Freedman, Estelle B(renda) 1947-
FREEDMAN, Estelle B(renda) 1947-
PERSONAL: Born July 2, 1947, in Harrisburg, PA; daughter of Theodore Henry and Martha Harriet (Pincus) Freedman; partner of Susan Krieger, beginning 1980. Education: Barnard College, B.A. (history; cum laude); Columbia University, M.A. (history), 1972, Ph.D., 1994. Hobbies and other interests: Folk music.
ADDRESSES: Offıce—Dept. of History, Stanford University, Bldg. 200, Room 7, Stanford, CA 94305-0597.
MEMBER: Organization of American Historians (annual meeting program committee cochair, 1999), American Historical Association, National Women's Studies Association, Coordinating Council on Women's History, Jewish Women's Archives (member, academic advisory council), Northern California Lesbian and Gay Historical Society (member, advisory board), Western Association of Women Historians.
AWARDS, HONORS: Woodrow Wilson Foundation, dissertation fellow, 1974-75; dean's award for distinguished teaching, 1978; Alice and Edith Hamilton Prize for best scholarly manuscript on women, University of Michigan, 1978, for Their Sisters' Keepers: Women's Prison Reform in America, 1830-1930; Dinkelspiel Award for outstanding service to under-graduate education, 1981; Sierra Prize (shared) for finest multiple-author book, Western Association of Women Historians, 1982, for Victorian Women: A Documentary Account of Women's Lives in Nineteenth-Century England, France, and the United States; Mellon grant, 1984-85; Pew Foundation grant, 1984-85; Society of American Historians fellow, 1990; Sierra Prize for best book, Western Association of Women Historians, 1996, for Maternal Justice: Miriam Van Waters and the Female Reform Tradition; Nancy Lyman Roelker Mentorship Award, American Historical Association, 1998; fellowships from National Endowment for the Humanities, 1982-83, 1992-93, American Association of University Women, 1985-86, Stanford Humanities Center, 1985-86, and American Council for Learned Societies, 1993.
(Associate editor, with others) Victorian Women: ADocumentary Account of Women's Lives in Nineteenth-Century England, France, and the United States, Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 1981.
(Editor with others) The Lesbian Issue: Essays fromSigns, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1985.
Maternal Justice: Miriam Van Waters and the FemaleReform Tradition, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1996.
(With John D'Emilio) Intimate Matters: A History ofSexuality in America, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1988, revised edition, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1997.
No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and theFuture of Women, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Screenwriter, with others, and producer, with Liz Stevens, of She Even Chewed Tobacco: Passing Women in Nineteenth-Century America (slide and tape presentation), Women Make Movies (New York, NY), 1983, videotape version, 1990. Contributor to books, including U.S. History as Women's History: New Feminist Essays, edited by Linda Kerber, Alice Kessler-Harris, and Kathryn Kish Sklar, University of North Carolina Press, 1995; The New American History, edited by Eric Foner, Temple University Press, 1997; and Forgotten Heroes of America's Past, edited by Susan Ware, Free Press, 1998. Contributor to periodicals, including Journal of Women's History, Feminist Studies, Chronicle of Higher Education, Journal of Sex Research, Public Historian, Socialist Review, Lesbian Studies, Journal of American History, and Reviews in American History. Signs, associate editor, 1980-85; Feminist Studies, consulting editor; serves on advisory and editorial boards of numerous publications.
SIDELIGHTS: Professor and historian Estelle B. Freedman's many books have evolved from her exploration of lesbian and gay history during the 1970s, her teaching, and her research into women's history. In her works, Freedman studies the attitudes toward "crimes" committed by women, their imprisonment, and the treatment of women based on their gender and sexuality.
