Hartmann, Elizabeth 1951-
HARTMANN, Elizabeth 1951-
PERSONAL: Born July 20, 1951, in Princeton, NJ; daughter of Thomas B. (a professor) and Martha (an activist; maiden name, Bothfeld) Hartmann; married James Kenneth Boyce (an economist), November 17, 1976; children: Jamie, Thomas. Education: Yale University, B.A. (magna cum laude), 1974; attended London School of Economics. Politics: "Progressive."
ADDRESSES: Office—Hampshire College, Department of Social Science, 893 West St., Amherst, MA 01002. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Writer, 1980—. Project manager at Economic Development Bureau, New Haven, CT; visiting lecturer in economics at Yale University; Hampshire College, Amherst, MA, director of Population and Development Program; public speaker on issues of international development and reproductive rights. Fellow of Institute for Food and Development Policy, 1978-79.
MEMBER: Women's Global Network on Reproductive Rights, Bangladesh International Action Group, National Women's Health Network, National Writers Union, New England Women and Development Group.
AWARDS, HONORS: Howland fellowship, 1974.
under name betsy hartmann
(With husband, James Boyce) Needless Hunger: Voices from a Bangladesh Village, Institute for Food and Development Policy (San Francisco, CA), 1979.
(With husband, James Boyce) A Quiet Violence: View from a Bangladesh Village, Institute for Food and Development Policy (San Francisco, CA), 1983.
(With Hilary Standing) Food, Saris, and Sterilization: Population Control in Bangladesh, Bangladesh International Action Group, 1985.
Reproductive Rights and Wrongs: The Global Politics of Population Control and Contraceptive Choice, Harper (New York, NY), 1987.
The Truth about Fire (novel), Carroll & Graf Publishers (New York, NY), 2002.
Contributor to magazines and newspapers in the United States and abroad, including Nation, New Internationalist, and South.
SIDELIGHTS: Elizabeth Hartmann, who writes under the name Betsy Hartmann, is a frequent writer and lecturer on population and development issues. Her nonfiction books deal with hunger and food issues in the developing world as well as reproductive rights. With her 2002 novel The Truth about Fire, she turned to fiction to tell a cautionary tale of right wing terror. Hartmann once commented: "I became interested in international development issues by virtue of living and working in India and Bangladesh. I first went to India in 1968 as an exchange student and then returned in 1971 as a volunteer. In 1974 I went to Bangladesh with the goal of learning Bengali, living in a village and getting to know the people, and writing a book about the experience. While there I became interested in how aid from the United States and the World Bank was essentially benefiting the rich and how the philosophy of population control was hindering the development of family planning and health services."
Hartmann documents these experiences in Needless Hunger: Voices from a Bangladesh Village and A Quiet Violence: View from a Bangladesh Village, both written with her husband, James Boyce. Reviewing the latter title in Monthly Review, Cheryl Payer noted that most such studies were conducted by anthropologists and that the results were thus "too often dry." In contrast, A Quiet Violence is an "almost novelistic account of [the authors'] friends and neighbors in the village they call Katni." Payer went on to praise the "very readable prose, freshened with extraordinarily vivid details [that] draws the reader into this little world." But for Payer, this book was also a "carefully disciplined study" that is at once "an excellent introduction to the life of peasant families, and to the causes of poverty and hunger in the third world." Reviewing the same title in Pacific Affairs, Syluia Hale called it an "excellent, beautifully written and carefully constructed account of how the microcosm of a Bangladeshi village is tied into local, national, and international politics and development aid."
Hartmann has noted that her writings have been an "attempt to present these issues [of food and reproductive policy in the developing world] in a readable, comprehensive way to the general public and to initiate debate over relevant aspects of U.S. foreign policy." In Reproductive Rights and Wrongs: The Global Politics of Population Control, she brings a feminist perspective to the population problem, arguing that rapid population growth is not the cause of poverty in the third world, but rather a reflection of people's—and especially women's—lack of basic rights, notably the right to food, employment, education, and health care. "Ironically," Hartmann once noted, "population control does little to improve this situation and often makes matters worse. The narrow goal of reducing birth rates as fast as possible has distorted the process of contraceptive development in the West and undermined many health and family planning programs in the third world, so that they do not meet women's needs. I believe there should be a fundamental shift in population policy away from the obsession with population reduction towards the expansion of basic rights and individual reproductive choice."
Hartmann has also used fiction to get her message across. Her first novel, The Truth about Fire, is set mostly in Michigan, but it deals with two interweaving stories: that of a professor of German history, Gillian Grace, and a member of a Christian cult, Lucy Wirth. Their two lives become intricately intertwined as a result of a neo-Nazi bioterrorist plot originating in Germany. The novel, according to Hartmann, is a wake-up call about possible dangers from the far right both in the United States and abroad. Reviewing the novel in the Jewish Bulletin of Northern California, Jean Sered noted that this was Hartmann's first book "with a Jewish theme." Sered added that it is also "her best." A critic for Publishers Weekly had further praise for this debut novel, calling it a "compelling tale" and observing that Hartmann "proves herself an able storyteller, creating fearless, idealistic, knowledgeable and opinionated female characters who make difficult choices." A critic for Kirkus Reviews was less laudatory, however, noting that the book was a "wellmeaning thriller of sorts, marred by academic fussiness and extraneous historical detail." Booklist's Carrie Bissey found more to like in this "politically charged thriller." Bissey concluded that "well-drawn women lend real drama to a tense and multilayered story."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 1, 2002, Carrie Bissey, review of The Truth about Fire, p. 1092.
Jewish Bulletin of Northern California, October 18, 2002, Jean Sered, review of The Truth about Fire, p. 34.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2002, review of The Truth about Fire, p. 278.
Monthly Review, December, 1985, Cheryl Payer, review of A Quiet Violence, pp. 52-54.
Pacific Affairs, winter, 1999, Syluia Hale, review of A Quiet Violence, p. 599.
Publishers Weekly, February 18, 2002, review of The Truth about Fire, p. 73.
Hampshire College Web site, http://www.hampshire.edu/ (February 10, 2004).
Progressive Media Project, http://www.progressive.org/ (July 6, 2001).
Znet, http://www.zmag.org/bios/ (October 16, 2002), "Hartmann Interviewed."*