Department Chair, Professor, History & American Indian St
- North American West, Gender, Material Culture, Memory Studies
- Department Chair, Chair / Professor, Anthropology
Dr. Cynthia Culver Prescott is Chair of the Department of History & American Indian Studies and Professor of History.
Dr. Prescott's work focuses on gender in the American West. She combines social history and material culture methods to study the intersections of gender, race, social class, and historical memory. Her first book, Gender and Generation on the Far Western Frontier (University of Arizona, 2007), traced changing gender roles and ideology among early white settlers in Oregon between 1845 and 1900.
Her second book, Pioneer Mother Monuments: Constructing Cultural Memory (University of Oklahoma Press, 2019) won the 2020 Gita Chaudhuri Prize and the 2020 Fred B. Kniffen Book Award. In it, she traces changing portrayals of race, gender and national identity in pioneer monuments erected from 1890 to the present. She is also building a companion website for this book, Pioneer Monuments in the American West, that features interactive maps and timelines, and provides images and information about the 200 monuments included in her study. Supported by a Whiting Foundation Public Engagement Seed Grant, she is using the GIS-enabled app Clio to create detailed historical entries and walking tours of 200 sites in the West, with an emphasis on controversial public monuments and shifting representations of race and gender.
Prescott is the co-editor (with Maureen S. Thompson) of, and a contributor to, Backstories: The Kitchen Table Talk Cookbook (The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota, 2021), which combines scholarship on rural foodways with heritage recipes and their backstories. Prescott is also interested in quilting, particularly examining quilts as a reflection of women's work roles and social class status.
A member of the History Department since 2007, Dr. Prescott teaches several courses that are closely related to her research interests, including American women and gender, the American West, cultural history, and material culture methodology, as well as the introductory United States since 1877 survey course. She particularly enjoys utilizing Reacting to the Past (RTTP) intensive role-playing games to train students to think, speak and write critically about the past. These RTTP games feature prominently in her two newest courses, “Slaves, Citizens and Social Change” and "Monuments, Museums and Memory."
Prescott is drawing on her ongoing research to develop a new RTTP game centered on debates about whether to preserve, relocate, or remove San Francisco's controversial Pioneer Monument, and how to reinterpret that monument. "Memory Reconsidered: San Francisco Pioneer Monument, 1991-96" is currently undergoing play-testing at UND and other universities across the country.
While her academic training is in social history, Prescott has also worked in several areas of public history: museum curatorship, collections management, archival and rare book cataloging, and historic preservation. She is also active in UND's Women & Gender Studies program and is the faculty adviser for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Beyond UND, she is active in several international historical societies and serves as an Affiliate Fellow with the University of Nebraska's Center for Great Plains Studies and and Associate Fellow with the International Quilt Study Center in Lincoln, Nebraska.
HIST 104: United States since 1877
HIST 253: History of Stuff
HIST 260: Slaves, Citizens, and Social Change
HIST 310: Monuments, Museums, and Memory
HIST 325: American West
HIST 333: Modern American Women
HIST 440: Research Capstone
Cynthia Culver Prescott. Pioneer Mother Monuments: Constructing Cultural Memory. University of Oklahoma Press, 2019.
Cynthia Culver Prescott. Gender and Generation on the Far Western Frontier. University of Arizona Press, 2007.
Cynthia C. Prescott and Maureen S. Thompson, eds., Backstories: The Kitchen Table Talk Cookbook.The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota, 2021.
Selected Articles and Book Chapters:
"Monuments to Midwestern Pioneer Mothers and Native Women." Middle West Review 9, no. 2 (Spring 2023): 21-36.
“Myth, Memory, and the Limits of Inclusivity in Arizona Pioneer Monuments.” Journal of Arizona History 62, no. 2 (Summer 2021): 173-206.
“Putting the Little Town on the Prairie on Culinary Maps.” In Cynthia C. Prescott and Maureen S. Thompson, eds., Backstories: The Kitchen Table Talk Cookbook. The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota, 2021: 299-310.
