Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Edwin A. Martini

Second Advisor

Dr. Mitch Kachun

Third Advisor

Dr. Robert Ulin


Dutch-America, commemorations, Christian reformed church, memory, tulip time, reformed church in America


The people of the Dutch-American community constructed and maintained a strong ethnoreligion identity in the twentieth despite pressures to join the mainstream of the United States. A strong institutional completeness of congregations and schools resulted from and contributed to this identity. The people in these institutions created a shared identity by demanding the loyalty of members as well as constructing narratives that convinced people of the need for the ethnoreligious institutions.

The narratives of the Dutch-American community reflected and reinforced a shared identity, which relied on a collective memory. The framing, maintaining, altering, and remodeling of the collective memory from the 1920s to the 1970s reflected both dynamics within the community as well as pressures from the outside. The commemorations that were directed at internal audiences, such as congregational commemorations, as well as commemorations directed at external audiences, such as Tulip Time Festivals and town anniversaries reflected these dynamics. This dissertation shows the constructed nature of these narratives and the resulting ethnoreligious community. At the same time acknowledging the common descent of most of the people in the group.

Further, these narratives reflect a particular religious framework of the Dutch-American community. The members of Dutch America interpreted their experience through a Calvinistic theology. For this group, this theology meant they understood themselves to be God‘s covenant people who God blessed if they were faithful. The narratives and institutions constructed by this ethnoreligious group reflected and reinforced this religious framework.

Finally, this dissertation argues that the institutions of Dutch America remained strong from the 1920s to the 1970s because people found them helpful to navigate the changes in the twentieth century. The narratives constructed about these institutions convinced members that the congregations, denominations, and schools needed to be maintained in order to show their faithfulness. As they faithfully remembered their past and constructed a collective memory, they did so in the home of constructing a stronger Dutch America.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access