On Sunday, February 26, 2023, the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies lost a founder, leader, advocate, colleague, and friend with the death of Susan Stanford Friedman. Professor Friedman lived an exceptional life, notable for its pathbreaking scholarship, influential activism, and enduring relationships. Her legacy endures on this campus and well beyond it.
Professor Friedman was a force on the UW Madison campus from the time she enrolled as a graduate student in English in 1965. By the early 1970s, she had joined other activist-scholars fighting to improve the status of women at the university. She and her feminist allies demanded respect for women’s perspectives, advancement for women’s academic careers, and courses centered on women’s experiences. By May 1975, these efforts culminated in the UW Regent’s approval of a Program in Women’s Studies. Professor Friedman became one of our program’s first four faculty members and its first associate chair.
In the early years of the Women’s Studies Program, Professor Friedman helped shape its future. She led ongoing conversations among the growing membership about balancing scholarly excellence and rigor while remaining attuned to the activist roots of women’s studies. As it matured, Professor Friedman continued to urge the program (and later the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies) in new directions, leading the effort to develop an MA program, a vision that was realized in 2006.
Professor Friedman’s influence extended well beyond Gender and Women’s Studies. She chaired the Department of English, her other departmental home, and she led the Institute for Research on the Humanities. A brilliant and productive scholar, with a notably global perspective on intersections of gender and modernity, Professor Friedman’s work contributed to several fields, including literary studies, migration/diaspora studies, religious studies, and postcolonial studies. Her many publications testified to her commitment to scholarly excellence, her capacious curiosity, and her determination to push her fields forward.
Professor Friedman’s former colleagues and students in Gender and Women’s Studies mourn her loss and appreciate all she has left behind. We extend our condolences to her family, especially her husband Edward Friedman, and her daughters Ruth and Joanna, and her many friends. Please see her obituary here.