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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Interviewer: Anne Judge
Interviewee: Anita Spring
April 15, 1992
J: This is an interview with Dr. Anita Spring [former associate dean, College of Arts and
Sciences] on Wednesday, April 15, 1992, at about 4:30 in the afternoon. We are in
her office at the University of Florida. This is Anne Judge.
Where were you born?
S: I was born in Philadelphia.
J: What year was that? Are you willing to divulge that?
S: You do not need that information. [laughter]
J: Did you have any brothers and sisters?
S: I have two sisters who are younger. One is three years younger and one is eleven
years younger. When I was about thirteen we moved from Philadelphia to Los
J: [That] must have been quite a big move.
S: It was a big move and, actually, a very welcomed one. I enjoyed it a great deal. I
liked getting out of the Northeast and into the West.
J: You got rid of all that snow.
S: [We got] away from the snow.
J: Who are your parents? Can you tell me a little about them?
S: My father, Dr. Samuel Spring, is still alive and has a Ph.D. in chemistry. [He] has
always worked in industry in terms of being a chemist or being a manager (such as
a vice-president of a company). But he has also written four books and many, many
publications and [has been awarded] many patents. So he has been involved in that
sort of scholarly way of doing things. My mother, Elyse Spring, is deceased. She
was a housewife, but someone who was interested in intellectual enrichment,
particularly in books and reading and the like.
J: So you had a lot of intellectual encouragement at home.
S: Yes, more or less.
J: So there were three girls.
S: Yes. My baby sister, the youngest one, is an assistant professor of Chinese
literature and languages at the University of Colorado. She got her Ph.D., my father
had his, [and] I got mine. The middle sister finished a master's degree in art history
before Proposition 13 ruined California [laughter] and was an art teacher, but now
she is teaching English as a foreign language and selling real estate.
J: So it was a family tradition--for lack of a better word--to go into education?
S: It became that. My parents are actually of immigrant parents. So my father was the
first in his generation to go to school [in the United States], and he got a Ph.D. My
mother always wanted to go to college, but her family did not believe that girls
should be educated. I never forgot that.
J: Where were they from originally?
S: They were from Austria and Lithuania--the two sides, [in] that area of Europe. One
set, my father's side, came at the end of the last century; then, on my mother's side,
my grandmother came as a sixteen year old, and my grandfather came as a sixteen
or eighteen year old from that part of the world in the 1910s. So my parents were
certainly the first to go to high school, and my father actually continued and got his
J: Was your mom disappointed that she did not [get her degree]?
S: She was always taking courses at community colleges. She had worked as a
bookkeeper before she got married for a short time. But she was always
disappointed that she had not gotten a college education. It was because it was that
sort of Depression time, and they did not educate girls. None of the girls in her
family were educated. They tried on the boy, but, of course, he was the youngest
and disinterested. So the girls had some resentment there.
J: Did she convey to you [this disappointment]? Did that maybe affect you in a certain
way because your mother did not get to go?
S: Very much so. I have one bachelor's, two masters', and one Ph.D., if you want to
count them. All of the girls--all of my sisters--did try to participate in higher
J: Great. Your parents served as role models in a way, then, for that kind of a thing.
S: Oh, sure.
J: Did your peers in high school [influence you academically] at all?
S: It never occurred to me growing up that I would not go to college. I always
remember doing well in school [and] getting good grades. I was interested in
science. I used to have little nasty experiments in my basement in Philadelphia.
(They had basements in the Northeast.) [I was always] blowing up little things. That
intrigued me. I never played with dolls; I did not find that intriguing. I found science
intriguing. As a child, I was very much a tomboy. I liked the woods and the
outdoors and liked science.
Then, [after] moving to the West Coast, I remember the first summer I was there I
spent the first few months collecting butterflies. I was so happy just to be able to be
outside most of the year. The house we had had an orchard attached to it.
Then I went to high school there, and I remember being selected to go to a special
science program for a limited number of students. [There were] twelve or twenty
[students] (I cannot recall exactly how many) from the city of Los Angeles. We did
experiments and had a special, super-duper science program. I wanted to be a high
school chemistry teacher. I was good in math, and I was good in chemistry and
science. I liked it a lot, and I could not wait to get out of high school. So I
accelerated and got out early.
