Claire M. Fagin, Powerful Advocate for Nurses and Nursing, Dies at 97
By Cornelia Dean
The New York Times, Jan. 17, 2024
Claire M. Fagin, a leading expert on, advocate for and change agent in the profession of nursing, and one of the first women to lead an Ivy League university, the University of Pennsylvania, died on Tuesday at her home in Manhattan. She was 97.
Her death was confirmed by her son and only immediate survivor, Charles.
Among other achievements, Dr. Fagin was widely credited with overturning the common practice of strictly limiting parental visits to hospitalized children. She was inspired (and infuriated) by what happened in the early 1960s when she and her husband were visiting their young son Joshua, hospitalized for hernia surgery: They were ordered out of the hospital.
So when she earned her doctorate in nursing from New York University in 1964, she made the practice of limiting visits the subject of her dissertation research. Her findings that the practice was harmful drew wide attention — she was interviewed on television about it — and they ignited a transformation in medical care.
“She was the one who cracked that,” said Linda H. Aiken, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, where Dr. Fagin was named dean in 1977.
Dr. Fagin transformed the school — tripling its enrollment, establishing a doctoral program in nursing and building Penn into a widely acknowledged world leader in nursing research and education. In 2006, Penn renamed its Nursing Education Building the Claire M. Fagin Nursing Sciences Building.
“It is really hard to identify anyone who has had a larger impact on nursing than Claire,” Dr. Aiken said.
In 1993, when Penn’s president, Sheldon Hackney, left to become chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Dr. Fagin replaced him as interim president, a post she held until 1994. (She is often credited as the first woman to serve as president of an Ivy League university, although Hanna Holborn Gray was acting president of Yale from May 1977 to June 1978.)
Dr. Fagin was later the founding director of the John A. Hartford Foundation’s national program on geriatric nursing. She was also chairwoman of the advisory board that turned a $100 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation into the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at the University of California, Davis, which focuses on master’s and doctoral programs in nursing.
All the while, she worked to win nurses the professional respect she felt they did not always receive and the autonomy they needed to work in new ways — for example, as nurse practitioners or researchers. She also advocated for baccalaureate programs for the training of registered nurses, as opposed to the once-common two-year hospital-based or associate degree training programs.
In an interview for this obituary in 2003, Dr. Fagin said, “It is bad for nursing when you cannot differentiate professional nurses from people who go to school for two years.” (According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a bachelor’s degree is now the “typical” entry-level requirement for registered nurses.)
Before joining Penn, Dr. Fagin was chairwoman of the nursing department at Lehman College of the City University of New York and director of its Health Professions Institute, as well as director of graduate programs in psychiatric nursing in the division of nurse education at New York University. When the National Institute of Mental Health established a clinical research facility in 1953, she was its first director of children’s programs.She was a member of the National Academy of Medicine.
Claire Muriel Mintzer was born in Manhattan on Nov. 25, 1926, to Harry Mintzer, an immigrant from Russia, and Mae (Slatin) Mintzer, who was from Poland. She grew up in the University Heights section of the Bronx, where her parents had a grocery store.
She entered Hunter College at 16; over the objections of her parents, who hoped she would emulate an aunt and become a physician, she enrolled after one semester in Wagner College on Staten Island, which she chose because it had just established a bachelor’s degree program in nursing.
Her parents opposed her decision, until her aunt pointed out that she could always enroll in medical school after she earned her degree.
But medical school was not something she wanted, she said in the interview. She was inspired instead, she said, by the idea of wartime nursing service. And, she added, not entirely jokingly, she admired the glamorous blue capes, lined with red, worn by members of the Army Nurse Corps.
By the time she earned her nursing degree, in 1948, she had already begun working at Seaview Hospital on Staten Island, which was then a tuberculosis hospital. Her work with children there grew into a lifelong interest in the psychiatric problems of children, and in psychiatric nursing in general. From there she went to Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan, where she worked with emotionally disturbed adolescents.
In 1948, when she was known as Claire Mintzer, Dr. Fagin, second row, second from left, received a nursing degree from Wagner College on Staten Island.Credit…Wagner College
After earning a master’s degree in psychiatric nursing at Columbia University in 1951, Dr. Fagin joined the pediatric psychiatry staff at the Clinical Center at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.
While she was working there, she met Samuel L. Fagin, a mathematician and electrical engineer, and they married in 1952. He died in 2019 at 96. Their son Joshua died of Covid in 2020 at 62.
