The Union Pacific Railroad Museum is hosting a lecture by historian Peter Boag on Saturday, October 12 at 1 p.m. Admission is free and the lecture will take place on the museum’s second floor.


The lecture will look at how Hollywood and countless regional novels simplify the American West’s gender complexities with one-dimensional characters such as the lone cowboy, the gun-slinging marshal, the fated cavalry officer, the schoolmarm, and the little-house-on-the-prairie mother.


“When we think history, sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that historical lives were as easily defined as the black and white photographs that defined an era,” Patricia LaBounty, Union Pacific Railroad Museum curator said. “The past is sometimes simplified and we forget that people were not. They were as complicated, unique, and interesting as we are today!”


Boag’s lecture explores stories from the Old West of individuals whose truths subvert common wisdom about the region’s gender stereotypes. The individuals’ resistance to societal norms question masculinity and femininity and at times resulted in a lack of acceptance by their communities — though in some cases, community acceptance was found contrary to one’s expectations of the time period.

“This is an exciting opportunity to explore often hidden perspectives of the American West,” LaBounty said.

Peter Boag earned his Ph.D. at the University of Oregon in 1988. Since then, he has served on the faculties at Idaho State University and the University of Colorado-Boulder. Since 2009, he has served as Columbia Chair in the History of the American West at Washington State University’s Pullman and Vancouver campuses. He is the author of three books, including Re-Dressing America’s Frontier Past, from which he draws his stories. His current research project focuses on rural children of the American West who murdered their parents during the agrarian crisis of the 1890s.

In 2019, the Union Pacific Museum is reflecting upon the 150th anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad, a pivotal moment in American history. There are only two anniversary events left to attend; we hope to see you there! Following this event, the last one will take place on November 2 — more details to come.

The Union Pacific Railroad Museum is located at 200 Pearl St. in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday through Saturday. Admission is always free. Please visit the museum’s website or call (712) 329-8307 for more information.

This blog post originated from a press release from the Union Pacific Railroad Museum.

This post was originally published on October 7, 2019 on the Unleash Council Bluffs blog.