OAH Distinguished Lecturer Profile

OAH Distinguished Lectureship program 40 years 1981-2021

Cynthia A. Kierner

Portrait of Cynthia A. Kierner

Cynthia A. Kierner is a professor of history at George Mason University, where she teaches early American and women's history. She is the author or editor of seven books including the award-winning Martha Jefferson Randolph, Daughter of Monticello: Her Life and Times (2012) and Scandal at Bizarre: Rumor and Reputation in Jefferson's America (2004). Kierner is also a past president of the Southern Association for Women Historians. Her current book project is entitled "Inventing Disaster: The Culture of Calamity from Jamestown to Johnstown."

Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

The steamboat transformed American life, promoting settlement and prosperity of the West and making travel possible for more people. But when steamboat boilers exploded, they left a trail of burnt and disfigured corpses across the continent. The steamboat as a source of opportunity and pleasure, on the one hand, and as a cause of so much suffering and devastation, on the other, fascinated Americans. For that reason the steamboat—and especially steamboat explosions—figured prominently in the newspapers, images, literature, and commercial entertainments of the antebellum era.
On 26 December 1811, a horrific fire in a Richmond, Virginia, theater killed at least 76 people, the vast majority of whom were women and children. This talk examines contemporary responses to the Richmond theater fire and how they related to gender, class, and race, and also to the ongoing construction of regional and national identities.