Frink, Helen H. 1947-
Frink, Helen H. 1947-
Office—Department of Modern Languages, Mail Stop 1301, Keene State College, 229 Main St., Keene, NH 03435-1301; fax: 603-358-2257. E-mail—[email protected]
Keene State College, Keene, NH, assistant professor of modern languages, 1974-79; State University of New York at Albany, Albany, assistant professor of German and French, 1979-81; Keene State College, began as assistant professor, became professor of modern languages, 1981—, and teacher of women's studies and Holocaust studies.
These Acworth Hills, privately printed (Acworth, NH), 1989.
Alstead through the Years, Peter Randall (Portsmouth, NH), 1992.
Women after Communism: The East German Experience, University Press of America (Lanham, MD), 2001.
Lebenswege ostdeutscher Frauen, GNN Schkeuditz (Berlin, Germany), 2004.
Contributor of articles and reviews to periodicals, including Humanities Report, Foreign Language Annals, Modern Austrian Literature, and Modern Language Notes.
Helen H. Frink told CA: "From the beginnings of my scholarly writing, I have drawn closer to the broad subject that has always fascinated me most: women's lives. Only gradually during years of literary research on the Austrian poet and dramatist Hugo von Hofmannsthal did I recognize that what attracted me was the depiction of a bygone era in his fiction and in his letters. Turn-of-the-century Vienna coincided historically with the era of my grandmothers—both strong-minded Yankee schoolteachers whose milieu seemed vastly different. Yet I lived vicariously through their lives and recollections as a kind of fiction: neither the past nor the author's purposely created world really exists in the here and now.
"Offered the chance to write two local histories in the late 1980s, I immersed myself in transition and change, relishing above all the eras between the Civil War and the First World War. Following the methods of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, I used town records, deeds, wills, letters, and diaries as the material from which to recreate a vanished way of life. I was drawn most compellingly to the letters and diaries of earthy Yankee women. One wrote of her mother-in-law: ‘She has more lives than a cat. She will live as long as the water runs.’ Another mused, looking back on decades of her own diary-keeping: ‘It seems strange that I have lived so long.’ I came to realize that women's stories are seldom told, that the traditional historical pursuit of men, events, wars, and rulers bypass the true fabric of human life, a fabric woven and cherished by women.
"After visiting East Germany in 1985, I compared young mothers and their favored position under the socialist state with my own guilt-ridden struggle to balance career and motherhood. As Communism unraveled five years later, I was drawn to the stories of East German women who had witnessed a complete reversal of their fortunes. Powerful, competent, self-assured women thrived in a Communist state that assumed some of the burdens of childcare and home management. After the East German collapse, they lost jobs, social institutions, and networks of colleagues and friends. Their courage, their determination to pick up their lives and go on, inspired me to record their stories and pay homage to the measure of equality—now lost—that they had achieved.
"My latest research project on images of women in the Holocaust has grown out of teaching both women's studies and Holocaust studies. Just as I felt compelled to bring women's stories out of the silence, I feel motivated to bring images of women in the Holocaust out of the darkness. A study of museum images and concentration camp memorials shows most women not as victims, but as intact: clothed, surrounded by children or sisters, fearful, vulnerable but not yet destroyed. In contrast, men are more frequently shown naked, dead, starved, and alone. Our reluctance to confront the horror of what women experienced causes us to look away, to put down the camera, to move the photographs that were taken off the table. It is my task now to bring these women also forward, into the light."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Signs, spring, 2004, Lorna Martens, review of Women after Communism: The East German Experience, p. 939.