Karen F. Blumenthal

March 18, 1959May 18, 2020

Karen Blumenthal, an accomplished journalist and author, advocate and volunteer, baker and stitcher, generous friend and devoted mother, died Monday following a heart attack. She was 61 and filled those years trying to make the world a better place.

Karen spent 25 years in various roles at The Wall Street Journal, including Dallas bureau chief and personal finance columnist, and was a former business editor of The Dallas Morning News. Allergic to greed, corruption and empty promises, her writing cut through obfuscation and made challenging topics accessible to readers. She was a mentor to young journalists and an adjunct professor at three universities. She wrote 12 books for Macmillan, Random House and other publishing houses.

She specialized in brilliantly telling compelling historical tales in ways that helped young adults make sense of a complex world. Her books won four top awards from the American Library Association. In February, The New York Times called her latest book JANE AGAINST THE WORLD, on the history of reproductive rights, ``gripping’’ and a ``legal thriller.’’ Earlier this month, her book BONNIE AND CLYDE won the 2020 Kentucky Bluegrass Award.

She wasn’t afraid to take on big problems. Frustrated that budget cuts had decimated the Dallas Public Library system, she collected data from around the country and showed the Dallas City Council not only how vital libraries are today to education and economic development but also how underfunded Dallas libraries were. Her efforts with the Friends of the Dallas Public Library resulted in millions of dollars in additional funds for public libraries, enabling longer operating hours and stronger collections. She fought tirelessly for a plan to replace the Forest Green Library in northeast Dallas and, at the groundbreaking, Dallas Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Adam McGough said, ``We don’t name libraries in Dallas, but this one should be named for Karen Blumenthal.’’ She was currently serving on the Municipal Library Board.

She was a determined volunteer and passionate learner at Temple Emanu-El, where she served on the Board and chaired many committees. Karen loved the Cowboys, Mavericks and Duke basketball as well as hippos, chocolate and stitching. She was an expert needlepointer, studying with leading teachers around the country, and loved to give away gorgeous ornaments, pillows, wall-hangings and jewelry cases to friends. She won at least 10 ribbons at the Texas State Fair. She also believed good cookies could improve any meeting, illness, celebration or hardship. She was known for her toffee oatmeal chip cookies and almost never went to any event empty-handed. At Passover, she shipped boxes of the most addictive matzo toffee to friends and colleagues around the country.

Karen was born and raised in Dallas. She was valedictorian at Hillcrest High School in 1977 and an Angier B. Duke scholar at Duke University. She earned an M.B.A. at Southern Methodist University while working at the Journal, raising a two-year-old and pregnant with her second child.

At Duke, she was editor of The Chronicle and always said she found her two great loves at the student newspaper: a career in journalism and her husband, Scott McCartney. She later chaired Duke Student Publishing Co., and helped lead the non-profit, independent publisher of The Chronicle through the Great Recession. In 2009, Duke honored her with its Futrell Award for outstanding achievement in communications and journalism.

She is survived by her husband Scott; her two daughters Abby McCartney and Jen McCartney, who will always be the center of her spirit and her greatest pride; her mother Beverly Blumenthal; brother Brad Blumenthal (Lynn); in-laws Harriet Duke, Meredith Smith and Jeff and Becky McCartney; nieces and nephew Maggie and Wesley Smith and Emily McCartney. She was preceded in death by her sister Pam Blumenthal and father Bob Blumenthal.

To honor her life, contributions can be made to Friends of the Dallas Public Library (, Temple Emanu-El ( or Duke Student Publishing (

A memorial service will be held via Zoom at 1 p.m. CDT Wednesday, May 20, 2020. You can also salute Karen by working to repair the world and enjoying a great cookie.


Karen F. Blumenthal

have a memory or condolence to add?

Yasmin Waring

June 3, 2020

I posted earlier about the impact Karen has had on me—even from a distance. Today, I’m taking some Karen time to honor her. Thank you for sharing her with so many of us.