By the time I was sixteen and a half, I was already in the university. As I said, it was
never a question of "Would I go to the university?" It was not even a question of
which university I would go to. I only applied to two: Berkeley and UCLA. And I
applied to UCLA only because it was in Los Angeles, and I thought, If something
dreadful happens, I will have to go there. It never occurred to me that one would
actually go there. I always thought I was going to go to Berkeley, and I did.
So I majored in chemistry, and I got to teach high school chemistry at Berkeley High.
At that point, they had programs [where] you would take your major and then you
would earn a teaching certificate. They combined that, so I had pedagogical
courses in education. I taught high school at Berkeley High, and I hated it.
When I was home one summer--it was just before my senior year--I took a course in
anthropology at a community college. It was a beginning--basic anthropology 101,
kind of cultural anthropology, and I just fell in love with the subject. So I went back
to the university and told my advisors: "I do not want a chemistry degree. I want an
anthropology degree." They said, "You have to graduate in chemistry." Do not ask
me why. I do not think that is how we would counsel students today. I have thought
of this story many, many times in talking to students here. I was a senior, but those
professors were so prestigious and so forth, and I said, "I guess they must be right."
So I took four courses in anthropology. I remember [that] some of them were even
graduate courses. I got straight As in those courses [and] finished my chemistry
[degree]--I was not a straight-A student by any means--with my math minor.
Then I decided I would try to work in chemistry. I worked in a laboratory being a
quality control chemist for a summer. [It was a job] in which you measure the
products against a standard. This was superb training, by the way, for anything you
might want to do because you learn that sort of scientific control. I did that, [and] I
had worked as a high school chemistry assistant teacher, and I just decided working
in a laboratory was not for me.
I pined away for anthropology, so I went to San Francisco State University and
started there a master's degree in anthropology. Remember I had had only the four
courses at Berkeley my senior year, and I had had that summer school community
college course. But they took me in. I remember that all the professors just loved
my work because they said it read like a chemistry experiment or a chemistry
project. It was so scientific, and this was when they were used to seeing fairly
sloppy, not very scientific and often not very logical, presentations. I had
hypotheses and deductions and inductive data usage, and they loved that.
I started off in archaeology, which, in a way, is maybe closer to chemistry. I also
worked in a small museum attached to San Francisco State. I worked as a museum
curator [in the] preservation of artifacts. Of course, you can see the carryover from
the chemistry background. I did that for a couple of years. I was running that
museum and doing the exhibits and being a graduate student for a master's degree.
[I was also] doing what we call "California dirt archaeology," which is [using a] shovel
[and] pick [to go through] mounds and mounds of sea midden until you get to the
artifacts. The artifacts are not particularly glamorous, but they are forager-type
artifacts. I dug California Indian sites. [I participated in] part of the work on Drake's
landing, where Sir Francis Drake had landed, and found the Ming Cup, which he
brought back from his trip to China. (He had actually reached Asia.) And [I dug at]
a California mission site.
About that time I decided I really did not want to do archaeology. As much as I liked
it, it was not my budding interest. I wanted to do sociocultural anthropology and
started taking courses along those lines. Then I worked on a tri-ethnic study of
white, black, and Hispanic [people]. I did the black groups in San Francisco [and
was working in] the worst, worst neighborhoods. We were trying to find out the
effects of welfare on families and, in particular, what happened when families were
intact versus what happened when there was no male or husband around. This
issue is as current in the 1990s as it was in the 1960s, which is when I was doing it.
[It was] around 1965 or 1966.
The publication that resulted was called Welfare and Working Fathers [: Low Income
Life Styles, by Robert Stone Clarence]. The [question was,] Could you give aid to
dependent women and children if there were men around, or did the men have to
kind of leave the household for the benefits to be effective? We concluded that it
was much more beneficial to have the fathers there, as you might imagine. Of
course, this is still being debated on a state-by-state and local area-by-local area
basis at the present time. But I am very happy to have had a chance to work on that
topic as a cultural anthropologist.