Freedman's Their Sisters' Keepers: Women's Prison Reform in America, 1830-1930 examines the movement to establish separate facilities for female prisoners during this period and builds upon previous studies about the involvement of middle-class women in the temperance, abolitionist, and women's rights movements of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Beginning in the mid-1800s, increasing numbers of women were imprisoned, partly because of harsh penal codes that imposed long sentences on "fallen women." In prison these women were abused, neglected, and victimized. Reformers, Freedman writes, sought to improve prison conditions but did not concern themselves with the root causes of crime.
Freedman points out that the women reformers of the period from 1840 to 1900, who often worked with missionary zeal and believed in women's inherent superiority to men, are credited with establishing separate quarters within heterosexual penal institutions and with protecting women from sexual abuse by male guards through the use of female staff. The reformers of the period from 1900 to 1920 were college-educated professionals who rejected their predecessors' ideas and programs. "The younger group questioned the idea of female superiority, as well as earlier axioms on the inheritability of criminality and gender limitations to occupation," wrote Maurine Weiner Greenwald in Historian. These reformers delved into the social sciences to prove their theories, and they initiated social services, separate courts for women, probation, occupational training, and classification of prisoners by crime. Jacqueline Dowd Hall noted in Journal of American History that "despite the progressives' contribution to environmentalist criminology and more humane institutions for women prisoners, however, their story, like that of their antebellum predecessors, is one of accommodation and eventual defeat." It was not until the 1960s that feminists called for decriminalization of the victimless crimes of which so many women are found guilty.
In an American Historical Review article, David J. Pivar commented that Freedman's "history of women's prison reform explores new subject matter and provides a deeper understanding of the dismal record of prison reform in this country. Estelle B. Freedman's interpretation, however, goes beyond a narrowly defined institutional history. It contributes, as well, to the history of feminism and women."
Freedman, who served as associated editor of Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, joined with several others to collect fifteen essays from that publication as The Lesbian Issue: Essays from Signs. Adalaide Morris wrote in College English that these essays "include literary studies of lesbian poets and novelists, historical investigations of girlhood friendships and of lesbian and gay experience under socialism, an anthropological study of Native American 'cross-gender' females, and sociological accounts of lesbians in the work force. . . . Attention oscillates between identities and oppressions, between women's choice of other women as passionate comrades, life partners, co-workers, and tribal cohorts, and society's effort to invalidate and/or eradicate this choice." Morris called the essays "full, rich, well-reasoned, and deftly written. The authors—female and male, homosexual and not—all take as their point of departure two linked axioms of lesbian-feminist scholarship: that heterosexuality is not 'natural' but 'cultural,' an institution organized and managed to maintain male power, and that lesbianism constitutes a viable and vital alternative."
In Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America, written with John D'Emilio, Freedman includes both archival research and original research conducted specifically for this volume. The authors document sexual practices from 1600 to the present and note that in one case, a woman was hanged for confessing that she committed adultery. Freedman and D'Emilio study sexual exploitation of female slaves, consensual inter-racial sex, and the way in which black women were characterized by whites as prosmiscuous and black men as predators. But their most innovative part of this study, according to Martin Bauml Duberman in Nation, "is the attention paid to the Lesbian and gay experience—previously notable by its absence from standard texts. Intimate Matters includes the history of same-gender relationships with an ease, directness, and lack of polemic that conveys the auhors' sense of the naturalness of such relationships." Antioch Review's Carolyn Stevens wished the book would give more attention to the AIDS issue, but nonetheless called it "a monument to scholarship and good writing."
Verta Taylor, writing in Contemporary Sociology, emphasized that "some of the most important contributions to the new school of thought—that sexuality is socially constructed and determined by the interaction of history, culture, and politics—have been made by historians." Taylor called Intimate Matters "a bold book" and "the most comprehensive history of American sexuality to date. Intimate Matters is also a superb book. In a well-crafted narrative, the authors focus on both the large-scale historical forces that have shaped sexuality in the United States and the intimate experiences of individuals that illustrate the complexity and richness of the past."
