Graduate Student; Research Assistant Profile Image
Graduate Student; Research Assistant History donna.devlin@huskers.unl.edu 402-472-2414 942 Oldfather Hall
JOINED THE DEPARTMENT

2017

BIO

Donna R. Devlin is a sixth-year PhD candidate with a focus on nineteenth-century America. Her interests lie in examining the sociolegal and political challenges associated with the expansion of America’s borders. In particular, her dissertation research examines how women worked within the law to address sexual violence on the late nineteenth-century Great Plains. Through the use of local and state court records, this study expands our understanding of the developing legal systems of the West while giving a voice to women forced to reckon with a violence often omitted in the traditional narrative of Westward expansionism. The working title for her upcoming dissertation defense is “Women of the Great Plains and the ‘Disruption’ of Neighborhoods: Challenging Sexual Violence and Coercion through Local Courts of Law in Kansas and Nebraska, 1870-1900, With a Segue to the Present.”

In relation to this research, Devlin has published two articles. The first appeared in the Willa Cather Review in March 2020 and tells of the discovery of archival and legal documents in which Annie Sadilek, the prototype for Cather’s 1918 novel My Ántonia, gave voice to sexual assault in Red Cloud, Nebraska, in 1887. Devlin’s second article, which explores the legal history of Sadilek’s experience with sexual assault and late-nineteenth century Nebraska law, was published in the Western Historical Quarterly in Spring 2022.

Devlin’s other research interests include: the settlement policies and practices of frontier territories, especially those affected by the Kansas-Nebraska Act; legal discrepancies and extralegal violence in land-claims processes in Territorial Kansas; and the regional and territorial unrest in nineteenth-century America as a result of the changing and dynamic political landscape.

Prior to studying at the University of Nebraska, Devlin spent eleven years in the Kansas public school system teaching 7-12 social studies and serving as an adjunct instructor at the community college level. She retains her secondary teaching license in comprehensive social studies and English language arts.

FELLOWSHIPS AND HONORS
  • AHA Albert J. Beveridge Research Grant, 2020
  • Louis Max Meyer Fellowship, 2019-2022
  • Frank A. Belousek Fellowship, 2020-2021
  • Chi Omega Grad Fellowship, 2020-2021
  • Chancellor’s Fellowship, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2017-2019
  • Dov Ospovat Memorial Award for graduate essay “‘Saintly’ Pioneers and the ‘Disruption of an Entire Neighborhood’: Sexual Coercion and Legal Manipulation on the Kansas Plains,” 2020
  • Dov Ospovat Memorial Award for graduate essay “A ‘Hired Girl’ Testifies Against the ‘Son of a Prominent Family’: Bastardy and Rape on the Nineteenth-Century Nebraska Plains,” 2019
  • Center for Great Plains Studies Graduate Fellow, awarded 2018
  • James Madison Memorial Fellow, awarded 2010
PUBLICATIONS
Articles:
Book Reviews:
  • Dartt, Mary. On the Plains, and Among the Peaks, or, How Mrs. Maxwell Made her Natural History Collection. Julie McCown, Ed. 1879. Reprint. Louisville: University Press of Colorado, 2021. The Western Historical Quarterly 53, no. 4 (Winter 2022).
  • Bristow, David L. Nebraska History Moments: Stories and Photos from the Collections of History Nebraska. Lincoln: History Nebraska, 2021. South Dakota History 52, no. 2 (Summer 2022).
  • Bryan, Jimmy L., ed. Inventing Destiny: Cultural Explorations of U.S. Expansion. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2019. Great Plains Quarterly 41, no. 3-4 (Summer-Fall 2021).
INVITED TALKS AND CONFERENCE PAPERS
  • 2023 Forthcoming Conference Presenter: Berkshire Conference of Women, Genders and Sexualities, "Preserving the Hypermasculine Record: Sexual Violence and Coercion in the Courtrooms of the Great Plains West," as a part of the panel entitled “Sex on Trial in the West," Chair, TBD
  • 2023 Forthcoming Conference Presenter: American Historical Association Annual Conference, Testifying to the ‘Positive Fact’ of ‘Rape’: Corroboration Requirements in Nebraska and Kansas through the Late 20th Century,” as a part of the panel entitled “Gendered Violence and Legal Standards in North America,” Kimberly A. Reilly, University of Wisconsin–Green Bay, Chair
  • 2022 Forthcoming Conference Presenter: American Society for Legal History Annual Conference, “Legal Case Studies of Sexual Violence and Coercion on the Great Plains, 1870-1900,” as a part of the Graduate Student Lightning Round, Jacqueline Briggs, University of Ottawa, Chair
  • 2022 Forthcoming Conference Presenter: Western History Association Annual Conference, “Legal Case Studies of Sexual Violence and Coercion on the Great Plains, 1870-1900,” as a part of the panel entitled “Sexual Violence and Legal Systems in the American West,” Katie Hemphill, University of Arizona, Chair
  • 2022 Conference Presenter: Organization of American Historians Annual Conference, “Sociolegal Rhetoric and Sexual Violence in the Late-Nineteenth Century: Rape and Race on the Kansas Plains, 1870-1900,” as a part of the SHGAPE panel entitled “Words and Deeds: Rhetoric and Violence in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era,” Kellie Carter Jackson, Wellesley College, Chair
  • 2022 Invited Talk: Hays, Kansas, Public Library, “Women of the Great Plains and the ‘Disruption’ of Neighborhoods: Challenging Sexual Violence and Coercion Through Local Courts of Law in Kansas and Nebraska, 1870-1900
  • 2022 Conference Presenter: The Center for Great Plains Studies Conference, “Exploring the Boundaries of Sexual Violence and Coercion on the Great Plains and Across Centuries,” postponed
  • 2021 Graduate Research Workshop Presenter: American Society for Legal History, online, “Sexual Assault and Coercion: A Legal History from the Late-Nineteenth Century Plains,” Catherine Evans, University of Toronto, Chair
  • 2020 Conference Presenter: Gender and Gender Equity Conference, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, “Sexual Assault and Coercion: A Legal History”
  • 2020 Conference Presenter: Diverse Women’s Summit and Gender and Sexuality in Kansas Conference, Wichita State University; “Sexual Assault and Coercion: A Legal History”
  • 2019 Conference Presenter: Nineteenth Century Studies Association Annual Conference; James A. Rawley Graduate Conference; “A ‘Hired Girl’ Testifies Against the ‘Son of a Prominent Family’: Bastardy and Rape on the Nineteenth-Century Nebraska Plains”
  • 2013 Visiting Lecturer: Bleeding Kansas Lecture Series, Constitutional Hall, Lecompton, Kansas; “James Henry Lane: Popular Sovereignty Advocate for Territorial Kansas”
MASTER'S THESIS

James Henry Lane: Popular Sovereignty Advocate for Territorial Kansas
Advisor: Dan Monroe, Millikin University

EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND

M.A. (MAHG), Ashland University, Ohio, 2012

B.S., Fort Hays State University, Kansas, 2006

B.A., Fort Hays State University, Kansas, 2006

A.S., Fort Hays State University, Kansas, 1992

EXPERTISE/AREAS OF STUDY

Nineteenth Century, U.S.;
American Legal History;
Gendered Sexual Violence;
Westward Expansionism;
Kansas Territorial Period;
American Constitutionalism