Kaitlin Benefiel of Nebraska City, a Peru State student and a member of Phi Alpha Theta, a national history honor society, recently attended the Biennial National Phi Alpha Theta Conference in New Orleans and presented a thought-provoking paper on the non-traditional roles that women undertook during the homesteading period of the American west.
The paper, entitled, “Busting Sod and Stereotypes: Laboring Women of the Homesteading Era,” drew on personal diaries and memoirs and noted that Pioneer-era women often took on roles as entrepreneurs and leaders.
Dr. Kathi Nehls of Peru State College said that Benefiel recently took a class from her and wrote her senior thesis on the same topic. The paper presented at the conference was a pared-down version of the thesis.
Dr. Nehls said the conference was a great opportunity for students to gain experience presenting for an audience and also for getting feedback from faculty members from other colleges.

Dr. Nehls said Benefiel did a great job with her presentation.
“It was a cook topic and she got awesome feedback from it,” said Dr. Nehls.
Other students who attended the conference were Ben Nelson, whose presentation was “A Child’s Life: Japanese American Children’s Experience in WWII Relocation Camps,” and Rachael Hall, whose presentation was “Troubled Medicine: A Brief History of the Lethal Injection.”
In addition to attending the conference, students had a great time exploring New Orleans and its history. They saw the Historic Collection of New Orleans and learned about the city’s history from its origins all the way through Hurricane Katrina. Students also visited the French Quarter, the WWII Museum and St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.
This was the first time for the Peru State Phi Alpha Theta to attend the Biennial National Phi Alpha Theta Conference and the chapter was recognized with the honorable mention best chapter award.
Phi Alpha Theta is a national history honor society whose mission is to promote the study of history through the encouragement of research, good teaching, publication and the exchange of learning and ideas among historians. The organization seeks to bring students, teachers and writers of history together for intellectual and social exchanges which promote and assist historical research and publication by members in a variety of ways. Student members must have taken a minimum of 12 hours in history and maintain a 3.1 G.P.A in history courses and a 3.0 overall average.
The groups advisors are Dr. Sara Crook  Dr. Justin Pfeifer and Dr. Nehls.
Benefiel lives in Nebraska City and is doing an internship at the Kregel Windmill Factory Museum. Her dad owns Benefiel Towing out of Hamburg.