Maternal Justice: Miriam Van Waters and the Female Reform Tradition is Freedman's biography of the prison reformer who earned a Ph.D. in anthropology in 1913 and whose work was supported by Eleanor Roosevelt, Felix Frankfurter, and John F. Kennedy. Van Waters instituted reforms in the juvenile justice system of Los Angeles and served as superintendent of the Massachusetts Reformatory for Women in Framingham from 1932 to 1957. She used a maternal approach to interacting with the children and women under her care and challenged the criminalization of victimless crimes, unwed mothers, female alcoholics, and sexually active (often sexually abused) girls. Van Waters allowed the young women in her charge to decorate their rooms, arranged for them to attend events away from the grounds, take on jobs outside the facility, and make smoother transitions to normal life.
Van Waters, herself a lesbian, was criticized for being too lenient toward the inmates at Framingham and was accused of allowing unrestrained homosexual activity to take place. She was removed from office in January of 1949. Amidst a great deal of publicity and mudslinging, Van Waters, backed by her considerable number of supporters, persevered in court and was reinstated. "Throughout, Freedman argues that Van Waters was guided by an ideological and spiritual commitment to the saving grace of unconditional maternal love and to the rights of women to motherhood in all its varieties," said Victoria Bissell Brown in Journal of Women's History. "It was the solace and the dignity she drew from this conviction that allowed Van Waters to stand up to brutal attack in the reactionary 1950s and protect her public career as well as her private life."
Sara Sklaroff wrote in the Washington Post Book World that in Maternal Justice, Van Waters's life is "masterfully recounted." Sojourner writer Betsy Chalfen called Freedman's biography a "brilliant and beautifully written social history," while a Publishers Weekly reviewer deemed the volume "poised and accomplished." Kelleher Jewett wrote in Nation that "one comes away from this book with the feeling of a kind of collaboration between writer and subject. Given her previous books on the origins of women's prisons and the history of sexuality in America and her own experience, as a feminist historian, of waging a public battle for tenure at Stanford, Freedman's interest in Van Waters is not hard to understand. MaternalJustice is as much a work of history as it is biography, bringing to life not only a remarkable woman but also the complex political and social milieu within which she worked and lived."
In reviewing No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women, Booklist contributor Carol Haggas wrote that Freedman "presents a reflective history of the divergent roots of this essential yet controversial social movement." Admiring the book's breadth and insight, a contributor to Economist wrote that Freedman "admirably acknowledges" the complexities of her subject, adding that she "shows it to be as multifaceted and historically determined as any other ideology."
New Statesman reviewer Michele Roberts felt that Freedman "has trawled conscientiously through all the revolutionary as well as reformist versions of feminism, and provides useful critiques of hierarchy and privilege, showing how liberation struggles connect gender to issues of race, class, ecology, and the global market." Rosalyn Baxandall expressed similar appreciation for the book's scope and research, noting in Women's Review of Books that No Turning Back "is broad and sweeping, stretching from the rise of capitalism and colonialism to the current millennium, the global economy in Asia, Africa, Europe, North and South America. Freedman includes the relevant topics—women's rights, wage work, domestic labor, motherhood, the body, reproduction, race, identity, sexualities, violence, and creativity—and explores the many feminisms—socialist feminism, international feminism, maternalism, local feminism, global feminism, and essentialist feminism."
In a Library Journal review, Cynthia Harrison wrote that Freedman "offers a comprehensive, accessible synthesis of interdisciplinary feminist scholarship, placing feminism in a global, historical framework." A Publishers Weekly contributor called No Turning Back "a major work that fits well both in the classroom and on the bedside table." A Kirkus Reviews writer described the volume as "a welcome and stimulating overview that connects the modern feminist movement not only to its own past, but to global struggles for economic and social justice."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Gay & Lesbian Literature, Volume 2, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1998, pp. 141-143.
American Historical Review, October, 1982, David J. Pivar, review of Their Sisters' Keepers: Women's Prison Reform in America, 1830-1930, pp. 1173-1175; June, 1989, Steven Mintz, review of Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America, p. 833; June, 1999, Miriam Cohen, review of Maternal Justice: Miriam Van Waters and the Female Reform Tradition, p. 937.