I also took a course from a man named John Collier, who was the son of the famous
Indian commissioner John Collier. John Collier, Jr., was an expert on photography
and using the camera as a research tool. So not only did I do the ethnographic part
[of the research] on these families, but I did photographic essays on these families.
I was quite intrigued. I was running the museum, taking classes, and working on
Then, in the summer of 1965, I did a training program. I had a fellowship from the
National Science Foundation. It was field training in cultural anthropology at the
University of Nevada in Reno. The idea was to study American Indian groups. I
studied a group called the Washo in the summer of 1965. [They were] a Great
Basin group, and I wound up doing my master's thesis on the Washo and focusing
specifically on marriage relations and linguistic categories and the whole social
[structure] and components dealing with that particular topic.
The following summer I had another National Science Foundation training
fellowship. This was something called the summer seminar in quantitative
anthropology. There were twelve students--master's or budding Ph.D. students--
who were brought together from all over the country in this wonderful little mansion
at Williams College in [Williamstown] Massachusetts. This was 1966. They gave us
five professors and a computer linkup to Dartmouth to see if anthropologists who
had had some quantitative training could actually benefit. This was an enrichment
program and was the brainchild of Jack Roberts, who was then at Cornell. This
would be a way of putting in the quantitative perspective in their training with the
notion that as they became professionals in the field, the quantitative perspective
would come into play within anthropology. It was a way of beefing that up.
Of course, they had written a grant and sold it to the National Science Foundation
for funding, [and] I was a recipient of this way of thinking. We had set theory and
early training in computers and [training in] how to manipulate quantitative data. I
must say, I have used it. [laughter] So I was really, really lucky to have participated.
You see, I was chosen [for the program] because of the chemistry major and math
minor [I had taken] as an undergraduate. So maybe those people were not all
wrong in saying that I should have graduated with [that academic background]. It
got me into that program, at least. Also, by that time, I was graduating from San
Francisco State University, and I applied to graduate school and got accepted into
quite a number of them. But the one I chose to go to was Cornell. They offered me
a full fellowship that was actually funded by the National Institute of Health for
At that point, I was pretty interested in medical anthropology and healthcare delivery
systems. I chose Cornell University because I had read a book by a man named
Victor Turner called Schism and Continuity in an African Society [: A Study of
Ndembu Villaga Life]. He was at Cornell, and I wanted to study with him. I do not
know why at that point I decided that I was interested in Africa. But he was there,
[and] I got the full fellowship funded by the National Institutes of Health, so I went to
I got there in 1966 and started my graduate program. I remember being completely
appalled by the unsophisticated nature of this rural area in upstate New York after
coming from three years in San Francisco and four years before that in Berkeley
and then the whole West Coast situation and Los Angeles and so forth. That very,
very freezing cold weather [played a part in my disappointment], and I thought
people were a little cold. I just buried myself in the library for about five years as a
result. No, I should say for the first three years I completely buried myself in the
I recall there were some good payoffs to that [time spent in the library]. I remember
the first term at Cornell for some peculiar reason--I guess I was really interested in
it--I managed to get out of my four courses (or something of that variety) three A+s.
At that time, if you got a plus, [they added four-tenths of a point]. An A was a 4.0,
but an A+ was a 4.4, which meant that you could do all kinds of evils from then on
because that extra grade point there was very good. Well, I did not do all kinds of
evils. But it just did incredible things for my grade point average.
So I had my training, and I kept getting more and more involved in Africa--in health
care and rituals and symbols. Victor Turner had really worked on rituals and
symbols. He wrote a book called The Forest of Symbols [: Aspects of Ndembu
Ritual and another called] The Drums of Affliction [: A Study of Religious Pressures
among the Ndembu of Zambia]. All of these books were completely influential to
I also married in 1969 and had a baby. Then, in 1970, I went off to Zambia to do my
field research. It was funded by the National Institutes of Health for research in
Zambia, and I stayed there from 1970 until 1972 looking at ritual and symbolic
systems and traditional health care and modern health care.
