Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Degree Program

Humanities, PhD

Committee Chair

Fosl, Catherine

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

K'Meyer, Tracy

Committee Member

K'Meyer, Tracy

Committee Member

Theriot, Nancy

Committee Member

Kelland, Lara

Author's Keywords

women's history; gender discrimination lawsuit; art; Women's Studies Programs; feminism; philanthropy


This interdisciplinary dissertation examines the life of Mary B. Craik, a Louisvillian who was a professor, feminist activist, philanthropist and artist. The project’s main focus is on Craik’s feminist awakening and activism, and their alignment with second wave feminism. The primary method of data collection was oral history and consisted of interviews with Craik and some of her friends, acquaintances, and colleagues. Additional sources included a scrapbook that documented her major life events, the trial transcript from a gender discrimination lawsuit she launched, and art quilts she made in her later years after she retired. This project examines these resources with historiographies related to feminist social, legal, and art histories serving as a backdrop. After examining the data, it can be determined that Craik’s chronicle not only aligns with second wave feminism, it expands our understanding of the scope of this movement. Her years-long experience with a gender discrimination case that she filed paints a clearer picture of what these legal actions entail, including the toll they extract from plaintiffs. Craik’s case illuminates that these lawsuits can effect positive changes that improve institutional patriarchy, but these gains have limitations, justifying the need for continued legal protections for women who face discrimination. The financial settlement from this case enabled Craik to practice her feminism through philanthropic and artistic endeavors in her later years, which brought Craik considerable positive attention. These activities also provide clues into who Craik was as a person, and what motivated her as a feminist. Her artwork offers compelling evidence that turbulent events from her personal life, including a traumatic childhood, affected her more deeply than she admitted. Finally, this study also provides another example to growing scholarship regarding grassroots activism, broadening our understanding of how widespread feminist activism was throughout the second wave.