Yasmin Waring

May 31, 2020

I first met Karen at an SCBWI-related event at Blue Mesa in Addison in 2012. I liked her immediately. She gave me her card and told me to contact her with any questions about writing YA. And she really meant it! I bought two of her books—on prohibition and Title IX—and I have supportive emails from her as we corresponded and met for lunch on occasion thereafter. We weren’t close friends, more like friendly acquaintances, but I remember her generosity with her time and wisdom. And her humility given all that she had accomplished. She never condescended. Just gave good, often sobering advice and helpful feedback. I am so grateful I had her as a mentor for a brief time—and as an inspiration for a lifetime.

I am truly sorry for your heartbreak.

Debbie Roberts

May 26, 2020

I did not know Karen but I read her obituary and was moved. What a beautiful spirit she had! I wish our paths could have crossed in life. People like her gives Dallas and even the world hope. We can all appreciate her well-lived life.

Jeff Baker

May 24, 2020

In October of last year, I accompanied a friend to the Audelia Library for a presentation by Karen about her new book "Bonnie and Clyde: The Making of a Legend". It was immediately apparent that Karen was very thorough, dedicated, and detail-oriented in her work. But what truly stands out to me is how personable, congenial, and enthusiastic she was. In the Q&A session afterwards, she seemed to take sincere pleasure in answering peoples' questions. So it was with profound sadness that I read about her recent and sudden passing. She went way too early and had so much more to contribute. My condolences to her family!

Jeff Baker

Libby Z

May 24, 2020

I am so sorry for your loss, McCartney family. Karen and I were not acquainted, but I am a joyful WSJ and DMN reader. Her impressive obituary has inspired me to give more of myself to others. I’m retiring from a long teaching career, and instead of just resting and reading, I think I might try to teach reading to illiterate adults. And I’m going to pick up cross stitch again. Both ideas crystallized while studying the words in Karen’s tribute.
I wish Karen and I had been friends.
She sounds a true treasure!
May the angels surround her and the saints greet her in peace.

Bob McCain

May 24, 2020

Dear Beverly,

My sincere condolences on the loss of your beautiful daughter, Karen.

I will never forget the experience of knowing you and Bob, and of those times in which I was blessed to be Bob's law partner at the Carrington firm.

Please be well and safe in these extraordinary times.

With love,

Bob McCain

Cindy and Jim Gaertner

May 20, 2020

We have so many fond memories of soccer games and practices with Scott and the girls. A remarkable woman - We're so sorry for your loss. Far too soon.

Sharon Perison

May 20, 2020

I'm devastated for you and the girls. I'm so sorry for your unfathomable loss. How can Karen be gone? My brilliant friend. I loved her. Talented and witty beyond words. Straightforward and honest. And kind. We were 8th grade besties. I introduced her to Chinese food, and she turned me on to George Carlin. I vividly remember listening to his comedy album at her house on Desco Drive, especially The 7 Words You Can't Say on TV. She mailed me an envelope about 15 years ago, and to my surprise it was filled with all the funny, stupid notes I had written her in junior high. She lived her life in the pursuit of excellence. I was in awe of all her accomplishments. You two were such an interesting couple and team. Perfect for each other. And what amazing daughters you raised. I can't imagine how much you will miss her. All of you are in my heart and thoughts. xoxo
Sharon Zimmerman Perison


May 20, 2020

To the McCartney family,
I really enjoyed Karen's articles and I have read many of her books. I have used one of her books in a class I teach at DePaul University in Chicago for the last twelve years.
I am so sorry to hear of her death. You have my deepest sympathy. May she rest in peace.
Mike Frigo
Naperville, Illinois

Margaret Whitehill

May 20, 2020

Karen= Humorous, intelligent, determined, talented, steadfast, reliable, honorable, humble, treasured .What a blessing you are. We’ll hold you in our hearts and carry you with us always.