Natalie D. McDonald

{ historian • writer • educator }

••• Biography •••

I am a scholar-educator committed to historical literacy and civic engagement. My academic work focuses on American empire and memory in the twentieth-century US West. I completed my MA in History at California State University, Northridge (CSUN), in 2024, having graduated summa cum laude from Pomona College (Claremont, CA) in 2019. I plan to devote my career to historical research and education because I believe the stories we tell about the past have the power to inspire contemporary change. 

••• Awards & Grants •••

Best Paper Award, CSUN Department of History (May 2024) for an outstanding graduate student paperNathan O. Freedman Memorial Award for Outstanding Graduate Student, CSUN (Apr 2024) Charles Macune Award, CSUN Department of History (May 2023) for strong academic accomplishments and significant leadership upon nomination by faculty members • Robert H. Schiffman Memorial Award (Honorable Mention), CSUN Office of Graduate Studies (Apr 2023) for outstanding promise in scholarship, research or creative activity • Rocky Mountain Interdisciplinary History Conference Paper Prize (Sept 2019) for presenting the best conference paper, as judged by University of Colorado Boulder faculty • John Kemble Senior Thesis Award, Pomona College History Department (May 2019) for the best senior thesis, judged on research and presentation • Phi Beta Kappa Award (May 2019) for high quality of scholarship and promise of future distinction • Mudge Latin Prize, Pomona College Classics Department (May 2019) for excellence in Latin • Claremont Colleges Library Undergraduate Research Award (Apr 2017 & Apr 2019) for exemplary original research and scholarship • Pomona College Summer Undergraduate Research Program Grant & Westergaard Student Research Grant (June 2018) to conduct independent thesis research in U.K. archives • Beaver Prize, Pomona College History Department (May 2018) for demonstrating integrity in actions and perseverance in work • Bacon Memorial Prize, Pomona College History Department (May 2017) for the best essay relating to the U.S. Constitution • Pomona College Scholar (Sept 2015–May 2019) all semesters

••• Publications & Presentations •••

Natalie McDonald, interview with Kai Ryssdal, FDR’s New Deal transformed the economy. Could Biden do the same? Marketplace, American Public Media, January 24, 2024.

Natalie McDonald, Remnants of a Radical Hope, Perspectives on History (online), American Historical Association, August 22, 2023.

Natalie McDonald, (Re)visioning Past and Present, Perspectives on History (online), American Historical Association, September 21, 2023.

McDonald, Natalie. “Taking Root in the Sahara: French Algeria's Centennial Congrès d'El-Goléa, 1930,” presented at the Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association Annual Meeting, California State University, Northridge, August 10, 2023, and the UC Santa Cruz Center for World History Graduate Student Conference, October 20, 2023.

This paper considers the little-studied Congrès d'El-Goléa, organized in 1930 by the French Algerian administration to study the cultivation of rose gardens and orange groves in the Sahara. Held 1,000 kilometers south of Algiers in the oasis town of El-Goléa (today's El Menia) and attended by European and American academics, agronomists, and horticulturalists, the Congrès was the first of a series of events commemorating the centenary of French Algeria. "It is essential to continue the French work in the Sahara through undertakings of a new order," the organizers wrote of the Congrès. "This French work has so far experienced stages characterized by geographical exploration, military action, diplomatic and administrative action. Extremely interesting industrial and tourist efforts have also been made. But agricultural attempts have not developed at the same pace" (La Rose et l’oranger Au Sahara: Centenaire de l’Algérie Française, Congrès d’El-Goléa, Janvier 1930, 14). In dialogue with the scholarship of Diana Davis and Caroline Ford—who have written extensively on the French colonial administration's use of landscape protection as a means of "civilizing" North Africa—this paper probes how discourses of cultivation/aspiration and heritage/memory intertwined at the Congrès upon the centenary of French conquest to inform the trajectory of settler colonialism in Algeria. An analysis of the report generated following the Congrès, La rose et l'oranger au Sahara, suggests that by drawing on existing botanical networks and narratives to cultivate the landscape, as well as by instituting trade and inspiring tourism, the Congrès d'El-Goléa was intended to launch the colonization of Algeria’s tenuous borderlands. With rose gardens and orange groves, France would “take root” in the Sahara. In addition to engaging with and contributing to the environmental historiography of French North Africa, this research brings historical context to bear on contemporary debates surrounding desert greening and post-colonial land management.

McDonald, Natalie. “Imagining the Imperial Community: Wartime and Postcolonial Representations of the British Women's Military Services in India and the Middle East, 1942–1945.” Rocky Mountain Interdisciplinary History Conference, University of Colorado Boulder (September 2019).