I remember that we lived about 600 miles from the capital, Lusaka, in Zambia, and
about three miles from the Angolan border. [The Zambians] were very suspicious
because there was still a war going on in neighboring Angola. They were curious to
know [whether] we were spies for the CIA, the Angolan government, [or] the MPLA
[Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola], which is one of the guerrilla
movements that subsequently became the legitimate government in Angola. [They
wanted to know if] we were spies for the next ethnic group over. The group I was
studying was the Luvale. We were spies for the next group who was trying to knock
the Luvale broadcasts off the national radio.
I remember since my topic was health and traditional ritual, I was able to function
pretty well. They had not seen too many white women, and the ones they had seen
were missionary nurses. So no matter what I told them about what I was doing, they
thought perhaps I was a nurse. Nurses are always welcome everywhere in the
world because they help people and save people and give them medicine. They
thought I was a nurse, so it was okay for me to keep working even though my
husband and I were suspected of being spies.
We did not want to say we were anthropologists, by the way, because in countries
that had formerly been colonies of Britain, the British had used social
anthropologists to assist them in learning about the area and governing the area.
So the term anthropologist and even applied anthropology were not particularly well
favored. So we became historians. Every people (I do not have to tell you [since
you are] doing oral history) likes to have its history recorded. We were essentially
doing oral history. [We were] interviewing people trying to find out what they thought
about things, what their customs were, and so forth. There is a very close link
between anthropology and social anthropology and history.
Since I was doing traditional cosmological systems and ritual systems and so forth,
that all seemed to fit in. I was also interested in medical systems and medicinal
systems [as well as] how they combined the traditional with what I call the
biomedical. I do not like to use the word modern. It is cosmopolitan medicine; it is
biomedical tradition, and I was interested to see how people combined that. I was
also interested to learn about their whole world view in terms of religion and ritual. I
was inducted into quite a number of the spirit possession and cults that people use
as a method for curing illness. Also, I was interested in seeing all their traditional
medicinal and herbal treatments.
Very soon after I got there, a little girl got sick. They took her to a local clinic, and
the person at the clinic gave her something. She fainted from it. Whatever it was, I
do not remember. [I do not know if] he gave her an injection of an antimalarial or an
antibiotic or [if] he put an air bubble in there. It is hard to know what he did to her,
but she was very sick. So here was my first case. I was going to observe traditional
medicine. But when I went to observe, they said, "We are not going to let you
observe until you give her some medicine as well." I thought: Oh, my goodness.
Talk about practicing medicine without a license! I am really caught on this one. I
had my Merk [medical] manual, and I had lots of medicine. I looked at her
symptoms, and I really thought she had malaria. I thought she was dehydrating fast
because some of the traditional practices were to withhold liquids. I had my book by
Maurice King called Medical Care in Developing Countries, which contains
information on dosages, so I mixed up some electrolytic solution with a little sugar
and a little salt and some boiled water. I had malaria tablets, and I brought that
Lo and behold, she recovered, which had its very good and very bad points. The
good points were that I could now see all the traditional medicine that I wanted. The
child had survived, and, of course, that was wonderful. But that also meant that
people were going to be asking me continuously for medicines, which was the case.
For the next two years, I had between twenty and thirty people on a daily basis
asking me to treat all kinds of things from A to Z. When I talked to the local
physicians--not traditional herbalists but M.D.s at the mission hospital or the
government hospital--their response to my tale was to give me incredible numbers
and amounts of medicines to administer. [laughter] The mission hospital was a
number of miles away, let us say five or ten, and the government hospital was fifty
or sixty miles away.
So instead of being told, "Do not do this," I was told, "Do it as much as you can, and
here are the free medicines." In the dry season there must have been thirty people
a day for eye medicine. I really must say it did save a lot of people's lives. I only
failed once, and that was because I think they brought a child to me much too late.