Antioch Review, fall, 1988, Carolyn Stevens, review of Intimate Matters, p. 525.
Booklist, March 1, 2002, Carol Haggas, review of NoTurning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women, p. 1083.
Choice, October, 1981, review of Their Sisters' Keepers, p. 324.
College English, April, 1987, Adalaide Morris, review of The Lesbian Issue: Essays from Signs, pp. 465-475.
Commonweal, January 27, 1989, J. M. Cameron, review of Intimate Matters, pp. 58-59. Contemporary Sociology, May, 1990, Verta Taylor, review of Intimate Matters, pp. 461-462.
Crime and Delinquency, July, 1982, Nicole Hahn Rafter, review of Their Sisters' Keepers, pp. 486-489.
Economist, May 25, 2002, review of No Turning Back.
Feminist Studies, summer, 1991, Judith E. Smith, review of Intimate Matters, p. 349.
Historian, February, 1983, Maurine Weiner Greenwald, review of Their Sisters' Keepers, pp. 270-271.
Journal of American History, June, 1982, Jacqueline Dowd Hall, review of Their Sisters' Keepers, pp. 157-158; March, 1989, Thomas L. Altherr, review of Intimate Matters, p. 1294; March, 1997, Elisabeth Israels Perry, review of Maternal Justice, p. 1448.
Journal of Sex Research, August, 1989, Suzanne G. Frayser, review of Intimate Matters, p. 404.
Journal of Social History, winter, 1990, Steven Seidman, review of Intimate Matters, p. 391.
Journal of Women's History, summer, 1998, Victoria Bissell Brown, review of Maternal Justice, p. 198.
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2002, review of No Turning Back, p. 158.
Law and History Review, fall, 1999, David S. Tanenhaus, review of Maternal Justice, pp. 636-638.
Library Journal, May 1, 1988, Pat Ensor, review of Intimate Matters, p. 78; April 1, 1996, Sharon Firestone, review of Maternal Justice, p. 92; March 1, 2002, Cynthia Harrison, review of No Turning Back, p. 124.
Los Angeles Times, January 29, 1983, Anne C. Roark, "Tenure at Stanford: A Case of Bias?" pp. 1, 24-25.
Nation, May 14, 1988, Martin Bauml Duberman, review of Intimate Matters, p. 684; July 1, 1996, Kelleher Jewett, review of Maternal Justice, p. 27.
New England Journal of Prison Law, winter, 1982, Ruthann Robson, review of Their Sisters' Keepers, pp. 335-338.
New Statesman, April 29, 2002, Michele Roberts, review of No Turning Back, p. 50.
New York Times Book Review, April 24, 1988, Barbara Ehrenreich, review of Intimate Matters, p. 1.
Publishers Weekly, March 18, 1988, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Intimate Matters, p. 66; April 8, 1996, review of Maternal Justice, p. 50; February 4, 2002, review of No Turning Back, p. 68.
San Francisco Examiner, August 31, 2002, Rachel Howard, review of No Turning Back.
Signs, winter, 1991, Alice Adams, review of IntimateMatters, p. 371.
Sojourner, August, 1999, Betsy Chalfen, review of Maternal Justice.
Stanford, January-February, 1997, Leslie Endicott, review of Maternal Justice; July-August, 2002, Diane Rogers, review of No Turning Back.
Times Literary Supplement, May 24, 2002, Joan Smith, review of No Turning Back, p. 10.
Washington Post Book World, August 4, 1996, Sara Sklaroff, review of Maternal Justice, p. 6.
Women & Criminal Justice, winter, 2000, Dorothy Moses Schulz, review of Maternal Justice, p. 89.
Women's Review of Books, December, 1996, Sherri Broder, review of Maternal Justice, p. 14; June, 2002, Rosalyn Baxandall, review of No Turning Back, pp. 7-8.*
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