OAH Distinguished Lecturer Profile

Catherine Forslund

Portrait of Catherine Forslund

Catherine Forslund is the Isabelle Ross Abbott Professor of History and Women's Studies, the dean of first-year studies, and the chair of the history department at Rockford University. She teaches U. S., Latin American, and Asian history and has worked extensively with local, federally funded Teaching American History programs. Her publications include works in diplomatic and women's history such as We Are a College at War: Women Working for Victory in World War II (2010), Anna Chennault: Informal Diplomacy and Asian Relations (2002), and "Worth a Thousand Words: Editorial Cartoons of the Korean War" in the Journal of Conflict Studies (vol. 22, 2002). She contributed a chapter on Edith Kermit Carow Roosevelt to A Companion to First Ladies (2016), part of the Wiley Blackwell Companions to American History series. Her research interests include Vietnam War–era and other editorial cartoons.

Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

This lecture explores the variety of activities of female college students and other women in the war-time United States drawn largely from sources based in the women’s college experience. Before and during the war, college women—like so many others—were concerned about conscription, the nation entering the war, and helping to bring about victory through activism, factory work, and military service. Looking at experiences both on the home front and abroad, a picture emerges that illustrates women’s vital commitment and contribution made in civilian and military life as well as their difficulties faced during the war.
The career of this dynamic journalist, businesswoman, and political activist reveals the burgeoning power of unofficial diplomats growing in the mid-20th century. Widow of General Claire Lee Chennault of the Flying Tigers, Mrs. Chennault played a role in the 1968 presidential election October surprise, negotiated U.S. landing rights in several “free” Asian nations during and after the Vietnam War, and worked to bridge the divide between the U.S., Taiwan, and mainland China during the Nixon, Reagan, and Bush administrations. Chennault, an early model of informal diplomacy, was a woman operating in very male world, who paved the way for others—both male and female—to follow in her footsteps.
With the turn of the 20th century, the nation’s first ladies entered American life in ways beyond that of capital hostess and national trendsetter. Edith Roosevelt ushered in changes that brought about the activist first ladies of today. Roosevelt created the first Office of the First Lady-- hiring a permanent social secretary, initiated new technologies in the White House, managed the growing press and “celebrity” focuses on the first family, oversaw the first major renovation of the presidential home, and created the White House china collection and first ladies gallery. While not the activist first lady we expect today, Roosevelt stood astride the old and new centuries and the evolving expectations and roles that came with them.