He died half an hour later, and he was going to die a half hour later [anyway]. No
matter what we could do, there was no way to save him. They just had waited too
long. But I would say most of the other cases I am sure we managed to cure. At
the same time, I thought: This is taking up a lot of my time. I had better do some
medical histories of these people. So that is partly how I got my sample of medical
I was interested in how people combine the biomedical with the traditional and the
ceremonies and rituals they had. That is why I got invited to all these spirit-
possession rituals as well. They saw that I was giving them medicine, and then they
would let me see their medicine. My medicine was pretty efficacious, and I thought
some of the medicines they used were pretty detrimental, although they were very
socially supported. I did pH determinations and sent them off to the University of
Zambia for identification of medicinals and herbals and so forth, and I did my
dissertation on that topic at Cornell. That was 1972. So I went back to Cornell and
completed my coursework and looked around for jobs.
By the way, when I went back there, they had a budding women's studies program,
and there was a competition for teaching courses in women's studies. This was a
new thing at the beginning of the 1970s. I did a seminar and entered the
competition and won the competition to teach the first women's studies course on
anthropology at Cornell. (I was a senior graduate student at this time.) It was cross-
listed in the department of anthropology and in the women's studies program.
Then I applied for jobs. I remember going to the American Anthropological
Association meetings that year, 1972--that would have been in November,
probably--and interviewing for jobs. By the spring, I had four job offers. I went to a
lot of interviews, but I had four actual job offers. The University of Florida was one
of them. University of Washington in Seattle was another, Tulane [University in New
Orleans] was a third, and Florida International [University] in Miami was a fourth.
I came down here to the University of Florida [in 1973]. I remember it was in
February. That was a lethal time to come down, because I went back to that cold
climate with a smile on my face after seeing the sunshine. I had almost forgotten
what it looked like. So I took the job at the University of Florida. At that time, it was
in University College in the Department of Behavioral Studies.
This is a bit interesting. The reason I took this [job] is [because] the other positions
were all in straight anthropology departments, but this one was interdisciplinary, and
I thought it seemed interesting. I did not know the difference between University
College and the Arts and Sciences College. People thought one was this and one
was that. Usually people thought University College was of a somewhat lesser
degree because it was the first two years and it was focused on teaching and these
kinds of things. I did not know any of these political things. I just thought it sounded
particularly interesting to be able to do interdisciplinary things. And anthropology is
a very wide profession. We have four fields [cultural anthropology, physical
anthropology, linguistics, and archaeology]. Also, when I came down here the
anthropology department, which was in the College of Arts and Sciences, actually
had a party for me. Everybody met me and interviewed me. I thought: Well, more is
better. Wouldn't this be great?
So I got to the University of Florida in 1973, teaching in the Department of
Behavioral Studies with a kind of a mandate to develop interdisciplinary courses of a
very, very broad nature and to work on any of these things that might interest me.
And I started putting together a whole series of new courses for the University of
One of those courses was human sexuality. At that time, [it was called] Human
Sexuality and Society. It is now called Human Sexuality and Culture because it is
officially in anthropology. When we started to do it, it was [taught by] a team. We
had two other colleagues, and we were being very interdisciplinary [and] very
conservative as we approached that course. We thought it was a very hot topic and
one that the legislature would get on us [about] if we did not approach it as
scientifically as possible. I remember we said only married people could teach it.
And we had to be very careful. We had thirty students in a section. I remember I
used to have students do projects, and they had to submit them to me. They might
have had to submit them four or five times until I okayed them and said that they
were fit to be carried out. [laughter] We were really controlling those very much.
Eventually, I built that course up to about 500 a term. I taught it for about eight
I also developed a course called the African Experience. [That was] an
interdisciplinary course that was an introduction to an area-studies type of approach.
In that course we have--I say "have" because it continues to the present--
geography and history and anthropology and politics and a little bit of the arts and
culture department. That course continues to this time, and I still teach it. I taught it
I started a course on human sex roles, cross culturally. This is a funny thing I would
like to put in the archives. When I taught that course at Cornell we called it
something like Women's Roles: A Cross-Cultural Perspective. But Dr. [Paul]
Doughty, who was chair at the time and put the course in anthropology, changed it
to Human Sex Roles: A Cross-Cultural Perspective. He thought a course that had
the word sex in it would have a bigger drawing card than a course that had the word
women in it. That is how it was viewed. This must have been about 1974 or 1975. I
am not sure exactly of the date that first was taught. But he had that notion, and he
just changed it without even asking me.