Well into her 90s, Dr. Fagin continued to write and speak about the importance of the nursing profession, as well as its problems and how to address them. In 2022, when there was widespread concern about the Covid-related burnout of health care workers, particularly hospital nurses, she and Dr. Aiken published an analysis in STAT, an online journal covering health, science and medicine, suggesting that the real cause of burnout was inadequate hospital staffing, which they said Medicare could fix by raising existing hospital staffing requirements.
At Dr. Fagin’s death, she and Dr. Aiken were at work on better ways to encourage nurses, physicians and other health care workers to speak as one on matters of public health.
Nursing is “a renaissance calling,” Dr. Fagin maintained. “Healing is an art. You are using a science to perform an art.”
In spite of her advanced degrees, her prominent academic positions and honorary degrees and other awards, Dr. Fagin always made a point of identifying herself as a nurse — a practice, she recalled, that did not sit well with her mother. Citing her other qualifications and the jobs she held, her mother would say that her daughter was not, as she put it, “a real nurse.”
“I would say, ‘Mama, I’m an R.N.’” Dr. Fagin said. “That’s what it means — Real Nurse.”
Cornelia Dean is a science writer and former science editor of The New York Times. Her latest book is “Making Sense of Science.”
Dorothy Pitman Hughes Dies at 84; Brought Black Issues to Feminism
The New York Times, December 14, 2022
Dorothy Pitman Hughes, whose street-level activism in New York in the early 1970s, during the first years of the women’s movement, helped to inject issues of race, class and motherhood into roiling debates about feminism and equality, died on Dec. 1 in Tampa, Fla. She was 84.
Her daughter Delethia Ridley-Malmsten confirmed the death, at Ms. Ridley-Malmsten’s home.
Ms. Pitman Hughes is perhaps best known for a 1971 photograph in which she stands alongside her close friend Gloria Steinem, their right fists raised in solidarity.
The two women were in the middle of a nationwide speaking tour, and Ms. Steinem had asked her neighbor Dan Wynn to take the photo for publicity. It later appeared in Esquire magazine and became one of the best-known images of the women’s liberation movement.
Ms. Steinem and Ms. Pitman Hughes met in 1969 when Ms. Steinem was writing an article for New York magazine about the West 80th Street Day Care Center in Manhattan, which Ms. Pitman Hughes founded in 1966.
Day care for working parents was a revolutionary idea in itself, but the center was much more than that — it soon expanded to offer job training, legal assistance and community organizing.
Among the first community centers in the city, it grew from Ms. Pitman Hughes’s belief in a feminism rooted in the everyday struggle of working-class mothers and caregivers, and in the often overlooked experiences of women of color. And it emphasized radical community involvement: Parents ran the board of directors, and the needs of the community determined the center’s priorities.
“She realized that child-care challenges were deeply entangled with issues of racial discrimination, poverty, drug use, substandard housing, welfare hotels, job training and even the Vietnam War,” Laura L. Lovett, the author of “With Her Fist Raised: Dorothy Pitman Hughes and the Transformative Power of Black Community Activism” (2021), wrote in The Washington Post in 2021.
In her article, Ms. Steinem called Ms. Pitman Hughes a “beautiful Black female Saul Alinsky,” in reference to the noted Chicago organizer.
“She wasn’t about following, or leading. She did what needed to be done,” Ms. Steinem said in a phone interview. “She was a great street activist, literally demonstrating in the streets.”
The two could not have been more different: Ms. Steinem was white, single and college educated; Ms. Pitman Hughes was a Black woman with a 9-year-old daughter and a high school education. But they clicked immediately over their shared interests in the emerging movement for women’s rights.
They soon decided to hit the road for a campus speaking tour.
They made a powerful combination. Ms. Steinem would go first and articulate the principles of the women’s movement. Then Ms. Pitman Hughes would bring a Black perspective, often taking issue with her friend’s points.
“It’s very hard for me to say that ‘Good evening sisters and friends’ as Gloria usually says, because usually I can’t,” Ms. Pitman Hughes said in a 1972 speech at the U.S. Naval Academy.
“In most of the audiences that we speak to,” she added, “I don’t see very many friends or sisters because white women have not yet learned or come to the conclusion to change for themselves how much they have been part of my oppression, as a Black woman, and only until that is changed can we have sisterhood.”
Ms. Pitman Hughes stopped touring soon after she had another child. But her activism continued. When the state of New York attempted to impose income restrictions on child-care benefits in 1970, she led 150 day-care workers in a sit-in at the city’s Department of Social Services.