Cynthia Culver Prescott, Nathan Rees, and Rebecca Weaver-Hightower. “This is the Place Salt Lake City, Utah and the Voortrekker Monument Pretoria: monuments to settler constructions of history, race, and religion.” Safundi 22:2 (2021): 105-129.
Cynthia Prescott, Nathan Rees, and Rebecca Weaver-Hightower. "Enshrining Gender in Monuments to Settler Whiteness: South Africa’s Voortrekker Monument and the United States’ This Is the Place Monument." Special Issue “Gender, Race and the Material Culture,” ed. Maureen Daly Goggin. Humanities 10 (March 2021): 41.
Cynthia Culver Prescott. “Going Digital to Enrich Research and Engage the Public.” California History 97, no. 1 (Spring 2020): 60-64.
Cynthia Culver Prescott. "Enshrining Racial Hierarchy through Settler Commemoration in the American West," in Monument Culture: International Perspectives on the Future of Monuments in a Changing World, edited by Laura A. Macaluso (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019).
Cynthia Culver Prescott. “Settler Colonialism and the Persistence of Pioneer Myths in Western Monuments, 1890-Present,” Journal of the West. Special issue on Settler Colonialism and the American West, ed. Janne Lahti. 56, no. 4 (Fall 2017): 78-89.
Cynthia Culver Prescott. “Pioneer Mothers for the New Millennium,” in Excavating Memory: Material Culture Approaches to Sites of Remembering and Forgetting, edited by Maria Theresia Starzmann and John R. Roby (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2016), pp. 172-98.
Cynthia Culver Prescott. “Citizenship, Civil Rights, and Electoral Politics” in Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College, edited by Eric Burin (The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota, 2017), 27-30.
Cynthia Culver Prescott. “Representing the Ideal American Family: Avard Tennyson Fairbanks and the Transformation of the Western Pioneer Monument.” Pacific Historical Review 85, no. 1 (February 2016): 110-42.
Cynthia Culver Prescott. “The All-American Eternal Family: Sacred and Secular Values in Western Pioneer Monuments” in We Are What We Remember: The American Past Through Commemoration, edited by Jeffrey Meriwether and Laura D’Amore (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012), 334-58.
Cynthia Culver Prescott. “Crazy Quilts and Controlled Lives: Consumer Culture and the Meaning of Women’s Work in the American Far West” in Women and the Material Culture of Needlework and Textiles, 1750-1950, edited by Maureen Daly Goggin and Beth Fowkes Tobin (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2009), pp. 111-27.
Cynthia Culver Prescott. “‘Why she didn’t marry him’: Love, Power and Marital Choice on the Far Western Frontier,” Western Historical Quarterly 38, no. 1 (Spring 2007): 25-46.
The monument controversy nobody is talking about.Washington Post May 26, 2022.
“Columbus Day marked a key battle in the History Wars of the 1990s.” Washington Post October 11, 2021.
“Problematic pioneer statues deserve the same scrutiny as Confederate monuments.” Denver Post July 6, 2020.
“Think Confederate monuments are racist? Consider pioneer monuments.” The Conversation, August 7, 2018.
Ph.D. in History, University of California, Los Angeles, 2004
M.A. in History, University of California, Los Angeles, 2000
A.B. with Distinction, Duke University, 1998
- major: History
- minor: Slavic Languages & Literatures
“Rediscovering Kansas City’s Pioneer Mothers.” Filmed at Kansas City Public Library, August 2019. Broadcast on C-SPAN September 2019.
“Are Pioneer Monuments Racist?” Invited contribution to “Monuments, Memorials, and Plaques: Comparing Public Reckonings with the History of the West and the History of the South.” Filmed at Western History Association Conference, San Antonio, Texas, October 2018. Broadcast on C-SPAN November 2018.
“The Pioneer Monuments of Avard Fairbanks,” Beyond Footnotes podcast, Portland State University, February 2016.
On-Screen Expert, Who Do You Think You Are?, TLC Television, “Tony Goldwyn” episode airing April 5, 2015.