Karen Ann (Hawkins) Schuler was born June 7, 1946 in Fort Dix, New Jersey at McGuire Air Force Base. Her mother was from Louisiana, and met her father while he was training for the Air Force. When Karen was nine months old, the family moved to Farmington, Maine. There, her father worked as president of a bank. She grew up in Farmington, and then attended the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF). There, she received her B.A. She received an M.A. in Public Administration at the University of Maine at Orono in 1993. Her first brush with politics was early in her college career. She threatened to picket the president of UMF, Einar Olsen, for not providing adequate child care services for the older, married students. Her skills led to the creation of the Sweatt-Winter Day Care Center at the university. She has been active in many campaigns for the Maine legislature.
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L'Hommedieu, Andrea, "Schuler, Karen oral history interview" (2004). Edmund S. Muskie Oral History Collection. 355.