Megan VanGorder

  Assistant Professor
  708-534-7278ext. 7278
  Office Location: E1514K
  College: CAS

History - Bachelor of Arts
Division of Arts and Letters



Civil War and Reconstruction Era (1840-1875)
U.S. Women's History
History of Medicine


"I am a former middle school history teacher with a passion for history and history education. At GSU, I get to pursue those two loves in the teaching roles that I have at the university. I teach a range of U.S. History courses and have the pleasure of coordinating and instructing in the newly developed Social Studies Education BA and Certificate program.

My research and writing focus spans the Antebellum Era, including social and cultural issues leading up to the American Civil War through the early 1900s with concentrations on the Civil War and Reconstruction, gender, medical institutions, race, and memory.

I defended my dissertation, ""What Mother Meant: Maternal Competence, Medical Authority, And Memory in the Case of Mary Bickerdyke (1820-1910)"" in May 2021. The dissertation’s overall aim is to suggest a revision on the commonly understood narrative of “Mother” Mary Bickerdyke, the famed Illinois Civil War nurse, through a deep examination of her archival material and activity after the Civil War. Previous biographers and present historians have not explored how her biological and culturally adopted motherhood affected her negotiation of professional endeavors throughout her life. Her individual experience demonstrates both the economic limitations placed on older and low-income women who displayed professional proficiencies. Women like Bickerdyke habitually demonstrated motivation and competency to leverage their household training as mothers to create opportunities for themselves in the medical field. My dissertation argues that her maternal competence and the clout that she developed as a publicly respected mother enabled her to exercise medical authority in a variety of institutional spaces from 1861-1901.

I will be turning my dissertation into a book project which will be under peer review in 2023 with the University of North Carolina Press.

I write a bimonthly column for Illinois Heritage Magazine on ""Teachable Moments"" in Illinois history".

- Megan VanGorder