Sterling College’s Devlin wins award from the Western History Association

Female Professor looking at camera
Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Dr. Donna Devlin, assistant professor of American history and government, recently was announced as the 2023 Bert Fireman and Janet Fireman Award winner from the Western History Association. 

“We are so proud of Dr. Devlin for not only her recognition as the 2023 Bert and Janet Fireman Award winner, but the fact that she is still within her first semester as an assistant professor at Sterling College. Donna shines as a new professor here at Sterling, both in and out of the classroom, and we appreciate all she does for the students we are here to serve,” said Dr. Ken Brown, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College. 

Devlin was awarded for her article, “A ‘Hired Girl’ Testifies Against the ‘Son of a Prominent Family’: Bastardy and Rape on the Nineteenth-Century Nebraska Plains.” The piece examines the experiences of Annie Sadilek, the prototype for Willa Cather’s 1918 novel, My Antonia, with sexual assault in 1887-1888, Red Cloud, Neb. It focuses on the legal landscape within which she worked to bring a civil charge of bastardy yet testified to rape without also bringing criminal charges. 

“I am truly grateful to the Western History Association in their recognition of my work as significant to the field of western history. This story speaks to the courage of Annie Sadilek in bringing such intimate charges to the late-nineteenth century courtroom, a time and space within which women generally had no right to vote, serve on juries, nor participate in the administration of American jurisprudence. Red Cloud, Nebraska, home of the National Willa Cather Center, has a rich literary history and, as this piece demonstrates, a rich legal history to be explored. Thank you, Western History Association, and to Sterling College for your support,” said Devlin. 

Sterling College is a Christ-centered, four-year college located in Sterling, Kansas, with a mission to develop creative and thoughtful leaders who understand a maturing Christian faith. For more information, visit