Anne Firor Scott: Where Are They Now?

Piper Fogg and Robin Wilson, in the Chronicle of Higher Ed (11-29-04):

In 1970 The Chronicle published an article on the status of women in higher education. Female scholars, it reported, were "discontent," and were challenging both overt and subtle discrimination. Their salaries were lower than men's, and they were concentrated mostly in smaller colleges.

But there were bright spots, and The Chronicle also highlighted women who were succeeding in academe. Here's what has happened to them, and how their attitudes about the professoriate have changed.

[Re: Anne Firor Scott]

Then: Associate professor of history at Duke University.

Now: Professor emerita of history at Duke.

In 1970 she said: "The only common denominator in my life has been that whenever anyone opened a door, I walked through it. I just did what seemed interesting at the time."

Now she says: Higher education "has changed just remarkably" for women. "When I got to be chair of the history department, in 1980, I was the only woman in the department. I checked up on the figures, and at the moment in our department at Duke there are 21 men and 13 full-time women."

Ms. Scott, considered a pioneer in women's history, was also an overachiever -- earning a bachelor's degree from the University of Georgia at 19 and a doctorate from Radcliffe College while starting her family. She landed a temporary job at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and became a professor at Duke by happenstance. While she was living in Italy with her husband, and their three young children, Duke's history department sent her a letter. "One of our young men has had an offer that we do not wish to match," she recalls the letter saying. "It is too late in the year to set up a search. We wondered if you could come to teach until we can find somebody." She adds: "I never left."

Her 1970 book, The Southern Lady: From Pedestal to Politics (University of Virginia Press), is still in print. And Ms. Scott, who is 83, is working on another book, tentatively titled, An Unlikely Friendship, about the letters between a white woman and a black woman who corresponded for 40 years.

Her daughter Rebecca J. Scott is now a distinguished professor of history at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. The elder Ms. Scott still teaches occasional history courses at Duke and lectures elsewhere now and then. She exercises daily, swimming 30 laps or working out at a gym.

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