Inspiring Thursday: Florence Howe (1929-2020)

Florence Howe was born in 1929 in Brooklyn, New York. Since she was a little girl, her parents and especially her mother who was a bookkeeper instilled a love of learning in Florence. Learning and education became a lifelong passion for her.

Moreover, her intelligence and hard work predestined her for a wide range of academic and non-academic success since she was a child – Howe was one of the five young women from Brooklyn, and the only one of non-middle-class background, to win a citywide exam to attend exclusive Hunter College High School. She graduated high school early and attended Hunter College. In addition, she earned a BA and MA in English and was awarded an honorary doctorate by DePauw University.

After finishing her studies, Howe started to teach at universities and colleges. Very soon, she realized it was very rare to find a course or syllabus mentioning scholarship by women and there is a huge gender gap in books being taught. Because of that, she came up with an idea to publish book themselves and came up with the name: Feminist Press. Her goal was to provide texts for teaching about women. It helped to recover and make available a legacy of writing by and about women in American history. The same year, the Feminist Press was established, Howe was appointed chair of the Modern Language Association’s Commission on the Status and Education of Women in the Profession, which sought to advance the study of scholarship by women and elevate female faculty members.

Howe also brought the focus on suppressed groups of women and became a voice of change for them. She taught underprivileged Afro-American female students in a Mississippi Freedom School in summer 1964. She wrote or co-authored books focusing on women with disabilities such as book “With wings: an anthology of literature by and about women with disabilities” or book dealing with women of age such as “Almost touching the skies: women’s coming of age stories”. Howe began blogging in 2010 sharing details about her aging and health, including her Parkinson’s diagnosis.

Florence Howe died 12th September 2020 after her long fight with Parkinson’s disease. During her life she became a testimony of what an impact can education and hard work have for women all around the world.

Written by Mária Trubanová, WAVE Intern


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