Chancellor's Professor of History; Director, Center for Great Plains Studies Profile Image
Chancellor's Professor of History; Director, Center for Great Plains Studies Women's & Gender Studies

Margaret Jacobs is the Chancellor’s Professor of History at the UNL. She served as director of Women’s and Gender Studies at UNL from 2006-2011 and from 2016-2018. Formerly, she taught at New Mexico State University from 1997-2004.  

Jacobs currently holds an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship from the Carnegie Corporation of New York for her project, “Does the United States Need a Truth and Reconciliation Commission?” This multimedia project (book, website, podcast, and film) compares truth and reconciliation efforts in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the U.S. in regard to settler abuses against Indigenous peoples. Jacobs also is co-director of the Genoa Indian School Digital Reconciliation Project at UNL.  She was the 2015-16 Pitt Professor of American History and Institutions at Cambridge University in England.  She was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in October 2019. 

She is the author of three books and over a dozen articles and the recipient of grants and fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Spencer Foundation, and the American Council of Learned Societies.  She has lectured widely in England, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada and is a consultant on several films related to American Indian adoption and American Indian women. 

Jacobs studies the history of the American West in a transnational and comparative context with a focus on women and gender as well as children and family. Through comparisons with Australia, Canada, and New Zealand she conceptualizes the American West as a site of settler colonialism and examines the complex historical processes and interactions that develop from this enterprise. She is particularly interested in cross-cultural relations between women in the American West and other colonial settings.

Her first book, Engendered Encounters: Feminism and Pueblo Cultures, 1879-1934 (University of Nebraska Press, 1999) won three awards, including the Gaspar Perez de Villagra Award from the Historical Society of New Mexico and the Sierra Prize from the Western Association of Women Historians. Her second book White Mother to a Dark Race: Settler Colonialism, Maternalism, and the Removal of Indigenous Children in the American West and Australia, 1880-1940 (University of Nebraska Press, 2009) won the Robert G. Athearn Book Award, the inaugural Armitage-Jameson Prize, and the Bancroft Prize from Columbia University. 

Her latest book, A Generation Removed: The Fostering and Adoption of Indigenous Children in the Postwar World examines how and why Indigenous children came to be over-represented in the child welfare systems of the United States, Australia, and Canada. It unmasks how government bureaucrats vilified Indigenous mothers and promoted the removal of Indigenous children to white families. It also chronicles how Indigenous women activists and their allies mobilized to confront this crisis.


WGS Courses

HIST/WMNS 204: History of Women and Gender in the United States

HIST/WMNS 951: Women, Gender, and Empire



Ph.D., History, University of California - Davis

Areas of Specialization

Women's and Gender History

History of the American West

Comparative Indigenous and Settler History