The Featured Feminist column is a new initiative developed last year by the WRC which aims to debunk the common stereotypes and stigma associated with the word "feminist." By highlighting the profiles and achievements of dedicated, passionate individuals in the Boston College community, the WRC staff hopes not only to foster a greater sense of appreciation for people who bring the ideals of equality and social justice into their daily lives, but also raise awareness in the BC community towards a more positive and inclusive definition of the word feminism.
Classes taught: US History Since 1877; Social Action in America (a service learning course); History of the American West, and Reel Life: American Workers in History and Film, among others.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m originally from Long Island but moved to California to attend college at Stanford University. After graduation, I worked for a peace movement magazine and then went to NYU to do graduate work in US history. For ten summers, I was also a park ranger at Crater Lake, Yellowstone, and Yosemite National Parks. In 1990, I got my first teaching job at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, where I taught for four years before moving to Boston College. I’ve been at BC for 18 years now and live in Brookline with my husband, son, and dog, and I also have a daughter in college.
2. What are you most passionate about?
All of my research has dealt with migration and social movements, either in US cities or in the American West. I’m fascinated by how and why people move to new places and how they adapt to and fight for inclusion in their new homes. On the personal side, I love long distance swimming, cycling, hiking, cooking, and going to the movies. I also work as a mentor for college-bound students in the Boston Public Schools through Hyde Square Task Force in Jamaica Plain.
3. How do you define "feminism"?
For me, feminism is a belief in the equality of the sexes and the socially constructed nature of gender. This does not mean that women and men are the same, and it assumes that both women and men can be feminists.
4. Why do you identify yourself as a feminist?
Initially, I learned about feminism in the classroom, but once I entered the workforce, I experienced sexism firsthand. Understanding feminist theory helped me make sense of both the personal and structural forces that women face, and being part of a community of women in academia gave me a vital support network that helped me survive and succeed.
5. Who or what inspires you?
In my first book, I wrote about the women of my mother’s generation who left farms and small towns to go work in shipyards, airplane factories, and defense plants during World War II. These women inspired me with their strength and resilience, which was still evident forty years later. These days, I’m inspired by students in my Social Action class who do volunteer work at homeless shelters, youth programs, ESL classes, union organizing campaigns, prison education programs, and other vital services in the Boston area. The fact that some of them go on to run these kinds of programs makes me feel like what we do here at BC really does make a difference.