She was on the front lines of the struggle between grass-roots, community-organized services, like her center, and the attempt, across all levels of government throughout the 1970s, to impose regulations on those services and make them a part of the welfare system.
She won many of her battles but eventually lost her war. New rules in the 1980s required day-care operators to have college degrees and government licenses, neither of which she possessed. She closed her center in 1985.
Ms. Pitman Hughes was not, as is often reported, a founder of Ms. magazine, which Ms. Steinem and others founded in 1971. But the two remained close, even after Ms. Pitman Hughes moved to Florida in 2002. A decade later, they recreated their famous photo, their fists still raised.
Dorothy Jean Ridley was born on Oct. 2, 1938, in Lumpkin, Ga., a timber town about 140 miles southwest of Atlanta. She was one of nine children born to Melton Lee Ridley, who owned a pig farm and a small trucking business, and Lessie (White) Ridley, a maid.
Dorothy experienced the violent face of white racism early on. On Saturday nights, drunken white men from the other side of town would drive through her neighborhood, shooting into houses while children like her huddled under their beds. When she was 10, white men nearly beat her father to death in retribution for his involvement in local civil rights work.
Her family was a musical one, and as a teenager she and some of her sisters sang in a group, Roger and the Ridley Sisters, which toured the military bases and small towns along Georgia’s western border.
She graduated from high school in 1957 and then moved to New York to pursue a singing career. She found work in nightclubs but also took side jobs as a salesperson and house cleaner.
Her first marriage, to Bill Pitman, ended in divorce. Her second husband, Clarence Hughes, died in 2015. In addition to her daughter Delethia, she is survived by two other daughters, Angela Hughes and Patrice Quinn; her sisters, Julia Van Meter, Mildred Dent and Alice Ridley; her brothers, Tommy Lee Cherry and James Ridley; and two grandsons.
After closing her day-care center, Ms. Pitman Hughes, then living in Harlem, recognized the need for a place where Black activists could print out fliers and pamphlets. She opened a copy shop, which she later expanded to sell office supplies to the city agencies and Black-owned businesses in the area.
At one point, unable to find additional bank financing, she sold shares in her business, at $1 each, to the local community as a way to build Harlem’s wealth.
But that enterprise also came under pressure in the late 1990s, after the federal government created an “opportunity zone” for Harlem that incentivized businesses, often quite large, to hire local workers. Her store closed soon after a Staples office supply store opened almost directly across the street.
Still, she remained convinced that local wealth was the only way forward for impoverished Black communities.
“Without economic empowerment, you’re not free, and Black folks have not gained that freedom we fought for,” she told The Florida Times-Union of Jacksonville in 2013. “There’s a new fight going on. This kind is where we make ourselves responsible for what is going on, or not going on, in the community.”
Clay Risen is an obituaries reporter for The Times. Previously, he was a senior editor on the Politics desk and a deputy op-ed editor on the Opinion desk. He is the author, most recently, of “Bourbon: The Story of Kentucky Whiskey.” @risenc
Barbara Love, Activist and Author, Dies at 85
As an activist and an author, she was determined to demystify and normalize the lesbian experience, and to integrate it into the women’s movement.
From The New York Times, Dec. 1, 2022
Barbara Love, a feminist activist who fought for gay rights and for lesbians to have a place — and a voice — in the women’s movement in its early days, died on Nov. 13 in the Bronx. She was 85.
The cause was complications of leukemia and Parkinson’s disease, said her wife, Donna Smith.
Raised in privilege in New Jersey, Ms. Love came of age in the late 1950s and early ’60s as a closeted young woman in Greenwich Village who haunted the city’s Mafia-run lesbian bars, which were often raided by the police. (A blinking red light signaled their arrival, after which women were forbidden to dance or touch lest they be arrested.) “We’re like cockroaches,” she said of her fellow lesbians of the era. “We only come out at night.”
A girlfriend asked her to de-emphasize her feminine looks by cutting her hair and dressing mannishly. One evening their car broke down, and a group of male thugs who had stopped to help, seeing her masculine appearance, beat her bloody. In those pre-Stonewall days, you could be fired if your employer discovered you were gay. Your parents might no longer welcome you home. Until 1973, the American Psychiatric Association considered homosexuality a mental illness.
