Participant Info

First Name
Karen Ward
Last Name
Siena College
Website URL
United States, 20th Century, Late 19th Century, Women, Gender, Masculinity, Business, Film, History of Capitalism
Additional Contact Information
I am on leave 2018-2019 but I am available for media

Personal Info

About Me

Dr. Karen Ward Mahar is a professor of history and the co-director of the American Studies Program at Siena College near Albany, New York. Mahar first noticed the unusual number of female silent film directors as a graduate student in Los Angeles, doing research for Women in Film’s Legacy Series, an oral history project documenting important women in Hollywood. Mahar traced the history of these female directors and producers in Women Filmmakers in Early Hollywood (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006). She argues that their entrance into the film industry came through the theater, and their exit in the 1920s was associated with the arrival of Wall Street investment bankers after World War I. Mahar is currently working on a book on the masculine culture of business executives as an NEH-Hagley scholar at the Center for the History of Business, Technology, and Society at the Hagley Museum & Library in Wilmington, DE

Recent Publications


Women Filmmakers in Early Hollywood (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006).


“Doing a Man’s Work: The Rise of the Studio System and the Remasculinization of Filmmaking.” In Classical Hollywood Reader, edited by Steve Neale (New York: Routledge, 2012): 79-93.

Kathryn Fuller-Seeley; Karen Ward Mahar. “Exhibiting Women: Gender, Showmanship, and the Professionalization of Film Exhibition in the United States, 1900–1930.” In Jane Gaines, Radha Vatsal, and Monica Dall’Asta, eds. Women Film Pioneers Project. Center for Digital Research and Scholarship. New York, NY: Columbia University Libraries, 2013.

 “Helen Holmes” and “Clara Kimball Young.”  In Women Film Pioneers Project, edited by Jane Gaines, Radha Vatsal, and  Monica Dall’Asta.  Center for Digital Research and Scholarship. New York, NY: Columbia University Libraries.

“Dorothy Arzner.” In Notable American Women: Completing the Twentieth Century, edited by Susan Ware.  Cambridge, MA:  The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2004, pp. 31-2.

True Womanhood in Hollywood: Gendered Business Strategies and the Rise and Fall of the Woman Filmmaker, 1896-1928, Enterprise & Society, vol. 2, no. 1 (March 2001), 72-110.

Media Coverage
Co-host, Series on early women filmmakers, Turner Classic Movies, to air November, 2018. Speaker, “Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers,” Kino Lorber/Library of Congress, a documentary series that premiered Brooklyn Academy of Music, July 20-26, 2018. My
Country Focus
United States
Expertise by Geography
United States
Expertise by Chronology
19th century, Modern, 20th century
Expertise by Topic
Capitalism, Gender, Women