Margaret Jacobs

Chancellor's Professor of History Profile Image
Chancellor's Professor of History History (402) 472-2417 641 Oldfather Hall


I study the history of the American West in a transnational and comparative context with a focus on women and gender as well as children and family. Through comparisons with Australia and Canada, I conceptualize the American West as a site of settler colonialism and examine the complex historical processes and interactions that develop from this enterprise. In my research, I am particularly interested in cross-cultural relations between women in the American West and other colonial settings. My latest book, A Generation Removed: The Fostering and Adoption of Indigenous Children in the Postwar World examines how and why Indigenous children came to be over-represented in the child welfare systems of the United States, Australia, and Canada. It unmasks how government bureaucrats vilified Indigenous mothers and promoted the removal of Indigenous children to white families. It also chronicles how Indigenous women activists and their allies mobilized to confront this crisis.


HIST/WMNS 204 Women & Gender in US History
HIST 350 & 351 History of the North American West
HIST/WMNS 441/841 Seminar in US Women's and Gender History
HIST 941 Graduate Readings Seminar in US History
HIST/WMNS 951 Graduate Comparative World History Seminar on Women, Gender & Empire

  • Pitt Professor of American History and Institutions, Cambridge University, 2015-16
  • Bancroft Prize, Columbia University, 2010, for White Mother to a Dark Race.
  • Robert G. Athearn Book Award for best book on 20th-Century American West, 2010, for White Mother to a Dark Race.
  • Armitage-Jameson Prize for best book in western women’s history, 2009, for White Mother to a Dark Race.
  • Arrell Morgan Gibson Award from the Western History Association for best article of the year in American Indian history, 2005, for "Maternal Colonialism."
  • Gaspar Perez de Villagra Award from the Historical Society of New Mexico, 1999, for Engendered Encounters.
  • Sierra Prize from the Western Association of Women Historians, 1999, for Engendered Encounters.
  • American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship, 2012-13.
  • Visiting Fellowship, Australian Centre for Indigenous History, Australian National University, 2008.
  • Spencer Foundation Grant, 2005-06.
  • Fulbright Senior Scholar Award, 2001‑2002.
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Extending the Reach Faculty Research Award, 2000-2001.
  • A Generation Removed: The Fostering and Adoption of Indigenous Children in the Postwar World Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2014.
  • White Mother to a Dark Race: Settler Colonialism, Maternalism, and the Removal of Indigenous Children in the American West and Australia, 1880-1940. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2009. 
  • Engendered Encounters: Feminism and Pueblo Cultures, 1879‑1934. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999.
  • “The Habit of Elimination: Indigenous Child Removal in Settler Colonial Nations in the Twentieth Century” in Colonial Genocide and Indigenous North America, ed. Andrew Woolford, Jeff Benvenuto, and Alexander Laban Hinton. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014.
  • “Remembering the ‘Forgotten Child’: The American Indian Child Welfare Crisis of the 1960s and 70s,” American Indian Quarterly, special issue on Indigenous Adoption in Settler Colonial Nations, 37, no. 2 (spring 2013): 136-159.
  • “Breaking and Remaking Families: The Fostering and Adoption of Native American Children in Non-Native Families in the American West, 1880-1940.” In On the Borders of Love and Power: Families and Kinship in the Intercultural West, ed. David Wallace Adams and Christa De Luzio. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012. 
  • “Diverted Mothering among American Indian Domestic Servants, 1920-1940.” In Indigenous Women's Work: From Labor to Activism, ed. Carol Williams. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2012.
  • “Western History: What’s Gender Got to Do With It?” Western Historical Quarterly, 42, no. 3 (Autumn 2011): 297-304.
  • “Getting out of Rut: Decolonizing Western Women’s History,” Pacific Historical Review 79, no. 4 (2010): 585-604.
  • “The Great White Mother: Maternalism and American Indian Child Removal in the American West, 1880-1940.” In One Step Over the Line: Toward a History of Women in the North American Wests, eds. Elizabeth Jameson and Sheila McManus, 191-213. Alberta, Canada: University of Alberta Press, 2008.
  • “Working on the Domestic Frontier: American Indian Servants in White Women’s Households in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1920-1940,” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, 28, nos. 1 and 2 (2007): 165-99. 
  • “Indian Boarding Schools in Comparative Perspective: The Removal of Indigenous Children in the U.S. and Australia, 1880-1940.” In Boarding School Blues: Revisiting the American Indian Boarding School Experience, eds. Clifford Trafzer and Jean Keller. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2006.
  • “Maternal Colonialism: White Women and Indigenous Child Removal in the American West and Australia, 1880-1940,” Western Historical Quarterly 36 (Winter 2005): 453-476.
  • “A Battle for the Children: American Indian Child Removal in Arizona in the Era of Assimilation,” Journal of Arizona History 45, no. 1 (spring 2004): 31-62.

“Transnational Indigenous Women’s Activism and the Indigenous Child Welfare Crisis in Settler Colonial Nations, 1960s-1970s,” presentation for Melbourne Feminist History Group, March 21, 2013, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia.
“The Habit of Elimination: Indigenous Child Removal in Settler Colonial Nations in the Late 20th Century,” presentation for Te Tumu, School of Maori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies, March 7, 2013, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.
“Colonizing the Senses: New Sensory Regimes for Indigenous Children in the United States and Australia, 1880-1940,” presentation for the Coordinating Council for Women in History (CCWH) at the AHA Annual Meeting, January 5, 2013, New Orleans.
“Comparative Settler Colonialism and the History of the American West,” Presentation for a “The Significance of The Frontier in The Age of Transnational History” symposium, sponsored by Huntington Library and the University of Southern California Institute on California and the West, February 25, 2012, Huntington Library, San Marino, California.
“Where Have All the Children Gone? A Comparative Historical View of the Fostering and Adoption of Indigenous Children in Non-Indigenous Families in Settler Colony Nations,” a presentation for “Investigating the Long History of Child Welfare and Adoption: Global, Historical, and Comparative Perspectives” workshop, Feb 24 and 25, 2011, Hobart, Tasmania.


Ph.D., University of California, Davis, 1996
M.A., University of California, Davis, 1992
A B., Stanford University, 1986


Colonialism and Decolonization, Indigenous Peoples, Native American, North American West, Women


New Books in Native American Studies Interview
Erstwhile Interview