With her friend Kate Millett, the academic, artist and activist who would go on to write the feminist blockbuster “Sexual Politics,” she participated in street theater like the Colgate Dump-In, at which activists poured Colgate-Palmolive products into a toilet they’d set up at the company’s headquarters on Park Avenue to protest its treatment of women on the assembly line. They also staged a demonstration in front of The New York Times’s classified advertising office to protest gender segregation in the paper’s “Help Wanted” ads, after which the Times changed its practice.
So Ms. Love, the author Rita Mae Brown and others who had formed a consciousness-raising group of lesbian feminists took action. They made T-shirts with the phrase “The Lavender Menace” and wore them to NOW’s Second Congress to Unite Women, a meeting held in the spring of 1970 in New York City. They hid the shirts under their coats before switching the lights off and on and striding through the audience, coats off, holding placards declaring, “We are your worst nightmare, your best fantasy.” The group won over many of the attendees with their prank.
The book also serves as a contemporary account of how lesbians gained acceptance in the women’s movement: “how they have emerged — almost existentially — as women like any others,” Ms. See wrote.
Ms. Love and Ms. Abbott said they wrote the book because their ambition was to be ordinary; people, they joked, seemed to know less about lesbians than they did about Newfoundland dogs. “Our goal is to go about our lives — as human beings, as women, as Lesbians — un-self-consciously, and to be able to spend all of our energy and time on work or fun, and none on the arts of concealment or on self-hatred.”
The book was dedicated “to those who have suffered for their sexual preference, most especially to Sandy, who committed suicide, to Cam, who died of alcoholism, and to Lydia, who was murdered; and to all who are working to create a future for Lesbians.”
Barbara Joan Love was born on Feb. 27, 1937, in Ridgewood, N.J. Her father, Egon, was a prosperous Danish-born hosiery manufacturer (Barbara wanted to join his company, but he didn’t think women were qualified to run a business); her mother, Lois (Ashley) Love, was a homemaker.
Barbara and her two brothers grew up in “upper-middle-class comfort,” she wrote in her 2021 memoir, “There at the Dawning: Memories of a Lesbian Feminist,” with a maid and a chauffeur, and Sunday dinners at the country club.
In her early 20s, she broke political ranks and registered as a Democrat, the first one in her family to do so for generations. In high school, she was a competitive swimmer and won several state championships. She studied journalism at Syracuse University, graduating in 1959.
In 1971, Ms. Love was one of the founders of Identity House, a walk-in counseling center for gay people, at first housed in the basement of a church in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. The experience made Ms. Love want to be therapist, and in 1975 she earned a master’s degree in psychology from the New School for Social Research, though she ultimately didn’t pursue a career in the field.
With Morty Manford, a gay activist and an assistant New York State attorney general, she was a founder of Parents of Gays, a group that evolved into PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), an especially powerful organization during the AIDS crisis. They recognized that it wasn’t just gay people who were isolated from society; their parents suffered, too. Ms. Love’s father had shunned her when she came out, but her mother, by then divorced from her father, had declared, “First to thine own self be true!” (She had been an actress in her youth.) She, Mr. Manford’s mother and other parents were eager to join, and at the Christopher Street Liberation Day March in 1972, they proudly walked with their children. Ms. Love’s mother carried a sign that read, “Loves Mother Loves Love.” (Mr. Manford died of AIDS in 1992 at 41.)
She was the editor of “Feminists Who Changed America, 1963-1975” (2006), a Who’s Who of the movement containing the biographies of over 2,000 women. A collaborative project, it was nearly a decade in the making.
In addition to her wife, whom she married in 2018 — David Dinkins, the former mayor of New York, was the officiant — she is survived by her brother, Anthony. She lived in Manhattan.
“Barbara was a within-the-system hard-working feminist,” Phyllis Chesler, the feminist activist, psychologist and author, said in an email. “Barbara came from a wealthy, Republican family, and was a competitive athlete, and thus, although she was ‘different,’ always carried herself with great confidence.”
In her memoir, Ms. Love wrote of coming out to her father and brothers in 1970, when she was 33. It was Christmas Eve, and she helped organize an event, recognizing that many gay people wouldn’t be welcome in their homes for the holidays. They carried candles and marched through Greenwich Village singing “Silent Night.” When it was over, Ms. Love drove to her father’s home in New Jersey.
“Why weren’t you here? You missed everything. And why are you covered with wax?” her older brother challenged her. When she told him, and revealed she was gay, he said: “You have to get off that ship. That ship is sinking.”
She replied, “Douglas, I am that ship.”
