Term of Award

Spring 2017

Degree Name

Master of Arts in History (M.A.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of History

Committee Chair

Christina Abreu

Committee Member 1

Michelle Haberland

Committee Member 2

Eric Hall


With a career that has spanned over five decades, country music artist Dolly Parton has continually redefined her image and her music to remain relevant. By incorporating the musical and lyrical stylings of disco and other popular music genres into her songs, Parton moved beyond music’s color line to increase her popularity as an artist. This thesis shows how Parton established a distinct career that catered to different audiences as she traversed the musical color line and repackaged what feminism looked like to country music fans during the Women’s Movement of the 1960s. Placing Parton’s actions in conversation with music’s color line demonstrates how she embraced racial and musical diversity, not just within her music, but also on her television shows of the late 1970s and 1980s. This analysis also examines Parton’s career in relation to the Women’s Movement by looking at the ways in which she used her position and popularity as a country and crossover entertainer to chip away at the traditional structure of country music. Parton presented herself as a more palatable feminist to country music fans and used her image as the genre’s buxom blonde to distract her audience from her messages of gender equality. Through this combination, Parton challenged traditional racial, cultural, and gender boundaries within country music but at other times and for different reasons she conformed to them.

Research Data and Supplementary Material