At first I was horrified, but then I realized two things. Number one, he was right.
The enrollment was always made. There were always forty-five students in the
class. But, number two, because it did not just say "Women: A Cross-Cultural
Perspective" but said "Human Sex Roles: A Cross-Cultural Perspective," it had the
effect of getting male students as well as female students into the course, which, of
course, is extremely important. As the course has been taught over and over again,
it has had the perspective of including gender roles of both men and women. I think
it has benefitted a great deal from that. Even though it has always been cross-listed
in women's studies, it has been called Human Sex Roles, and I have tried to give it a
broader perspective. [I have tried] to talk [about] and look at the interaction of men
From 1973 to 1978 I had an interdisciplinary course on population, the
interdisciplinary course on African studies, the interdisciplinary course on sexuality,
and then anthropology courses--because I was also teaching in the anthropology
department--on gender. I think I taught a 5000-level course on kinship. I taught a
graduate course, also, on ritual and symbolic systems. Those two were my
Then, in the summer of 1978, I started to work on a course on African studies for
teachers from the state of Florida and the Southeast. In 1978 I was just one of the
professors, and then in 1979 I directed it. It was called the Summer Institute on
African Studies for Teachers and Educators. That [my role in the project] was
planning the program and supervising the teaching staff, and it was here during the
In 1978-1979 the University College was merged with the College of Arts and
Sciences to become the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Bob Bryan [professor
of English and later University of Florida vice-president] put in that word liberal, I
remember. Then I was in the anthropology department, and I came up for tenure. I
think I actually came up for tenure in both departments, behavioral studies and
anthropology, and I got it in both departments. Then the colleges merged.
When I came into the Department of Anthropology--I think it started in 1979-1980
and actually up until 1981 to begin with--I was the associate chair of the department
because of this new merger and [the fact that] there was a new chairperson coming
into the department. They created this position of associate chair within the
Department of Anthropology with the responsibilities of doing course assignments,
scheduling, general administration, [and acting as liaison] between people who were
coming in from University College and people who were already in the Department
of Anthropology. It seemed to make sense at the time. [laughter] But it was my first
taste of administration. I did that from 1979 until 1981 and then [from] 1983 to 1984.
I will tell you what happened in the intervening years. (I was not on campus.) I kind
of liked it. I kind of felt that an administrator was someone who was efficient, should
not let paperwork sit on one's desk for a long time, should try to facilitate things for
people, should try to expedite things for the faculty, should take grievances, and
should try to get the best out of people. So that was kind of my perspective in doing
that particular job. I must say, I thought it was pretty neat. I would, from time to
time, go to the chairs' meetings and see things above the level of the department or
certainly above the level of a single, participating faculty member. I got a bit keen
Now I have to change gears and tell you about what I was doing in my own research
life, because that makes a difference in terms of what then happened.
S: I think I spent the whole decade of the 1970s being pretty focused on ritual and
symbolic systems, medical anthropology, [and] population studies. In 1977 I had a
grant from the Center for African Studies and from something called the Center for
Human Lactation. I did a study on breastfeeding as sort of a continuation of my
dissertation on health practices in Zambia, so I went to Zambia in 1977. I did a five-
year follow-up study on my dissertation research work that also focused on what
women were doing in terms of reproductive health and in terms of breastfeeding.
This was the time that there was the controversy of Nestle's milk feeding and those
kinds of things. So it kind of fit in to a worldwide concern with these kinds of things.
The entire 1970s I [focused on one subject], and all the papers I wrote [centered
around it]. I did an edited book [with Judith Hoch-Smith] called Women in Ritual and
Symbolic Roles, and I wrote articles about healing, healing strategies, healing
therapies, health care delivery systems and the interconnection with the biomedical
and the traditional medicinal systems, population, spirit possession, [and] all those
kinds of things. So I spent that whole decade focused on that subject.
