Kristen Oertel PhD

Chairperson, Department of History
Director, Kendall College TURC
Mary Frances Barnard Professor of 19th Century American Literature Henry Kendall College of Arts & Sciences
Curriculum Vitae [PDF]


Kristen Oertel teaches classes on the Civil War and Reconstruction, African-American history, the history of race and gender in America, and the history of sexuality. She writes about how race and gender influenced social and cultural relations in the 19th century, especially during the Civil War era. Her first book, Bleeding Borders, examines how Native Americans, African Americans and women shaped the conflict between proslavery and antislavery settlers on the Kansas-Missouri border immediately before the Civil War. Her second book, Frontier Feminist, narrates the life of Clarina Nichols, a remarkable woman who advocated for temperance, antislavery, and woman's suffrage in the 19th century. Oertel's most recent book, Harriet Tubman: Slavery, the Civil War, and Civil Rights in the 19th Century, chronicles the life of this iconic leader of the Underground Railroad. Tubman escaped from slavery and then returned to Maryland to guide dozens of her fellow slaves to freedom, but she also served as a scout and spy for the Union army during the Civil War, advocated for woman's suffrage, and worked tirelessly for economic justice for freedmen and women after the war. While many of us learned about Tubman as school children by reading one of the more than forty youth biographies of her, Oertel's biography provides a scholarly, yet accessible account of her life for college students and the adult reading public.

Ph.D., University of Texas-Austin
M.A., State University of New York-Binghamton
B.A., Cornell College

The intersection of race and gender during the Civil War era.

African American History
Colonial America
Revolutionary America
Civil War and Reconstruction
History of Race and Gender
History of Sexuality

The following may be selected publications rather than a comprehensive list.


Bleeding Borders: Race, Gender, and Violence in Pre-Civil War Kansas (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2009/paper 2013).

Frontier Feminist: Clarina Howard Nichols and the Politics of Motherhood. Co-authored with Marilyn Blackwell (Lawrence: The University Press of Kansas, 2010).

Harriet Tubman: Slavery, the Civil War, and Civil Rights in the 19th Century (New York: Routledge, forthcoming 2015)

Book Chapters

“Bleeding Kansas,” The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Social History, ed. Lynn Dumenil (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).

“Blazing a Path to Freedom: African Americans and Their White Allies in Bleeding Kansas,” Perspectives (March 2011),

Book Reviews

“John Brown Still Lives! America’s Long Reckoning with Violence, Equality, and Change,” Kansas History (Summer 2012).

“Border War: Fighting over Slavery before the Civil War,” Civil War History: A Journal of the Middle Period (March 2012).

“The Making of a Southerner: William Barclay Napton’s Private Civil War,” Ohio Valley History (Fall 2010).

“The Nebraska-Kansas Act of 1854,” Western Historical Quarterly (Winter 2009).

“The Border between Them: Violence and Reconciliation on the Kansas-Missouri Line,” The Journal of American History (March 2008).

“Abolitionists Remember: Antislavery Autobiographies and the Unfinished Work of Emancipation,” Civil War Book Review (Fall 2008).

“Beyond Garrison: Antislavery and Social Reform,” Civil War History: A Journal of the Middle Period (Winter 2007).

“An American Planter: Stephen Duncan from Antebellum Natchez and New York,” Journal of Mississippi History (Fall 2007).

“How the Vote Was Won: Woman Suffrage in the Western United States,” Journal of Women and Social Movements (Fall 2007).

“Revolutionary Heart: The Life of Clarina Howard Nichols and the Pioneering Crusade for Women’s Rights,” Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains (Autumn 2006).

“Peacekeeping on the Plains: Army Operations in Bleeding Kansas,” Civil War Book Review (Spring 2005).

Journal Articles

“‘Nigger-worshipping fanatics’ and ‘villain[s] of the blackest dye’: Racialized Manhoods and the Sectional Debates,” in Jonathan Earle and Diane Mutti-Burke, eds., Bleeding Kansas and Bleeding Missouri: The Long Civil War on the Border (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2013).

“How Did Northern White Women Participate in the Bleeding Kansas Conflict of the 1850s?” Women and Social Movements in the United States (Alexander Street Press and the Center for the Historical Study of Women and Gender at Binghamton University, 2010).

“‘A large-hearted, brave, faithful woman’: Clarina Howard Nichols,” in Virgil Dean, ed., John Brown to Bob Dole: Movers and Shakers in Kansas History (Lawrence: The University Press of Kansas, 2005).

“From Brown to Brown: A Century of Struggle for Equality in Kansas,” coauthored with Rusty Monhollon for special sesquicentennial issue of Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains(Spring-Summer 2004); reprinted in The Kansas Territorial Reader (Topeka: The Kansas Sesquicentennial Commission and the Kansas State Historical Society, 2005).

“‘The free sons of the North’ versus ‘the Myrmidons of border ruffianism’: What Makes a Man in Bleeding Kansas?” Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains (Autumn 2002).

“‘The Ladies of Lawrence are Arming!’: The Gendered Nature of Sectional Violence in Early Kansas, 1854-1861,” in John R. McKivigan and Stanley Harrold, eds., Antislavery Violence: Sectional, Racial and Cultural Conflict in Antebellum America (Knoxville, TN: The University of Tennessee Press, 1999).

FS 1973 First Seminar
HIST 2543 Africans in Americas Slavery to Freedom To Freedom
HIST 3513 Colonial America
HIST 3523 Revolutionary America, 1750-1800
HIST 3543 The Civil War
HIST 4853 Topics in American History
HIST 7513 Readings in the History of the United States
HIST 7723 Research in Comparative Social and Cultural History
HIST 7983 Research and Thesis