I study the history of American popular culture, with particular focus on how social groups struggle for favorable representations on stage and screen and for equal access to public amusements. My recent book, Censoring Racial Ridicule: Irish, Jewish and African American Struggles Over Race and Representation, 1890-1930 (University of North Carolina Press, 2015), explores how racial and ethnic groups fought against stereotypes of themselves. These groups often advocated race-based censorship (or what we refer to as hate speech codes today). This work was supported by the American Council of Learned Societies and the Rockefeller Foundation.
My editorial for History News Network -- "The Long History of Hate Speech"-- captures the main themes of Censoring Racial Ridicule.
My first book, Rank Ladies: Gender and Cultural Hierarchy in American Vaudeville (University of North Carolina Press, 1999) traces women's central roles in the audience, on stage, and in the labor movement of the most popular live entertainment of the early twentieth century.
My current research project, "Bringing Feminism to the Airwaves," focuses on feminist television activism, particularly activists' use of the Federal Communications Commission's "fairness doctrine" to pressure television stations to improve their representation of women and feminism. I have completed a case study of Feminists for Media Rights, a group of feminists in Lancaster, Pennsylvania who challenged the license of WGAL in 1975. My essay, "Feminists for Media Rights: A Case Study in Television Activism," appeared in The Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television in 2020.
Ph.D. The University of Iowa, American Studies Program, 1994
M. A. The University of Iowa, American Studies Program, 1991
B. A. Brandeis University, American Studies Department, 1987
summa cum laude Phi Beta Kappa
Grants & Awards
Rachel Fuchs Memorial Award for Excellence in Mentorship and Service to Women/LGBTQ in the Profession, Coordinating Council for Women in History, 2020.
Lindback Foundation Teaching Award, Franklin and Marshall College’s highest teaching honor, 2019.
Research Grants and Fellowships
Center for Sustained Engagement with Lancaster Enhanced Sabbatical Award ($25,000), for full-year sabbatical in 2022.
Franklin Research Grant ($6000), American Philosophical Society (January 2021).
L’Engle Travel to Collection Grant ($1000), Smith College Special Collections (April 2020).
Joan Challinor Research Support Grant, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, September 2018 ($3000).
Rockefeller Fellowship, Center for Ethnicities, Communities and Social Policy, Bryn Mawr College, September 2004-September 2005 ($40,000).
American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship, September 2000 - September 2001 ($25,000).
Scholar-in-Residence, Pennsylvania State Archives, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 2005 ($1500).
Loewenstein-Wiener Fellowship, American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, 2002 ($2500).
Hibernian Research Award, CUSHWA Center for the Study of American Catholicism, 1999 ($2000).
Censoring Racial Ridicule: Irish, Jewish and African American Struggles Over Race and Representation (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015).
Speaking engagements regarding Censoring Racial Ridicule: Skidmore College (9/15/15), Brandeis University (10/18/15), The Pennsylvania State University (10/28/15), Kansas City Public Library (8/23/16) [televised on CSPAN 3] and Chicago Jewish Historical Society (3/20/16)
Rank Ladies: Gender and Cultural Hierarchy in American Vaudeville (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999), cloth and paper.
Co-winner, Emily Toth Prize in Feminism and Popular Culture, Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association
“Paddy, Shylock and Sambo: Irish, Jewish and African American Efforts to Ban Racial Ridicule from Stage and Screen” In Cultural Contestation and the Symbolic Landscape: Politics by Other Means? ed. Marc Howard Ross, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009.
“Pigs, Green Whiskers, and Drunken Widows: Irish Nationalists and the ‘Practical Censorship of McFadden’s Row of Flats in 1902 and 1903.” Journal of American Studies 42.3 (December 2008): 489-514.
“The Stage Irishwoman,” Journal of American Ethnic History 24.3 (Spring 2005): 5-30.
“Do you know your campus speech code?” Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 50:2 (2018): 63-66.
In the News
Professor Alison Kibler is a marvelous teacher, mentor, and role model. Her approach to teaching reflects the cutting edge of our profession, and the energy and abundant curiosity she brings to the...Read More
Early 20th-century entertainment that depicted the Irish as childlike drunks, Jewish people as greedy manipulators, and African-Americans as violent sexual predators spurred these groups to challenge...Read More
While the recent viral video of a white police officer waving his gun at black teenagers at a suburban Texas pool party might seem remote to Pennsylvanians, racial conflicts at swimming pools hit close to home. AMS Professor Alison Kibler discusses the history of segregation at Lancaster swimming pools in this article for Lancster Newspapers.Read More
Popular Entertainment in Lancaster
Students in my senior seminar in American Studies have produced two collaborative research projects about popular entertainment in Lancaster. The first was an exploration of racial division in the audience and the racial representation on stage a the Fulton Opera House; the second was an examination of the 100-year history of Lancaster's now-defunct amusement park, Rocky Springs. In the 1960s F&M professors and alumni were involved in the legal campaign to desegregate the swimming pool at this park. Recently, I worked with Su Spina and Charisma Lambert to uncover the history of integrated swimming at the city pool in York, Pennsylvania.
with Su Spina, ““Heat, Humidity and Humbug”: The Integration of the Municipal Swimming Pool in York, Pennsylvania, 1947-1954,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History, 144, no. 1 (January 2020): 89-113.
with Shanni Davidowitz, “’Our Color Won’t Wash Off: The Desegregation of Swimming in Lancaster, Pennsylvania,” Journal of Civil and Human Rights 2.1 (Summer 2016): 3-33.
I have also started a research project with undergraduates--Lancaster Vice. It focuses on the history of Lancaster's Law & Order Society, which launched an anti-vice campaign in 1914. Clerical leaders, business owners and some F&M professors investigated and tried to reduce commercial sex work, gambling and liquor. The Lancaster Historical Society has a rich collection of the Law & Order Society's papers. In the summer of 2021 the first Lancaster Vice team worked on reading and digitizing investigator reports, tracing anti-vice activity in the newspapers, researching prominent individuals in census records and producing a map of commercial sex work in 1914. Lancaster Vice will continue in the summer of 2022.
This work has been generously supported by the Center for Sustained Engagement with Lancaster and the Hackman Summer Scholars program.