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In Memoriam: Peggy Pascoe

Peggy Pascoe was Beekman Professor of Northwest and Pacific History and Professor of Ethnic Studies. She earned a B.A. from Montana State University in 1977, an M.A. from Sarah Lawrence College in 1980, and a Ph.D. at Stanford University in 1986. She was a member of the UO History Department from 1996 until her death in July 2010. The profile on this page remains as she left it.

Personal Statement

My research and teaching focuses on the history of race, gender, and sexuality, with particular emphasis on two arenas: law and the history of the U.S. West. I’m fascinated by the cultural and historical processes that make race, gender, and sexuality seem like “natural,” common-sense differences rather than the power-laden hierarchies they really were (and are).

My most recent book, What Comes Naturally (Oxford, 2009), shows these dynamics at work in the passage, spread, and enforcement of American laws against interracial marriage. At their height, between 1890 and 1948, these laws covered 30 American states. Marked by the invention of the term “miscegenation” and justified by the claim that interracial marriage was “unnatural,” they prohibited marriage between “whites” and “Negroes,” “Mongolians,” “Chinese,” “Japanese,” “Indians,” “Kanakas,” and “Hindus.” Yet race is only one part of this story, for the label of unnaturality held the extraordinary power that it did because claims about the nature of race were deeply interwoven with claims about the nature of gender and sexuality.

My earlier book, Relations of Rescue (Oxford, 1991), examines the relationships between white missionary women in the U.S. West and the women they set out to “rescue” from prostitution, unmarried motherhood, and polygamy. In the institutions they established—a Chinese Mission Home in San Francisco, a Cottage Home for unmarried mothers in Denver, a federally funded institution for polygamous wives in Salt Lake City—and in their sponsorship of Chinese and Indian “native helpers,” missionary women sought to increase their own moral authority in a patriarchal society even as they tried to challenge (but often only reinforced) dominant forms of racial and religious authority.

I’m also very proud to be one of the co-editors of American Crossroads, a series of cutting-edge books in Ethnic Studies published by the University of California Press. Since its inception in 1997, 27 books have been published, many of them award-winning, and all of them timely, provocative, and well worth reading. I invite you to take a closer look.

A detailed list of my publications is available on the link to my curriculum vitae at the top of this page.  Here are some of my recent online essays, which I hope you'll enjoy:

What Comes Naturally: The Loving v. Virginia Case in Historical Perspective

The Election of Barack Obama and The Politics of Interracial and Same-Sex Marriage

Why the Ugly Rhetoric About Same-Sex Marriage is Familiar to this Historian of Miscegenation

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