I cannot recall why right now, but for the African studies meeting in 1979 I put in an
abstract on women's work in northwest Zambia. It was called "From Valuation to
Subordination." For the first time, instead of focusing on health and rituals and
symbols, I was focusing on economic activities and agricultural work. This is really
important because it was a very big career turning point. I wrote that article, and two
things came to mind. The first is that when I had been in Zambia in the early 1970s
[doing] that fieldwork from 1970 to 1972, I had had delegations of women who came
to my house, and they said, "You know everything about our medicine, about our
spirit possession rituals, about our health care, etc., but you do not know what it is to
be a woman." [My reaction was,] "Excuse me?" They said, "Because to be a
woman is to be a farmer."
Well, I was a confirmed urbanite. [I] hardly had even a houseplant. (This was
before people got really keen on houseplants.) I really was not interested in that
topic. They said, "Well, you have to learn this." So they gave me a hand-held hoe
(that is how they cultivated), and they gave me seed. They actually took me to the
field and showed me how to do it. I was just that ignorant. They gave me two plots.
One plot, away from the household area, I was planting groundnuts, which was
peanuts of a different variety [from what is planted there]. Of course, I had brought
some European-type seeds from the capital, and I planted my seeds there. The end
result was [that of] all the imported seeds, nothing came up. They all failed. And all
the seeds that they gave me did very well.
I must say that I did not find it a particularly wonderful exercise. I mean, I really was
a confirmed urbanite. [laughter] I did not think agriculture or farming or anything
[like it was interesting]. I was much more interested in the symbols and the
cosmology and the political structure and all those things.
But by the end of the 1970s, for this paper, I started reviewing all the literature that I
could find, first on Zambia, then on southern Africa, [and] then on Africa in general. I
started talking about hypotheses related to women's work and productivity and
constraints [related to] things like land, access to credit, constraints in labor, [and
such questions as] what happened when people were resettled because of the
Kariba Dam in Zambia. [I talked about] how they lost their land. [I also asked] why
they had to resort to what I called low-paying pathways, either beer brewing or
prostitution, as opposed to being able to make money and feed their families from
agriculture. So I wrote that first paper in 1979, and I presented it at the African
Studies meetings in Los Angeles. [I] got involved with [the] literature, and I really
started thinking about this subject. [I was] reading everything I could get my hands
on [regarding] this new subject of women in development and women in agriculture.
[However,] there was not a great deal of background.
The next year, 1980, a colleague was putting together the design team to go on a
USAID ([United States] Agency for International Development) project that the
University of Florida was bidding on. [The project was] to design the National
Agricultural University in Cameroon in a place called Dschang. They asked me to
be on the design team; there were eight people. [There was] one other woman, who
was a librarian, and six men, most of whom were retired deans from IFAS. [They
were] sort of senior types, [and] a lot of them did not know very much about Africa or
about smallholder agriculture. Fortunately, [they were] senior statesmen, and age
does count in the African context.
Anyway, I went over on that design team, and I was asked to look at smallholder
agriculture, especially women farmers and female students in agricultural higher
education. I got pretty interested and wrote a paper on women in agriculture.
By that time, when I got back, I think the only way you can describe it is that I had
become a fanatic on the subject. I did not mind getting my hands dirty. I was
interested in agriculture, [and] I was interested in the rural areas [and] in
development. In 1980 I was invited to the USAID and [to] the State Department to
hear some early lectures on women in agriculture and women in development. I
remember just being fascinated.
I should also mention that in the year before, 1979, I was a "scholar diplomat" at the
State Department. They took me in as an Africanist. It was in the Africa bureau.
They open up their files to you and give you a complete briefing. You get top-secret
clearance and all that. You are allowed to get into the files, and they give you a
briefing on what is happening in the situation. As a result of that, I was invited back
in 1980 to hear one of the first important seminars on women in development by the
Office of Women in Development. I got to meet the director and the deputies, the
personnel. About half a year later I came back to them with a proposal to do a
project of women in agriculture in Malawi.
