Joyce Thierer

Joyce Thierer, Ph.D.

Professor of History


Now isn't that just the greeting you would expect from the person in such a picture?  That's me in my Calamity Jane costume (some would say she's my alter ego).  I research, write and perform scripts--first person narratives, oral biographies. 

In addition to Calamity Jane, I perform as four composite figures that bring together the stories of many women:

  • Grower is a woman of the Earth Lodge People, but her father was an American trader and one of her grandfathers a French fur trader. She meets the audience in 1804, when she is known for her farming skills. She is concerned about white explorers and the settlers who will follow and has stories about when the horses came and what trade goods have meant to her people.
  • Jo is a Civil War veteran who disguised herself to enlist in the Army and fight with her younger brother. She raises issues of domestic violence and gender equality, as well as bringing to life the Bleeding Kansas era, the Civil War, and their aftermath.
  • Rosa Fix is a farm woman who meets the audience in 1890. She talks about everything from farming practices of the time to the Populist movement. When I take Rosa to elementary schools we skip the politics and the students get to do some hand sewing and learn about the daily lives of farm children.
  • I began performing Calamity Jane in 1989.  She lets me address issues of identity and the mythic West versus the real West.

Calamity and I are on the Kansas Humanities Council's History Alive! roster, as well as the rosters of the Oklahoma and Nebraska humanities councils. As a partner in Ride into History's historic performance touring troupe I am also in the Kansas Arts Commission's Touring Program and on the Heartland Arts Fund roster for America's midsection.  For the Kansas Humanities Council Speakers Bureau I lecture on "Stories from the Barn," and lead book discussions on a wide range of books, mostly about the West and agriculture.  I also conduct workshops on historic performance, mostly through the non-profit group I helped found, Ride into History Cultural and Educational Project, Inc.


Joyce Thierer

Want to catch this academic being a rowdy woman? Some of my upcoming lectures and performances are listed on the Kansas Humanities Council's website.  (look at "What's Happening in Kansas"). My recent presentations are listed in my CV, linked below.

In 2010 I published Telling History: A Manual for Performers and Presenters of First-Person Narratives (AltaMira Press). The book has been very positively received and adopted for courses around the country. You can find more information at the AltaMira Press website.

Telling History

I present regularly at academic conferences on agricultural, public and women's history, and museum studies. You can see the conferences where I've presented listed on my CV, linked below.

Through 2004 I was on the Governor's Advisory Committee to the Kansas Sesquicentennial Commission.  That's a long way of saying that I get to help plan Kansas's 150th birthday celebration.   The Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed in 1854, and all hell broke loose when Congress decided to let the residents of the territory vote for themselves whether Kansas would enter the Union as a free or a slave state.  I'll be helping communities and historic sites tell the story of the Bleeding Kansas era.  This is a special labor of love for me because my family came to Kansas in 1856.  (I am a fifth generation Flint Hills farm owner.)

My Ph.D. in American History, with an emphasis in agriculture, the West, and women, is from Kansas State University, where I also earned my undergraduate degree.  I have masters degrees in American History and in Library Science from Emporia State University.  I was a university librarian (Kansas State University and Wayne State College in Nebraska) for eleven years.


View my c.v.

My office phone number is 620-341-5533 and my e-mail is