Kathleen Feeley, history professor and Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences

Authoring insights into modern history.

When seeking a personal glimpse into history that offers juicy facts, look no further than Associate Professor of History and Interim Dean Kathleen Feeley. Whether she’s lecturing in class, chatting informally on campus or drafting her latest book, Feeley dishes little-known facts that tantalize and inspire.

Her latest book, Mary Pickford: Hollywood and the New Woman, reveals how the silent film star rose to become one of the entertainment industry’s major players.

"Pickford was much more than an actress who played ‘little girl’ roles,” says Feeley. “She was also a producer, screenwriter, studio executive, philanthropist, newspaper columnist, board member, suffragist and film preservationist. Most people think her career and life effectively ended in 1933 when she retired from acting, but nothing could be further from the truth. She continued to work until the final decade of her life.”

Pickford’s bold, pioneering spirit and multi-faceted pursuits intrigued Feeley, who was surprised to learn of the depth and range of the woman’s accomplishments. While writing the book, Feeley became engrossed in Pickford’s rags-to-riches tale and the role she played in both our nation’s history and the history of Western women.

“Her plight as a woman struggling to succeed in both her professional and personal lives in early-20th-century America reflected wider changes in women’s lives,” Feeley says. “Suffrage, entry into the paid workforce and the professions, urban migrations, the growth of a mass consumer culture—all of these helped to transform Pickford’s life and that of all American women as the United States emerged as a world power.”

Feeley’s other works include The Mightiest Publicity Powers on Earth: The Rise of the Hollywood Press Corps in Mid-Twentieth-Century America and When Private Talk Goes Public: Gossip in United States History, which she co-edited.