Skip to content

Department of Social Sciences


Karen Smith

Karen Manners Smith, Ph.D.

Professor of History

Roe R. Cross Distinguished Professor

Hi, my name is Karen Manners Smith. I'm a Professor of History, specializing in the history of American women. I teach a variety of courses on women, including American Women's History, Introduction to Women's Studies, Advanced Women's Studies, and Readings in Women, Gender, and Ethnicity. From 2006 to 2012, I was director of Emporia State’s Ethnic and Gender Studies Program. The program offers an interdisciplinary minor and is responsible for bringing many speakers, artists, and performers to campus each year. It is now housed in the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies.

In addition to my courses on gender, I offer courses in immigration and ethnicity, biography, the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, and modern England and Ireland. Several of my courses have additional film components, which are taught separately in evening classes. In the past few years I have taken students on a number of history field trips. Destinations have included New York City, Chicago, England, and Ireland. In fall 2013 I will take students to Boston to visit a variety of sites related to the history of the U.S. and 19th century immigration.

Growing up, I lived briefly in Kenya, East Africa, in Great Britain, Guatemala, and Puerto Rico, and I have traveled all over the United States, much of Europe, the Caribbean, and Central America (I love to travel!!). In September, 2007, I spent two weeks in Kenya as part of the Kenya Scholar Athlete Project, which annually prepares Kenya’s top dozen high school graduates for entrance exams and applications to U.S. universities. Those students usually win full scholarships.

Before coming to teach in Emporia in 1995, I lived in New England, receiving my BA from Brandeis University, and my MA and Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst . Between 1992 and 1995, I taught history at Smith College and Western New England College, and wrote a book called New Paths to Power: American Women 1890-1920 (Oxford University Press 1994).

My dissertation was on the nineteenth century writer, Mary Virginia Terhune. I have presented a number of papers on Terhune and published several articles about her, one of which can be found in the anthology Beyond Image and Convention: Explorations in Southern Women's History (University of Missouri Press, 1998). I have two chapters on southern women writers in The History of Southern Women's Literature (LSU Press, 2002).

Recently my research interests have focused on the the Gilded Age and on the 1960s. My book, A Student Companion to the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, co-written with historian Elisabeth Israels Perry, was published by Oxford University Press in July, 2006. Another book, Time it Was: American Stories from the Sixties, co-edited with Tim Koster, was published by Prentice Hall in April, 2007. My current research project is a biography of Nancy L. Caroline, M.D., an international leader in the field of emergency medical training.

Closer to home, I have become interested in the representation of small-town America found in the writings of Emporia's own William Allen White, the great Kansas journalist, and his son William Lindsay White, both of whom functioned as liaisons between small-town and metropolitan culture in mid-twentieth-century America. In 2005 I published an article on the Whites in Kansas History, for which I won the Edgar Langsdorf Award from the Kansas State Historical Society. I have also served on the Board of Directors of the William Allen White Community Partnership, charged by the Kansas State Historical Society with running the William Allen White State Historic Site, based at White's Emporia house, Red Rocks. In April 2013, I presented a conference paper on Peter Pan Park in Emporia, which was donated by W. A. White to the City of Emporia.

For selections from my vita, click here.

My phone number is 620-341-5570.
My e-mail address is ksmith@emporia.edu.