Paula Nelson

Paula Nelson

Professor, History

Office: Gardner 141
Tel: 608.342.1790

  • Ph.D. University of Iowa
  • M.A. University of South Dakota
  • B.A. Southwest Minnesota State University


  • American West
  • Great Plains
  • Rural Life and Culture
  • US Social History


  • History of the US to 1877
  • New Nation
  • Civil War and Reconstruction
  • Gilded Age and Progressive Era
  • West in American History

Research Interests:

  • 19th and early 20th century small town life on the northern Great Plains
  • The challenges of farming on the Great Plains
  • Reform movements in the Dakotas
  • Why North Dakota and South Dakota are so different

Recent Publications:

  • "Home and Family First:  Women in South Dakota Political Culture," in The Great Plains Political Tradition:  Essays on South Dakota Political Culture, South Dakota State Historical Society Press, 2011
  • "State History in Local Perspective" in The State We're In:  Reflections on Minnesota History, Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2010
  • Sunshine Always:  The Courtship Letters of Joseph Gossage and Alice Bower of Dakota Territory, South Dakota State Historical Society Press, 2007

Current Projects:

  • An essay on local politics and community service in Canton, SD, 1871-1905, through the work of one individual, N.C. Nash, citizen extraordinaire
  • A book on the first decades of Canton, SD, 1868-1905, what people there "knew" about their world and how their families, neighborhoods and community worked, the impact of the Long Depression and Gilded Age industrialization on the area, and the role of Norwegian immigration on the character of the town