When Visiting Professor of History and Gender and Women’s studies Jennifer Donnally arrived at Knox College earlier this year, she was excited to learn about its abolitionist legacy.
“For someone who has taught in buildings that enslaved people constructed, it is really cool to teach in a place with an abolitionist legacy for the first time,” Donnally said.
This past January, Donnally was featured on the NPR show, “On The Media,” where she discussed President Trump’s executive order banning federal funding for non-governmental organizations that provide abortion counseling, advocate for the decriminalization of abortion and expand abortion services.
In addition to her academic work, Donnally has been interviewed in “The Atlantic” and has been featured on the BBC program “The Compass.”
Donnally first became interested in the history of the United States’ anti-abortion movement when she was an undergraduate at the University of Kansas doing research in the archives of the U.S. Senator Bob Dole. There Donnally found documents from Dole’s 1974 U.S. Senate campaign, one of the first Republican campaigns to have anti-abortion policies at its forefront.
After graduating from the University of Kansas, Donnally went on to get her masters degree and doctorate from the University of North Carolina. Donnally’s thesis was on Mildred Jefferson, the first African American woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School and a prominent anti-abortion activist. Jefferson is largely responsible for making the Republican Party the anti-abortion party it is today.
Donnally has spent most of her career teaching in the south at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and Hollins University in Roanoke, Va. She specializes in the history of the United States anti-abortion movement and American political history.
Donnally will be at Knox for the year while Associate Professor of History Konrad Hamilton and Associate Professor and Chair of Gender and Women’s Studies Magali Roy-Fequiere are on a sabbatical.
In addition to her academic life, Donnally enjoys yoga, swimming, ceramics and traveling the world. Places she has traveled include South Africa, Zambia, New Zealand, Canada and Great Britain.
Recently Donnally traveled to Zambia and South Africa to interview members of a network of anti-abortion activists who want to ban the funding of contraceptives by the United Nations. There, she successfully attempted to raft the world’s most difficult whitewater run at the foot of Victoria Falls, the world’s largest waterfall located on the Zambia’s border with Zimbabwe. She also swam at the edge of the waterfall, in what is called The Devil’s Swimming Pool.
This term, Donnally is teaching America in the 1960s for the History department and an introduction course for the gender and women’s studies department. Continuing with the theme of decades, Donnally plans on teaching history classes on America in the 1970s and in the 1980s.
She will also be teaching an Introduction to Oral History course, where she hopes to have students chronicle stories of Galesburg residents from the 1960s and 1970s. In the gender and women’s studies department, Donnally will be teaching a class on reproductive justice in global thought and practice, which overlaps with much of her research.
So far, Donnally has been most struck by the impressiveness of her students.
“Faculty had bragged about your passion and work ethic when I interviewed here, but students are exceeding my high exceptions. I’m actually having to up my teaching game to meet student enthusiasm and direct it to achieve the learning outcomes set by students,” Donnally said.
Donnally doesn’t know what she is going to do after this year. She has several papers in the works for various academic journals on the history for the anti-abortion movement in the United States. She also hopes to do more research on international anti-abortion movements as well, but for now she is grateful to have a chance to push the limits of her teaching and scholarship.