Historian Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, who died Tuesday after a long illness, was truly an independent woman who will be missed by all who admire intellectual courage.
Fox-Genovese became an outspoken critic of the women’s studies departments she helped pioneer. A prolific author, Fox-Genovese served on IWF’s national advisory board, and her work graced several IWF publications.
She was a historian of the American South and slavery, but she will also be remembered for her groundbreaking book, Feminism Is Not the Story of My Life, the culmination of an intellectual journey that made her a pariah among former allies. Here is how one obit summarized that journey:
“Many of Fox-Genovese’s books were in women’s history and she has been credited with path-breaking work in the field. As her career progressed, however, Fox-Genovese clashed with many women’s studies scholars– quitting the directorship of Emory’s women’s studies program in 1992 and criticizing the direction of the discipline, which she viewed as politicized.”
If feminism was not the story of her life, a wonderful marriage was. She not only defended marriage, she had a good one. Eugene Genovese, a former Marxist, who also made an intellectual journey, was her beloved helpmeet. To get a flavor of the couple, their sparkling wit, and their marriage, the American Enterprise magazine has posted this fine dual interview.
Robert George captures her integrity in a piece on National Review:
“As if she had not already antagonized the intellectual establishment enough, Betsey soon began speaking out in defense of marriage and sexual morality. Her root-and-branch rejection of the ideology of the sexual revolution– an ideology that now enjoys the status of infallible dogma among many secular liberal intellectuals– was based on a profound appreciation of the centrality of marriage to the fulfillment of men and women as sexually complementary spouses; to the well-being of children for whom the love of mother and father for each other and for them is literally indispensable; and to society as a whole which depends on the marriage-based family for the rearing of responsible and upright citizens. If her pro-life advocacy angered many liberal intellectuals, her outspoken defense of marriage and traditional norms of sexual morality made them apoplectic.
“Betsey’s marriage to Gene was one of the great love stories of our time. They were two very different personalities, perfectly united. He was the head of the family; she was in charge of everything. Their affection for each other created a kind of force field into which friends were drawn in love for both of them. Although unable to have children of their own, they lavished parental care and concern on their students and younger colleagues, who in turn worshipped them.”