Kathleen McCarthy

Kathleen McCarthy faculty photo black and white

Research Interests

  • Nineteenth Century U.S. History
  • Philanthropy
  • Civil Society
  • Voluntary Associations and Social Reform


  • Ph. D. University of Chicago

Kathleen McCarthy earned her Ph.D. in history from the University of Chicago and joined the Graduate Center in 1986. She is founding director of the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society at the Graduate Center. McCarthy teaches nineteenth-century U.S. history and the history of women and gender. Her books, edited volumes, and articles explore philanthropy and civil society in local, national, and international contexts, and she has lectured on these topics in more than thirty countries. Her authored books include American Creed: Philanthropy and the Rise of Civil Society (2003); Women’s Culture: American Philanthropy and Art, 1830–1930 (1991), cowinner of the 1994 Distinguished Book Award of the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA); and Noblesse Oblige: Charity and Cultural Philanthropy in Chicago, 1829–1929 (1982). She served as editor for Lady Bountiful Revisited: Women, Philanthropy and Power (1990) and Women, Philanthropy, and Civil Society (2001). She is currently working on a book titled “Women, Power and Money in the United States.”
McCarthy is the past president of ARNOVA and has served as chairperson of the Nonprofit Academic Centers Council and treasurer of the International Society for Third Sector Research. In 1999, she served on the informal planning group for the first White House Conference on Philanthropy, in which she was also a participant. McCarthy has appeared in PBS documentaries and on 20/20 and other television programs, and has been widely quoted in the press in the United States and overseas.