Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Spring 2012


Great Plains Research 22.1 (Spring 2012)


© 2012 Copyright by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Cathleen Cahill's Federal Fathers and Mothers is an excellent contribution to the literature on social provision, American state development, and Indian affairs. It should be essential reading for scholars using Theda Skocpol's classic Protecting Soldiers and Mothers (1992), and it is a fine addition to the growing number of titles critiquing the traditional view of the 19th-century American state as simple, small, and unobtrusive. Cahill offers a social history of the u.s. Indian Service, especially the School Service, from Reconstruction to the New Deal, focusing on the lives and relationships of Indian and non-Indian men and women in the Service, and how their careers and activities interacted with the "intimate colonialism" of the assimilation and allotment eras. Making brilliant use of a trove of primary materials in Indian Office personnel records, Cahill, in the core of the book, scrutinizes the experiences of single women and married couples in the Service, including examinations of leisure, friendships, romantic relationships, interracial marriages, and professional interactions. Notably, the Indian Service employed thousands of women in the decades after the Civil War, and Cahill reveals important information about women in the federal bureaucracy.