Kristen T. Oertel


Mary Frances Barnard Associate Professor in Nineteenth-Century American History Chapman Hall 221

I teach classes on the Civil War and Reconstruction, African-American history, the history of race and gender in America, and the history of sexuality. I write about how race and gender influenced social and cultural relations in the 19th century, especially during the Civil War era. My 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. My 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. I am currently researching and writing a biography of Harriet Tubman, the iconic leader of the Underground Railroad who escaped from slavery and then returned to Maryland to guide dozens of her fellow slaves to freedom. Tubman also served as a scout and spy for the Union army during the Civil War, and she 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, I hope to provide a scholarly, yet accessible account of her remarkable life for college students and the adult reading public.

Education and Degrees Earned

  • Ph.D., American history, The University of Texas at Austin, 2000
  • M.A., American History, SUNY-Binghamton, 1995
  • B.A., history and sociology, Cornell College, 1991

Areas of Academic Specialty

  • Civil War and Reconstruction
  • Race and Gender in the 19th Century
  • African-American History
  • History of Sexuality

Areas of Research Focus

  • Antebellum race relations and the rise of sectionalism
  • Social reform movements in the 19th century, especially abolitionism and woman's suffrage

Previous Teaching Experience

  • Associate professor of history, Millsaps College (Jackson, Mississippi), 2006-2010
  • Assistant professor of history, Millsaps College, 2000-2006 

Relevant Pro Bono Work

Affiliated with the Fannie Lou Hamer National Institute on Citizenship and Democracy at Jackson State University

Professional Affiliations

  • Organization of American Historians
  • Southern Historical Association
  • Association of American University Professors

Courses Taught at TU

  • Colonial America (HIST 3513)
  • The Civil War (HIST 3543)
  • Topics in American History (HIST 4853,6853)

Awards & Recognition

  • "Frontier Feminist" won Armitage-Jameson Prize for the best book in women's and gender history from the Western History Association in 2011
  • Outstanding Young Faculty Award, Millsaps College
  • Edgar Langsdorf Award for Excellence in Writing, Kansas Historical Society


  • Frontier Feminist: Clarina Howard Nichols and the Politics of Motherhood
    Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2010), co-authored with Marilyn Blackwell
  • Bleeding Borders: Race, Gender, and Violence in Pre-Civil War Kansas
    New in Paperback, April 2013. Available by ebook. Original (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2009)
  • “Clarina Howard Nichols: ‘A large-hearted, brave, faithful woman’”
    ” in Virgil Dean, ed. John Brown to Bob Dole: Movers and Shakers in Kansas History (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2006)
  • "From Brown to Brown: A Century of Struggle for Equality in Kansas"
    Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains, 27 (Spring/Summer 2004): 116–133.