Jump to Navigation

Kansas History - Autumn 2002

(Vol. 25, No. 3)

Kansas History, Autumn 2002

Kristen Tegtmeier Oertel, "'The free sons of the North' vs. 'The myridons of Border-Ruffianism': What Makes a Man in Bleeding Kansas?"

Read this article online

Many scholars have examined nineteenth-century gender issues as they relate to women during the past few decades, but far fewer have applied this interpretative lens to men. Kristen Tegtmeier Oertel, an assistant professor of history at Millsaps College, Jackson, Mississippi, does so here for territorial Kansas, as she looks at the clash between Northern and Southern attitudes regarding what it meant to be a man in the mid-nineteenth century and how this affected the clash over slavery. "In the course of interpreting their manhood," writes Professor Oertel, "proslavery and antislavery men battled over what brand of manliness would best serve the territory of Kansas and the nation itself. The southern version, one that endorsed violence and aggression, eventually triumphed over the northern definition that championed self-restraint and moral fortitude." In the end, concludes the author, free-state men "began to find the utility in cultivating an ideal of manliness that stood ready and willing to strike the first blow," and eventually the mostly rhetorical clash of the 1850s gave way to the bloody battlefields of the Civil War.

Gerald R. Butters, "I Am Only a Woman: Tiera Farrow's Defense of Clara Schweiger."

Read this article online

The Clara Schweiger murder trial captured the newspaper headlines and the imaginations of many in the Kansas City area during the late winter of 1916 not so much because of the nature of the crime, as sensational as it was, but because of the gender of the lead defense counsel. Tiera Farrow, one of Kansas City's very few female attorneys, used early twentieth-century gender stereotypes to her and her client's advantage to render an effective defense and to gain a partial victory for Clara Schweiger. In "I Am Only a Woman," Dr. Gerald R. Butters, Jr., Aurora University, examines "how the popular press regarded female attorneys in the mid-1910s and why the suspected murderess became less important than the woman who defended her in court." Butters contends that "Farrow's adoption of traditional gender prescriptions in the course of the trial won her the support of male journalists covering the case." Although she was "an active feminist, her espousal of traditionalist views on gender roles allowed her to fight for the rights of women while still obtaining the support and sympathy of the Kansas City press."

R. Alton Lee, "John M. Houston: Congressman and Labor Negotiator."

Read this article online

According to R. Alton Lee, professor emeritus of history at the University of South Dakota, "scholars have neglected" John Mills Houston, a Kansas-born, businessman and Democratic politician, "despite his having an interesting and most productive career, both as a congressman and as a policy-maker on the National Labor Relations Board during an important phase of its development." Houston, who was born in Jewell County on September 15, 1890, and eventually entered the family lumber business in Newton, McPherson County, served as a congressman from south-central Kansas for nearly a decade (January 3, 1935 - January 3, 1943)-an extraordinary feat for a Democrat in Republican Kansas. He was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1942 but received appointment to the NLRB on March 15, 1943, and served until his retirement on August 27, 1953. "His intellectual growth from a middle-class businessman to a distinguished public servant with a pronounced sympathy for the laboring man," asserts Professor Lee, "was almost unprecedented in the annals of Kansas labor history."

James Leiker, "Race Relations in the Sunflower State, A Review Essay."

Read this article online

Moving the journal's review essay series into its second year, Dr. James N. Leiker, Johnson County Community College, examines the complex nature of race relations in "Free Kansas," focusing on how that multifaceted story plays itself out in our historiography. "Kansas citizens, and Kansas historians, mostly have regarded their past as one of remarkable racial openness," Leiker observes. But "history . . . is nothing if not bewildering. In contrast to traditional interpretations that see Kansas as a place free of racial problems, revisionist scholarship of the last generation has challenged the extent to which toleration and liberalism have influenced its past. In many ways, these historiographical changes merely reflect the larger transformation of both the historical profession and the nation as a whole during the civil rights era." Scholars have illuminated the Kansas and national dichotomy with respect to race and demonstrated "that race relations in the Sunflower State have been far from peaceful." What we now need to achieve is a greater holistic understanding of racial issues. "The next generation faces the task of unraveling that [Kansas] paradox and deciphering its meaning for the different racial groups who have lived here."


(The following books and collections are reviewed in full in our print version.)

Custer, Black Kettle, and the Fight on the Washita
by Charles J. Brill, edited by Mark L. Gardner
ix + 323 pages, photographs, maps, notes, appendixes.
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2001, paper $17.95.
Reviewed by Mary Jane Warde, Indian historian, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.

GhostWest: Reflections Past and Present
by Ann Ronald
viii + 246 pages, map, bibliography.
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2002, cloth $29.95.

Reviewed by Chris D. Vancil, Ph.D. student, Kansas State University, Manhattan.

The Jesus Newspaper: The Christian Experiment of 1900 and Its Lesson For Today
by Michael Ray Smith
xvi + 170 pages, notes, references, index.

Reviewed by Timothy Miller, professor of religious studies, University of Kansas.

Bound for Santa Fe: The Road to New Mexico and the American Conquest, 1806-1848
by Stephen G. Hyslop
xiii + 514 pages, illustrations, map, notes, bibliography, index.
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2002, cloth $34.95.

Reviewed by William A. Dobak, historian, U.S. Army Center of Military History, Washington, D.C.

Perilous Pursuit: The U.S. Cavalry and the Northern Cheyennes
by Stan Hoig
xii + 292 pages, illustrations, maps, notes, bibliography, index.
Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2002, cloth $34.95.
Reviewed by Jerome A. Greene, historian, National Park Service, Denver, Colorado.


