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Women of the Great Plains and the “Disruption” of Neighborhoods: Challenging Sexual Violence and Coercion Through Local Courts of Law in Kansas and Nebraska, 1870-1900, With a Segue to the Present
This study shares the lived experiences of women and young girls who faced sexual violence and coercion on the Great Plains in the late nineteenth century. Patterns of abuse are shown to span both time and space. Such abuse, however, is not limited to that which these survivors – Lidah Hickman, Annie Sadilek, Mary Borman, Anna Pflughoeft, and Daisy Lammey – faced in the forms of rape, statutory rape, and incest. These women also became subject to the local court systems and the intimate relations associated with rural living on the American frontier. Rural spaces of the Plains left women and young girls, especially of the lower classes and/or minority populations, incredibly visible and vulnerable in white settler societies and the communities they founded between 1870 and 1900. Despite bringing claims before local courts of law, their interests, as females, found the law tilted unfavorably against them. White male lawmakers, judges, county attorneys, and jurors assumed the role of writing, applying, interpreting, processing, and even manipulating, the legal system in practice. And though the demographics of the region and its populations have varied over time, though they remain rural/frontier zones, local agents of law largely have not altered their responses, as the modern-day cases of Madison Smith, Brandon Teena, and Candice Harms demonstrate. However, this is not a study about numbers. Yet. Until the records of local county courthouses are recorded and preserved, especially within these western rural zones of Kansas and Nebraska, such work cannot be completed. Therefore, this research highlighting the Great Plains as a region susceptible to the sexual proclivities of the colonizing American male will remain unfinished until such time. In other words, I have only begun to scratch the tip of the proverbial iceberg of hypermasculine control of the American West which, as demonstrated by this research, formed at the intersection of sexual violence, coercion, and the law.
Devlin, Donna Rae, "Women of the Great Plains and the “Disruption” of Neighborhoods: Challenging Sexual Violence and Coercion Through Local Courts of Law in Kansas and Nebraska, 1870-1900, With a Segue to the Present" (2023). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI30487700.