Penelope Green is a reporter on the Obituaries desk and a feature writer for the Style and Real Estate sections. She has been a reporter for the Home section, editor of Styles of The Times, an early iteration of Style, and a story editor at The Times Magazine. @greenpnyt
February 18, 1930 – October 7, 2021
Pauline Bart, feminist sociologist who studied violence against women has died at the age of 91. She taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago for more than two decades. A self-described radical feminist, Dr. Bart said she sought “to demystify the world for women.” She launched her academic career at a time when female sociologists were far outnumbered and often marginalized by their male peers, and was part of a group of researchers who helped originate gender studies as an academic field.
“As sharply witty as she was formidable, intensely empathetic and caring, outspoken and tenacious, Pauline Bart was likely the first sociologist to apply and research the insights and questions of the women’s liberation movement in formal scholarship,” feminist legal scholar Catharine A. MacKinnon said in an email. Dr. Bart’s research, she added, “was a form of taking women seriously that had just never been done.”
Dr. Bart was a longtime professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she was based in the medical school’s psychiatry department but ranged widely, teaching classes in sociology, nursing and public health. Her work combined a wry and lively writing style with a mix of statistical research and intensive interviews, including with rape victims and underground abortion providers. “Everything is data,” she often said, describing her methodology, “but data isn’t everything.”
Much of her research was inspired by her own life, including her mother’s struggle with depression in middle age. For her dissertation, she examined the hospital records of more than 500 middle-aged women being treated for depression and other mental health issues, focusing on Jewish empty-nesters. “There is no bar mitzvah for menopause,” she wrote, noting the “extreme feelings of worthlessness and uselessness” that many women felt after their children grew into adulthood.
Her interest in the Jane Collective, an underground group that offered clandestine abortion services for women in Chicago, was sparked by her own illegal abortion while in college, some 25 years before Roe v. Wade. Dr. Bart, who documented and analyzed the group in an article titled “Seizing the Means of Reproduction,” underwent the procedure to stay in school and finish her degree. When she was hospitalized with complications, she was told that she would not be treated until she revealed who had performed the abortion.
“My personal and my sociological lives are joined at the hip, heart and head, like Siamese twins,” she wrote in an autobiographical essay published in the 1996 collection “Radically Speaking: Feminism Reclaimed.” “They cannot be separated. I turn my personal life into sociology and use sociological analysis to cope with my personal life.”
Fellow feminist sociologist Judith Lorber said that Dr. Bart “helped set much of the critical feminist agenda of the 1970s,” especially with her work on violence against women. She studied domestic battery, rape and femicide — the killing of women or girls simply because they are female — in addition to areas where violence “would be least expected,” as Lorber put it.
A 1973 study she co-wrote with Diana Scully, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Orifice,” analyzed more than two dozen gynecology books and concluded that they were biased toward men, with physicians encouraged to attend to the sexual happiness of husbands rather than the reproductive needs and desires of wives. Arguing that women’s bodies were being treated as mere objects, or “orifices,” Dr. Bart wrote that gynecology was “practiced (some say perpetuated) on women by men and for men.” “Critiques like Pauline’s led to the patient-directed and midwife-led birth movements of the ’70s,” Lorber said in an email, “and [helped make] medical treatment more responsive to patients.”
Dr. Bart later spoke out against pornography, which she viewed as harmful to women, and focused her research on rape, partly because students who had been sexually assaulted came to her for help. She began starting her UIC classes with an anonymous survey, asking students whether they had been sexually abused or assaulted, and said she sought to cultivate a supportive atmosphere for survivors.
But in 1992, she was stripped of her sociology and women’s studies classes at UIC after a Black social work student said she had called him a “potential rapist.” She denied making the remark but said she had described him as “a believer in the rape myth,” in which women want to be sexually assaulted. As she told it, the social work student had taken a hostile tone that caused some women to stop showing up or participating in class. She retired three years later.
“What I study — violence against women — is something people, including women, don’t like to talk about,” she told the Chicago Tribune, noting that if people didn’t like her class they shouldn’t take it. “It deals with the harm men do to women, and it’s not symmetrical — there are not as many female rapists as male rapists. It gets men where they live. They find this very threatening. I said I would not let male speech silence women.”
The older of two children, Pauline Bernice Lackow was born in Brooklyn on Feb. 18, 1930, to Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. Her father manufactured leather goods, and her mother was a homemaker.
She married Max Bart, a chemical engineer, at age 19, and trained in sociology at the University of California at Los Angeles, where she received a bachelor’s degree in 1950 and a master’s in 1952. She was raising two young children when she got a divorce and returned to school, receiving her doctorate in 1967.
