Baltimore had by then become starkly divided along racial lines, with many white middle-class residents leaving for the suburbs. In 1963, Ms. Howe joined students in organizing a protest demonstration against a segregated movie theater near Morgan State College, a historically Black institution.
The next year she traveled to Jackson, Miss., as a Freedom Summer volunteer to help register Black voters. She was given the task of opening a Freedom School for Black children in the basement of a church and ran it with a staff of six college students.
There, Ms. Howe met Alice Jackson, a 16-year-old who made such an impression on her that she persuaded Alice’s parents to let their daughter travel to Baltimore to attend school there. “I think I was a hard worker, but I was also fearless,” Alice, now Alice Jackson-Wright, said by phone on Sunday.
Though Ms. Howe did not formally adopt Alice, she became a second mother to her. In addition to her, Ms. Howe is survived by Ms. Jackson-Wright’s two children and four grandchildren, who knew Ms. Howe as Baba.
By 1969, Ms. Howe was frequently invited to speak on feminist subjects. In a talk titled “Should Women Read Fiction?” she criticized the fate that male authors often prescribed for female characters: marriage, death or some combination of the two.
In 1970, the same year the Feminist Press was founded, Ms. Howe was appointed chair of the Modern Language Association’s Commission on the Status and Education of Women in the Profession, which sought to advance the study of scholarship by women and elevate female faculty members. In those conversations, whether she knew it or not, she was beginning to promote a growing discipline.
“A decade ago, it had no name,” she wrote in The Times in 1976. “A few academics around the country labeled a segment of their freshman composition courses ‘growing up female’ or taught part of a sociology course on ‘gender.’”