Amahia K. Mallea

Historian
Drake University
About the Speaker

Amahia Mallea is associate professor of history at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. She earned her doctorate in 2006 from the University of Missouri, where she studied environmental history with Susan Flader. As a transplant to the Midwest, Mallea fell in love with the Missouri River, and it became the subject of her research. She is the author of A River in the City of Fountains: An Environmental History of Kansas City and the Missouri River. At Drake she teaches courses on the history of the West, public health, and urban environments.

Health and Wealth: A History of Public Health along the Urbanized Missouri River

Two competing definitions of the Missouri River emerged in the early twentieth century. One saw the river as a conduit of commerce and industrial development, growing the financial wealth of the region. The second saw the river as pivotal to the region’s public health, especially for cities that relied on the river for both drinking water and waste carriage. These two visions have been in competition, the former arguing that wealth brings about health, and the latter arguing that good health leads to wealth. Each vision sees an important role for the federal government to play—one in economic development, and the other in the protection of human and environmental health. This presentation will explore how these visions developed, and how they impacted the Missouri River and the cities of the lower basin, with an emphasis on Kansas City.

A River in the City of Fountains: An Urban Environmental History of Kansas City

Urban environmental history helps reveal the ways that the Kansas Cities became so socioeconomically segregated and why environmental risk has been unevenly distributed. After establishing the importance of the river to urban development, this program shows that controlling the flow of the river through the city (like drinking water and sewage) was a key to political, economic, and social power. Using images, this presentation will show how Kansas Citians of the past have experienced and dealt with urban and environmental issues.