While struggling to find a tenure track job, Dr. Bart helped organize a 1969 caucus of female sociologists to promote the work of women in the field. The gathering spurred the creation of Sociologists for Women in Society, an international feminist organization. “She did all she could to create feminist spaces in sociology,” said Myra Marx Ferree, a former president of the group and sociology professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
Dr. Bart launched her teaching career at the University of California at Berkeley, where she taught some of the school’s first gender studies and sociology of women classes. She joined UIC in 1970.
One of her first books, “The Student Sociologist’s Handbook” (1971), was written with a former Berkeley student, Linda Frankel, whom she insisted on crediting as co-author. “She was asked by the publisher to have a male co-author, and she said, ‘Forget that,’ ” Frankel recalled in a phone interview. The book was so successful that a revised fourth edition was published in 1986.
Dr. Bart also co-wrote “Stopping Rape: Successful Survival Strategies” (1985), in which she and Patricia H. O’Brien concluded that shouting and fighting back were especially effective tactics at resisting rape. Her other works included articles about lesbian issues, beginning with a 1984 piece about research ethics and sexuality in which she acknowledged she was gay. She wrote that she kept it off her CV “because of homophobia.”
“In my experience, everything I have put into the establishment has been money dropped down a well,” she said, “and everything I have put into students has come back to me.”
In addition to her daughter, of Cary, N.C., survivors include a son, William Bart of Oakland, Calif.; a sister; two granddaughters; and four great-grandchildren.
Dr. Bart acknowledged that she could be confrontational and controversial at times, and a difficult cocktail party guest given her focus on violence against women. She liked to quote the radical activist Andrea Dworkin in saying, “I’m a feminist. Not the fun kind!” Still, she maintained a sense of dark humor, including in poems that referenced her feminist activism (one ended, “The Medea is the message”) and in letters to friends and colleagues, many of which are preserved with her papers at Duke University.
“Dear Diana,” she began one letter, according to the Jewish Women’s Archive. “I hope everything is going wonderfully well with you or at least as well as is possible under patriarchy.”
Paula Joan Caplan
July 7, 1947 – July 21, 2021
Paula Caplan, a pioneering psychologist who exposed how her profession had pathologized a wide range of female traits and social responsibilities, including motherhood, mens-truation and even shopping, died on July 21 at her home in Rockville, Md. She was 74. Her daughter, Emily Stephenson, said the cause was metastatic melanoma.
Starting in the late 1970s, Dr. Caplan merged a rigorous clinical analysis with a fierce feminist perspective to show how many of the problems that psychologists said were innate to women — and especially mothers — had in fact resulted from social structures and dis-crimination that forced them into difficult situations, then medicalized their inevitably negative responses.
For example, in a 1984 article, “The Myth of Women’s Masochism” (and in a subsequent book by the same title), she took aim at Sigmund Freud and his acolytes, who said women suffered from “moral masochism” — that is, that they took pleasure in the frustrations and guilt that often arose from their roles as mothers and spouses. Dr. Caplan demolished Freud’s claim, first by pointing out that most women get no joy out of such pain, and then by showing how such frustration and guilt were often the results of unfair expectations placed on them by a patriarchal society.
Dr. Caplan, the author of 11 books, was perhaps best known for her seven-year battle with the American Psychiatric Association as it planned the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the encyclopedic guide used by millions of doctors to make diagnoses and by insurers to pay for them. She took particular issue with the decision by the manual’s editors to include “premenstrual dysphoric disorder,” in effect a lengthy or intense instance of premenstrual syndrome.
Dr. Caplan argued that because P.M.S. was the natural result of a woman’s fluctuating hormone levels, it stood to reason that some women would experience it more strongly than others, in the same way that varying levels of testosterone made some men more aggressive than others. “If they had made a decision suddenly pathologizing a half million men, there would be a public outcry,” she told The New York Times in 1994. “I was so deeply disturbed by the lack of concern with scientific support for what they were including or rejecting, and the low level of apparent concern for the effects on patients who might get these diagnoses.”
Half in jest, she proposed that the manual include “delusional dominating personality disorder” for men with high testosterone levels. The editors rejected her proposal, which, she said, just proved her point — and showed that they had no sense of humor. Still, she continued to attack the way her profession treated women, especially as the proliferation of antidepressants in the 1990s made diagnosis lucrative for medical professionals and insurers.