Angie Debo: Pioneering Historian..
By Shirley A. Leckie.
(Norman: Red River Books, University of Oklahoma Press, 2002. xiv + 242 pages. Paper, $14.95.)

Although historian Angie Debo's career was spent mostly in Oklahoma and Texas during the 1930s and beyond, she was born in Beattie, Marshall County, Kansas, in 1890, and her scholarship, much of which focused on the "Five Civilized Tribes," is of considerable regional and national interest. Daryl Morrison, special collections librarian, University of the Pacific, who reviewed the original, 2000 edition of the biography for Kansas History (Spring 2001), wrote that "through interviews with Debo and analysis of documentary evidence found in her manuscript collection at Oklahoma State University, Leckie provides a detailed and balanced account of Debo's life" and career. Although, as Morrison pointed out, the volume could have been "strengthened with footnoted sources and a bibliography of Debo's writings," it ends with a bibliographic essay that "provides further reading for the place of women and Indian history in the field of history.

I Love Kansas! History Made-History Remembered.
By Rev. Richard Taylor.
(Leawood, Kans.: Leathers Publishing, 2002. x + 193 pages. Paper, $14.95.)

Seldom does one come across a more aptly titled book: I Love Kansas:! History Made-History Remembered is part history and part autobiography, and, perhaps most importantly, its author/compiler, the Reverend Richard Taylor, is a native Kansan who has certainly made history and loves his state. As the leader of the Kansas United Dry Forces and Kansans for Life at Its Best, Taylor was well known to those of us who became politically conscious in the early 1970s, and although his self-published book does not ignore the well-publicized campaigns against the liberalization of the state's drinking and gambling laws, I Love Kansas! is largely devoted to other of Taylor's diverse Kansas interests: the early Topeka aviator A. K. Longren, about whom Taylor compiled a previous book; and historic preservation projects, most notably, perhaps, the "Big Barn" in Rooks County, the Taylor home, the Ritchie House, and the Jayhawk theater. Interested readers can contact Taylor directly to acquire a copy of this book or to just talk Kansas history with one of its true champions.

Fort Robinson and the American Century, 1900-1948.
By Thomas R. Buecker.
(Lincoln: Nebraska State Historical Society, 2002. xxviii + 214 pages. Paper $16.50.)

Many students of Kansas and the West will be familiar with the nineteenth-century history of Fort Robinson and perhaps with a previous volume from the Nebraska State Historical Society treating this period, Fort Robinson and the American West, 1874-1899 (reviewed in Kansas History, winter 1999/2000). Like its neighbors to the south and north, the Nebraska outpost played a key role in the Plains Indian wars, but also like a couple of its Kansas counterparts, Fort Robinson has an interesting and significant twentieth-century story to tell. Now a popular state park, Fort Robinson began the last century as a major cavalry post, but "change, " writes Thomas R. Buecker, curator of the Nebraska State Historical Society's Fort Robinson Museum, "was on the horizon, in the army, in the West, and in the nation as a whole," and Fort Robinson changed with the times, becoming "the nation's largest and best known remount depot, where thousands of horses, mules, and dogs were conditioned, trained, and issued for service worldwide." This useful volume contains a good number of historic photographs and tables, as well as notes and a bibliography.

Cheyennes and Horse Soldiers: The 1857 Expedition and the Battle of Solomon's Fork.
By William Y. Chalfant.
(Norman: Red River Books, University of Oklahoma Press, 2002. xxii + 415 pages. Paper, $24.95.)

Readers of Kansas and western history are well aware of William Y. Chalfant's many contributions to our better understanding of the military history of this region. In addition to Cheyennes and Horse Soldiers, first published in 1989, his other titles include Without Quarter: The Wichita Expedition and the Fight on Crooked Creek (1991), Dangerous Passage: The Santa Fe Trail and the Mexican War (1994), and Cheyennes at Dark Water Creek: The Last Fight of the Red River War (1997). In the autumn of 1990 a Kansas History reviewer called Cheyennes and Horse Soldiers "a fine, detailed, and highly unusual study of a neglected early chapter of plains warfare. [Chalfant] has done so by helping us to understand, as no other author has done, the terrain of northwestern Kansas, the tribal psyche of the Cheyennes and their willingness to do battle with [Colonel E. V.] Sumner, as well as the daily rigors of an antebellum U.S. cavalry regiment in the field.

The Men of the Lewis & Clark Expedition.
By Charles G. Clarke.
(Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2002. xxvi + 339 pages. Paper $16.95.)

Lewis & Clark Among the Indians.
By James P. Ronda.
(Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2002. xxi + 310 pages. Paper $17.95.)

First published in 1970 and 1984, respectively, these timely (the much touted bicentennial is less than two years away) Bison Books editions offer the student of Kansas and western history the opportunity to acquire two very important titles on different aspects of a vital early nineteenth-century American undertaking. As indicated in the subtitle, "a biographical roster of the fifty-one members and composite diary of their activities from all known sources," Clarke offers much information about the individuals who made up the Corps of Discovery and, as Dayton Duncan writes in a new introduction, Clarke " was one of the first to remind the world" that each of these men had a story to tell and to seek "to rescue them from oblivion." Appropriately, Ronda, the H. G. Barnard chair in western history at the University of Tulsa, offers us a closer look at the native peoples encountered by the expedition; Lewis & Clark Among the Indians "is about what happens when people from different cultural persuasions meet and deal with each other. . . .-a full-scale contact study of the official and personal relations between the explorers and the Indians." Ronda reminds us that "both sides of the cultural divide" supplied interesting and important actors for this all-American drama; it is a "complex" and "nuanced" story that must be reconsidered and contemplated in all its wonderful complexity as we prepare for the 2004 observances and beyond.