During the Second World War, women’s branches of the British military were established in India and the Middle East. This paper considers how representations of the overseas women’s services—and the English and local servicewomen who were employed in “auxiliary” duties ranging from clerical to medical—participated in Britain’s late-imperial project. Drawing on newsreel footage, print journalism, and records of recruiting parades (all accessed at the British National Archives and Imperial War Museum), it argues that representations of the Indian and Middle Eastern women’s services erased the gendered and racial power dynamics that underpinned servicewomen’s lived realities. Instead, the British media foregrounded multiculturalism in the name of political stability and British self-understanding as a benevolent and inclusive imperial power. Moreover, two turn-of-the-century history education projects that have attempted to restore colonial women’s wartime service to collective memory have instead perpetuated this flawed process of “imperial inclusion” via simultaneous erasure, tokenization, and othering. [This paper is based on my undergraduate thesis, “Engendering Empire: The British Women’s Military Services in India and the Middle East, 1939–1945,” which considers the establishment, experience, representation, and memory of the overseas women’s services.]

McDonald, Natalie. “Non-Aligned Feminism: Representing a ‘Third World’ in the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, 1947–1951.” Michigan Journal of History 15 (Winter 2019), 308-359.

This study explores how representatives of the nascent Third World resisted Cold War hegemony in the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women—the first major intergovernmental body devoted to women’s rights—prior to the emergence of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). By analyzing the minutes from each of the Commission’s one hundred meetings between its first session in 1947 and its fifth in 1951, I argue that representatives of Asian, Latin American, and Middle Eastern countries challenged both the hegemonic posturing of the Soviet representative and the universalist pretensions of Western representatives as early as 1947. By establishing a self-conscious identity as “small” countries with common interests, advocating interplay between the international and the local, and foregrounding women’s national and political identities, they challenged the idea of a universal women’s rights framework to create a “non-aligned” feminism at the nexus of international feminist discourse. Indeed, while the CSW was certainly fraught by Cold War tensions as previous historians have argued, it was not defined purely by a US-Soviet faceoff; to claim that it was is to be misled by the dualistic thinking of the time. Rather, the Commission on the Status of Women reflects the full transnational complexity of the Cold War, which was defined by interactions between the First, Second, and Third Worlds.

McDonald, Natalie. “‘The Serene Skies of Kobe’: Memories of the Kobe Jewish Refugee Community, 1940–1941.” Wittenberg University East Asian Studies Journal 43 (2019), 45-59.

In the early years of the Second World War, when the international community had effectively closed its doors to refugees, 4,608 European Jews found haven in Kobe, Japan. Although the Jewish refugee community in Japanese-occupied Shanghai has received attention in both the academic and popular spheres, its counterpart in Kobe has largely been overlooked. Nevertheless, refugees’ memories of Kobe are remarkably rich. In this paper, I analyze oral histories of the Jewish refugee experience in Kobe as examples of what Takashi Fujitani, Geoffrey White and Lisa Yoneyama call “critical memories.” Memories of the Jewish refugee experience in Kobe are, by the definition of Fujitani et al., “perilous” for two reasons. First, there are fewer and fewer alive to remember this often overlooked subset of Holocaust memories. And second, their memories challenge—or at least complicate—dominant memories of World War II, principally by recalling an instance of Japanese moral superiority on the international stage. I have asked not only how these oral histories challenge dominant memories, but also how power dynamics inform the memories articulated. To investigate this question, I use Michel Foucault’s definition of power in “The Subject and Power” as “a mode of action which does not act directly and immediately on others [but] upon their actions."

••• Academic & Professional Experience •••

Instructor, CSUN Academic First Year Experiences (Beginning Aug 2024) Teach a class of up to 25 first-year History majors linking curricular learning with co-curricular learning in ways that help new students make a successful transition to the University. Offer weekly office hours, attend faculty meetings, participate in assessment of student learning, etc.


Research Assistant, The Living New Deal (Jan 2023­–present) Carry out research on New Deal public works and art around metro Los Angeles. Establish contact and maintain good relations with historians, archivists, and organizations.


Intern, CSUN Department of History & CA State Parks (Sept 2023–May 2024) Researched the long history of the Los Angeles State Historic Park (LASHP) site under the auspices of the California State Parks Relevancy & History Project with an emphasis on the grassroots movement to create a park at the site in the late 20th century. Created a syllabus and served as TA for an undergraduate course at CSUN in Spring 2024 focused on documenting and engaging public audiences in the history of LASHP.


Writing Tutor, CSUN History Writing Center (Sept 2022–May 2024) Provided guidance to students on academic history writing in one-on-one consultations, e.g., how to craft an effective thesis, develop a compelling argument, engage with primary and secondary source materials.


Teaching Intern, CSUN Department of History (Aug 2023–Dec 2023) Graded papers for undergraduate U.S. history survey (138 students enrolled).