“In our increasingly psychiatrized world,” she wrote in The Washington Post in 2012, “the first course is often to classify anything but routine happiness as a mental disorder, assume it is based on a broken brain or a chemical imbalance, and prescribe drugs or hospitalization.”
Read the complete obituary on The New York Times website
See Paula Caplan’s Pioneer Histories pages
April 26, 1935 – July 6, 2021
As she worked her way through the ranks of academia during the 1960s and ’70s, Sheila Tobias kept noticing something: Female students seemed to avoid studying math and science.
Tobias, who authored more than 10 books related to math anxiety as well as the military and feminism, spent nearly half of her life researching women’s anxiety toward pursuing math and science fields. An outspoken feminist activist, Tobias lived the last 40 years of her life in Tucson, where she pursued her research, advocated for women’s equality and often left an impression on the people she met.
“I was always in awe of her absolute self-confidence. I think that’s what set her apart from so many other women,” said Alison Hughes, a retired public health policy professor at the University of Arizona and Tobias’ longtime friend.
“She was able to drill down into the roots of women’s oppression, and not just find out where the gaps were in women’s contributions to society. She was able to take on the work to fill in the gaps to make sure women were contributing at all levels, particularly in the sciences,” Hughes said. “Sheila was an icon in the women’s movement. Her writings opened the doors of the sciences to women whose talents had been ignored and shut out for decades.”
Now, Tobias’ death at the age of 86 earlier this month leaves a “void” in the community, said Hughes, who first met Tobias at a feminist speaking event in Tucson soon after Tobias moved to Arizona in the 1980s.
“When Sheila moved to Tucson, we were very excited because she was an East Coast activist, and we were getting the benefit of her experience,” said Hughes, who was an active member of the local chapter of the National Organization for Women at the time. Tobias and Hughes remained friends up until Tobias’ passing, often attending the symphony, eating dinner together and always sharing stimulating conversation.
“She was an amazing scholar,” said Hughes, who described her old friend as trusting, spirited and incisive. “Sheila had that amazing talent of being able to shape words into something really meaningful for women who were struggling with equality issues.”
Born in New York in 1935, Tobias earned bachelor’s degrees in history and literature from Radcliffe College in 1957. She worked as a journalist for a few years before attending graduate school at Columbia University, where she eventually earned two master’s degrees in history. During that time, she followed her partner to Cornell University, where she became an academic administrator by the late 1960s and entrenched herself in the gender equality movement of the era.
“The women’s movement is where my personal and professional life got restarted in the 1960s and 70s,” Tobias told Physics Today in an interview last year. At Cornell, Tobias organized one of the first campus conferences on women and helped teach one of the first women’s studies courses in the nation. “I was captured by the analysis that was offered by very brilliant women like Kate Millett and Gloria Steinem. The analysis was that when women underperform, it suits the power structure: Somebody is benefiting from us being under-assigned and underpaid.”
From 1970 to 1978, Tobias, an active member of the NOW who became personal friends with Steinem, served as associate vice provost of Wesleyan University in Connecticut. In addition to spearheading efforts to hire more female faculty members, that’s where she developed her pioneering research into the concept she dubbed “math anxiety.
“I thought there was a big subject out there that nobody was tackling: Smart, ambitious college girls were just “sliding off the quantitative” without objecting, not blaming anybody but themselves, and the university was not paying attention,” Tobias recalled. “The issue was lying there in front of everyone. It was just waiting for me to pick it up.”
Tobias opened a math clinic on campus for anxious students, and in 1978 published the book Overcoming Math Anxiety, which explored gender biases in the field of mathematics. She started giving guest lectures in women’s studies at the UA before ultimately relocating to Tucson in the early 1980s, marrying the late UA physicist Carl Tomizuka, and establishing herself as a local force for feminism.
“She’s a good example of a scholar activist — someone who wants to understand things and use that knowledge to make a difference,” said Patricia MacCorquodale, a professor emerita in the UA Department of Gender & Women’s Studies, who has known Tobias since the 1980s. “She was dedicated to doing that for her whole life.”
In Tucson, Tobias worked as an independent scholar and education consultant for decades. Starting in 1997, she became a consultant for the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and researched the role of the professional science master’s degree, which is designed for students who are interested in the intersection of business and science, in the 21st century. Feminism and science education remained at the forefront of her activism in Tucson, and over the years, Tobias was affiliated with UA’s women’s studies department, served on the Pima County/Tucson Women’s Commission and the Women’s Studies Advisory Council at the UA, and continued to deliver lectures about math anxiety.
