Florence Howe : “Mother of Women’s Studies”

Keywords: women’s studies, feminist, woman authors, The Feminist Press

(There are many influential people in history that are not generally known. Many such can arguably be said to have changed history because they doubted something and acted on that doubt. Here is someone I recently came across that I put in these categories.)

I sometimes get struck when confronted with “a first”. You know, the first Black president, or the first openly bisexual governor. Intellectually I understand that, in some sense, there is always a first. So I think my reactions are usually more from the fact that so many firsts I hear about are so recent (e.g., the above examples.) Why didn’t these things happen long ago? This extends to fields of study. How can there be whole areas of reality that haven’t been interesting enough to study until recently? And thus I was struck by the very concept that there was a “mother of women’s studies”.

Why is it only in the 1960s or so that the idea of women’s studies was even thought about? The answer, of course, is millennia of patriarchy. As is implied by this quote, who would be interested in such?

“I was teaching women’s studies at Goucher College in Maryland at the time, and there weren’t enough materials,” Ms. Howe told The New York Times in 1972. “The publishers I spoke to all said, ‘Wonderful idea, but there’s no money in it.’”

One of her best known activities was establishing The Feminist Press which provided exposure for many women authors. More generally she was an active and honored academic, an early feminist, and the author of influential essays.

Florence Howe doubted the patriarchal attitude towards women and spawned an entire field of study to counter it. That’s awesome!

See also (or, as always, do your own search):

New York Times article

Wikipedia article

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