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Florence Howe, ‘Mother of Women’s Studies,’ Dies at 91

Florence Howe, a key architect of the women’s studies movement and a founder of the Feminist Press, a literary nonprofit dedicated to promoting social justice and amplifying overlooked voices, died on Saturday in Manhattan. She was 91.

The Feminist Press confirmed her death in a statement. Ms. Howe, who lived on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, had been in hospice care with Parkinson’s disease, which was diagnosed in 2017.

When Ms. Howe began teaching in colleges and universities in the 1950s, women’s studies was not an established academic discipline. In fact, it was rare to find a course catalog or syllabus that mentioned scholarship by women at all.

With the Feminist Press, founded in 1970, she sought to diversify the materials used in schools around the United States and beyond. She and her husband, Paul Lauter, were professors and knew firsthand that there was a gender gap in the books being taught.

“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.’”

Mr. Lauter suggested that they publish the books themselves and came up with the name the Feminist Press. “It sounded magical,” Ms. Howe said.

The Feminist Press began as a modest, D.I.Y. endeavor. Board meetings were run out of the couple’s big yellow house in the Mount Washington neighborhood of Baltimore. And when Ms. Howe left Goucher for the State University of New York College at Old Westbury (now SUNY Old Westbury) in 1971, she brought the publishing house with her; the college, on Long Island, had agreed to house and support it.

More than a decade later, Joseph Duffey, a former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, wrote in The New York Times Book Review that the Feminist Press had “perhaps more than any other institution, helped to recover and make available a legacy of writing by and about women in American history and scholarship.”

Read entire article at New York Times