“She had a really brilliant mind. She would ask really penetrating questions,” said MacCorquodale, who noted Tobias’ focus on “the big picture,” and her ability to “get you to think about your work in ways that you hadn’t.”
That kind of innovative thinking is what makes Tobias’ research on math and science anxiety so groundbreaking, said Marilyn Heins, retired vice dean of the UA College of Medicine who knew Tobias for some 40 years.
“She was an original thinker,” said Heins. “She wrote an intelligent academic book looking at things no one knew was going on, like how many more times teachers called on boys with their hands raised than girls. She really broke the barrier with this.”
As Heins recalls, Tobias’ passion for learning didn’t stop during her leisure.
“She was an excellent conversationalist,” said Heins, who remembers frequent Starbucks meetings where she and Tobias would “solve the world’s problems,” or chatting so long in Heins’ swimming pool their skin started pruning.
“She desperately wanted to make sure that people understood what she was trying to say,” said Heins, who is confident people will remember Tobias’ contributions toward women’s equality.
“She won’t be forgotten. I think people will continue reading her books, and she’ll be well-known in the world of feminism.”
Sheila Babs Michaels
May 8, 1939 – June 22, 2017
Sheila Babs Michaels, 78, of New York City and St. Louis, died on June 22, 2017 in New York. She was the daughter of Alma Weil Kessler and Ephraim London. She spent her formative years living in St. Louis and the Bronx, with her mother and late beloved grandparents Francie (Sacks) and Irving Weil. She was sister to the late Steve Kessler, the late Jon (Jen) \Ida Kessler, and the late Harvey (Lin Chen) Kessler. A woman of strong principles, Ms. Michaels maintained her singular identity as a feminist, humanitarian, biblical scholar, and civil rights advocate throughout her life. She was credited by The New York Times as being the first to advocate use of the title ‘Ms.’ She was one of the first women to head the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) field offices in Mississippi in the 1960s. Later she interviewed civil rights leaders, resulting in an collection currently housed at Columbia University. Ms. Michaels traveled extensively throughout Asia and in 1975 worked with child survivors of the Vietnam War in Laos. Her favorite job was driving a New York City cab. Please direct donations in her memory to Congregation Beit Simchat Torah of New York, Central Reform Congregation in St. Louis or to the Visiting Nurse Service of New York. Services: A private burial will be held in St. Louis Riverside Memorial Chapel
Published in St. Louis Post-Dispatch on July 6, 2017
> Read Obituary from NY Times.com
May 23, 1926 – February 13, 2017
The only woman appointed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965 to the first EEOC, Hernandez has spent a lifetime working to improve the political and economic status of minority groups and women. A native of Brooklyn, NY, she moved to California in 1951 to become an organizer and later education and public relations director for the Pacific Coast Region of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, where she worked for 11 years. Before accepting the EEOC post, Hernandez was assistant chief of the California Division of Fair Employment Practices. Elected as executive VP at the founding conference of NOW in 1966, Hernandez declined that position but later agreed to serve as VP West, soon after resigning from the EEOC and launching her urban consulting business, Aileen C. Hernandez Associates, in San Francisco in 1967. She has chaired the national advisory committee of NOW, served on the board of NOW LDEF, and co-chaired a NOW task force on minority women and women’s rights. She facilitated sessions at the founding meeting of the NWPC in 1971 and at the 1973 NOW-sponsored International Feminist Conference held in the Boston area. She also founded and was active in Black Women Organized for Action, Bay Area Black Women United, The National Hook-Up of Black Women and Black Women Stirring the Waters. She has served on numerous boards and commissions at national and local levels, including The Urban Institute, National Urban Coalition, Citizens Commission on Civil Rights, Ms. Foundation for Women, Bay Area Urban League, National Advisory Board of the American Civil Liberties Union, African American Agenda Council, and Center for Governmental Studies. She chaired the California Council for the Humanities, the Center for the Common Good, the Coalition for Economic Equity, and the board of the Working Assets Money Market Fund. In 1996, Hernandez helped create and became chair of the California Women’s Agenda, a virtual network of over 600 women’s groups organized to implement the Platform for Action adopted by 189 nations at the Fourth International Conference on Women held in China. Hernandez holds a B.A. from Howard University, an M.A. from California State University at Los Angeles, and an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Southern Vermont College.
from Feminists Who Changed America 1936 – 1975, ed. Barbara Love, University of Illinois Press, 2006
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