwest


Room 316: Telling and Teaching Stories About Michigan

Bonnie Campbell – Independent Scholar

Raymond Deeren – Austin Peay State University

Lisa DuRose – Inver Hills Community College

Garth Jerome – Michigan State University

Andy Oler – Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Lunch Break: 11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Afternoon Plenary

12:45 - 1:45 p.m.

Presenting: Kristy Nabhan-Warren
Meatpacking America: How Migration, Work, and Faith Unite and Divide the Heartland


Teleconference Auditorium, Eberhard Center

Panel Session #7

2:00 - 3:30 p.m.

Room 310: Many Worlds on the Waapikaminki: Creating an ArcGIS StoryMap of the Conner Family, Lenape, and Moravians on the White River

Hiba Alalami – Indiana University Purdue University, Indianapolis

Shauna Keith - Indiana University Purdue University, Indianapolis

Phil Kozenski - Indiana University Purdue University, Indianapolis

John Peyton – Indiana University Purdue University, Indianapolis

Rachel Wheeler - Indiana University Purdue University, Indianapolis


Room 312: Raising the Bar: Midwestern Women and the Practice of Law

Chair: Luke Pickelman - Northwestern Michigan College

Rachael Drenovsky – Michigan Supreme Court Learning Center – “A Higher Court Calling”: The First Women of the Michigan Supreme Court

John Lupton – Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission — Carving Herself a Path: Illinois Women and the Legal Profession


Room 314: Art, Literature, and the Imagined Midwest

Chair: Renee Gaarder - Purdue University

Christa Adams - Bard Early College Cleveland - Collecting Cachet: Asian Art and the Midwestern Museum in the Early Twentieth Century

Ray Boomhower – Indiana Historical Society – The Artists Return: Harry A. Davis Jr., Garo Z. Antreasian, and Indiana Art

Ellen Lansky – Inver Hills Community College – Cultivating the Wild: Wilderness Situations in Bonnie Jo Campbell’s Once Upon A River and Cheryl Strayed’s Wild


Room 316: Understanding the Northern Borderlands of the Midwest: A Discussion of North Country: Essays on the Upper Midwest and Regional Identity

Chairs/Facilitators: Greg Rose - Ohio State University at Marion; Jon Lauck - Middle West Review  

Hank Meijer, Author of Arthur Vandenberg: The Man in the Middle of the Twentieth Century

Ted Karamanski - Loyola University

Gleaves Whitney - Ford Foundation 

Reception: 4:00 - 5:00 p.m.

An Ordinary Man: The Surprising Life and Historic Presidency of Gerald R. Ford

5:00 - 6:30 p.m.

Location: Eberhard Center, Room 215

The Hauenstein Center and our partners at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum were excited to announce the long-awaited final stop for the premiere book tour celebrating the release of An Ordinary Man: The Surprising Life and Historic Presidency of Gerald R. Ford. Joining us for the closing keynote of the 9th annual Midwest History Conference, this event featured a deep and insightful conversation between two nationally renowned West Michigan historians. Together, author Richard Norton Smith and Hank Meijer, executive chairman of Meijer Inc. and vice-chairman and a trustee of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation, explored Smith’s new book about our 38th President and Grand Rapids’ own, Gerald R. Ford.

Watch the full event recording here!

Page last modified May 23, 2023