Perspectives Daily Summer Columnist, American Historical Association (June 2023–Sept 2023) One of three graduate students selected to write a series of two columns for online publication in the American Historical Association’s newsmagazine.


Research Assistant, CSUN Department of History (June 2023–Aug 2023) Provided research/bibliographic support to Dr. Jessica Kim for her upcoming book (to be published by Cambridge University Press) on American cities and empire.


Curatorial Intern, The Huntington (Mar 2023­–May 2023) Provided research support to the Huntington's Chief Curator of American Art.


Fellow, CSUN Office of Graduate Studies TA Fellowship Program (Jan 2023–May 2023) Selected through a competitive application and interview process to participate in program designed to prepare graduate students to be exceptional candidates for doctoral Teaching Assistant positions. Received training in teaching philosophy development, syllabus & lesson design, advanced pedagogy. Awarded a Certificate of Teaching upon completion of the program.


Student Council Member, The Wende Museum of the Cold War & The Thomas Mann House (Jan 2022–Dec 2023) Co-organize and co-present a thematic series of public Zoom presentations, interviews, and panel discussions on the theme "In Search of Truth" (2022) and “The Political Mandate of the Arts” (2023).


Citizenship Program Instructor (Volunteer), International Rescue Committee (Jan 2020–Dec 2022) Prepared students for the federal naturalization exam with instruction in civics, history, and ESL through the IRC’s Citizenship and Financial Literacy program. Served as TA at Watts public library Jan–March 2020; during COVID-19 pandemic, developed lesson plans and facilitated discussion as co-instructor via Zoom.


Collections Intern, The Wende Museum of the Cold War (Sept 2019–Dec 2019) Cataloged the Museum’s incoming acquisitions and existing backlog, ranging from consumer products to fine art. Practiced historical research, object handling, and using museum database Mimsy XG. Processed oral histories recorded by the museum to be edited/condensed for inclusion on the museum's website.


Head Writing Partner, Pomona College Writing Center (Sept 2018–May 2019) Led training and mentoring of Writing Partners working with writing-intensive courses, including first-year seminars in the fall semester. One of four senior Writing Partners who served as the leadership team for Writing Center staff; responsibilities included hiring and training new tutors and mentoring a small group of tutors throughout the year.


Writing Partner, Pomona College Writing Center (Sept 2016–May 2019) Provided guidance to students on academic research and writing in one-on-one consultations. Mentored students in writing intensive history classes: first-year seminar “First Person Americas” (Fall 2016, 2017, 2018), “The Russian Revolution” (Spring 2017), “Researching the Cold War” (Spring 2018).


Undergraduate Fellow, Pomona College Humanities Studio (Sept 2018–May 2019) One of six seniors engaged in humanities research selected to participate in a yearlong seminar with Pomona faculty and postdoctoral fellows to discuss readings, talk with visiting scholars, and share work in progress.


Student Liaison (Volunteer), Pomona College History Department (Jan 2018–May 2019) Organized and hosted monthly gatherings to (1) build a sense of community among students and faculty within the Department, and (2) make history accessible to the wider college community. Partnered with Department faculty to host visiting scholars for informal conversation about their historical research; guests included Dr. Mónica Moreno Figueroa of Downing College, Cambridge, and esteemed German historian Karl Schlögel.


Student Representative, Faculty Position Advisory Committee (Sept 2017–May 2018) One of three student representatives on the college-wide faculty committee that advises the President and Dean of Pomona College on strategic planning and faculty hires. Solicited student feedback on proposals from the departments of Politics and Physics & Astronomy for faculty hires; drafted memos summarizing student feedback for the committee at large. Of nine departmental proposals considered, the Physics & Astronomy Department's proposal was ranked "Highest Priority" and the Politics Department's "High Priority."


Reporter & Columnist, The Student Life, Claremont Colleges (Sept 2016–May 2017) Researched and wrote biweekly news articles and opinion columns for the Claremont Colleges student newspaper. Interviewed Claremont Mayor and City Council members for article “Pitzer Hosts Claremont Mayor in Ceremony to Affirm Diversity," Feb. 2017.

••• Writing Samples •••

McDonald_Serene Skies of Kobe.pdf

"The Serene Skies of Kobe": Memories of the Kobe Jewish Refugee Community, 1940–1941

Wittenberg University East Asian Studies Journal 43 • May 2019

McDonald_Engendering Empire.pdf

Engendering Empire: The British Women’s Military Services in India and the Middle East, 1939–1945 

Claremont Colleges Library Undergraduate Research Award • John Kemble Senior Thesis Award in History

McDonald_Non-Aligned Feminism.pdf

Non-Aligned Feminism: Representing a "Third World" in the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, 1947–1951

Michigan Journal of History 15 • May 2019