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Sklar, Kathryn Kish (1939–) - U.S. Women’s History

american university national professor

Kathryn Kish Sklar was born on December 26, 1939, in Columbus, Ohio, of Scotch-Irish ancestry on her mother’s side and Hungarian ancestry on her father’s side. Her parents were small business owners who had their start as grocers. Kathryn attended public schools in Columbus, and counts as her most significant early influence her mother, who “held together the diverse ingredients required to run a successful family business.”

Sklar attended Radcliffe College, graduating magna cum laude in history and literature in 1965. She decided to pursue graduate work in history, hoping to understand the ways in which things are shaped by what went before, to pursue meaningful work capable of influencing her own time, and to transcend her own time by connecting with the past. Sklar did her graduate work at the University of Michigan, earning a master’s degree in 1967 and a Ph.D. in 1969. She also has an honorary doctorate from Eastern Michigan University.

Kathryn (Kitty) Sklar’s first academic appointment was at the University of Michigan, where she was lecturer and then assistant professor from 1969 to 1974. From 1974 to 1981 Sklar was associate professor of history at the University of California at Los Angeles. She attained the rank of professor at UCLA in 1981 and stayed there until 1988, when she took a position as Distinguished Professor at Binghamton University, the State University of New York.

The author or editor of ten books and author of ten book chapters and a dozen scholarly articles, Sklar is perhaps best known for her first book, Catherine Beecher: A Study in American Domesticity , and her most recent, Florence Kelley and the Nation’s Work: The Rise of Women’s Political Culture, 1830–1900 . The first, a biography of Beecher and an exploration of nineteenth-century domestic culture, was a winner of the Berkshire Prize and a finalist for the National Book Award. The study of Florence Kelley represents Sklar’s second major attempt at writing biography, and has already earned significant attention. “Sklar has used her extraordinary talent as a biographer to reveal both intensely personal aspects of Florence Kelley’s life and the dynamics of social reform in late nineteenth-century America,” writes historian David Montgomery. And the collection she co-edited with Linda Kerber and Alice Kessler-Harris, U.S. History as Women’s History , brings together the work of many of the most eminent senior scholars in the field.

Asked about her most significant achievements, aside from teaching and publications, Sklar cites her work as the founder and coordinator for ten years of the Workshop on Teaching U.S. Women’s History. This workshop for college teachers of U.S. women’s history continues to thrive nearly twenty years after its inception. Sklar also co-coordinated, with Gerda Lerner, a National Endowment for the Humanities Conference of Graduate Teachers in Women’s History, held in 1988 in Wisconsin. She has also chaired the committees of sixteen completed dissertations and is currently chairing the committees of about that many more.

Sklar has been the recipient of many fellowships, including those from the National Humanities Center, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and the American Association of University Women. She has served the American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians, and Berkshire Conference of Women Historians in several capacities. Most recently, she served as the president of the Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era and as chair of the Upstate New York Women’s History Organization. Sklar has served on the editorial boards of over a dozen publications, including American Quarterly, Journal of American History, Feminist Studies, Ms , and American National Biography .

Kathryn Kish Sklar’s partner is historian Thomas Dublin. She is the mother of two children, Leonard Sklar and Susan Sklar Friedman, and the grandmother of Nevona Sklar Friedman. Her hobby is family photography.

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