The reason it was Malawi is because the University of Florida had just gotten a $9
million contract to do an agricultural program there with a research unit. My former
husband was on that project and was going to go to Malawi. I thought, Well, what
can I do? I put together a major project on women in agriculture and women in
development for the country, and I had just met all these people in the Office of
Women in Development, and I asked if they would be interested. They said, "The
government of Malawi has to be interested in having your project." Of course, it was
quite a good project, so they liked it. I had an agronomist on it, and it started out
being mostly focused in terms of being a research project. [I was to] go study what
was happening in this part of the country and contrast it with what was happening in
that part of the country. [It was] that kind of an approach, sort of what I would call a
standard academic approach to the subject, although [it was] somewhat of a new
topic. I was pretty up on the literature, having just done the paper for the African
studies meeting. I pulled the hypotheses together. [I had just done] the exercise in
Cameroon in which I looked at some on-the-ground real farmers, both men and
women, and the policies and what they were actually doing. I had explored the
literature of west Africa. But Malawi, of course, is in southern Africa. It is right next
to Zambia. I still had that continuity, although it had been a few years since I had
been in Zambia.
So I put together a proposal, and, I must say, it was a bit tricky. I made an initial trip
over to Malawi to try to negotiate it through the Ministry of Agriculture to see if they
would be interested in it. I found an interesting mix of very supportive people and
very hostile people in the ministry. In the USAID mission, unfortunately, [there was]
a very hostile mission director, [who was] unfortunately female. [laughter] "I made it
the hard way, and, therefore, there should not be anything special for women" was
her approach. What she did not know was how much work women did in that
country in terms of agriculture. None of us knew quite how much it was going to
turn out to be before I actually did the project.
But to make a long story short, it finally got funded through the Office of Women in
Development. I was allowed to be on leave from the University of Florida to work on
that project because the University collected overhead funds. It was a standard
project through [the Division of] Sponsored Research and so forth. In the meantime,
I had lost the agronomist I wanted. She was a woman who had just gotten her
Ph.D., and she needed to find a job. The USAID was just too slow, so she went to
another project in Kenya. I wound up getting a male agronomist, someone who had
just gotten a master's degree that the Office of International Programs found for me.
I had not planned on having a man in the project, but that also turned out to be a
superb idea as a balance. Then I started accumulating staff. The Ministry of
Agriculture secunded to me a project officer. Another person heard about the
project, and she joined the project. Pretty soon I had a whole staff: secretaries,
vehicles, drivers, [and] the whole extension service. Before I knew it, it turned into a
national project working in three parts of the country with access to anybody I
wanted within the Ministry of Agriculture. I did not even have my own vehicle on that
project but, [rather, was] using their vehicles. A few friends chuckled and
commented that I had become the government of Malawi's favorite charity. They
allowed me to do just about everything and anything.
We turned that research project into both a research and development action
project. That project taught people how to disaggregate data sets through the
national statistics office, and they found out for the first time that a third of the
households in that country were headed by women. (When I say "disaggregate," I
mean by gender.) They used their own data [that] they had just collected with funds
from the World Bank. (I had no hand in that.) I showed them how to disaggregate
it, and they disaggregated it. They found out that there was a difference between
men and women in terms of heading households, in terms of the size of the land
holdings they had, and oftentimes the terms of the resources they had in access to
I worked a great deal with the extension staff, both male and female. I had the
notion, since there were only about 160 female extension staff and about 2,000 male
extension staff, that if we were to wait until there were big numbers of women (they
did not seem to recruit them very much), it would be the year 3000 before we had a
significant number of female extension staff. And people had the idea that only
women could work with women and only men could work with men. I kept saying: "It
is not family planning! It is agriculture, and it is credit, and it is learning how to
I was able to convince people in the ministry that this was so, and we had all kinds
of hands-on activities, and we wrote a technical circular that came out from the
ministry. They sent it to every single person in extension in the country. It is called
"Reaching Female Farmers through Male Extension Staff." It legitimate both the
men to be able to work with farmers, both men and women, and the women
extension workers to be able to work with farmers, both men and women. [It also
was] to give them training, mostly because the female extension staff had been
trained in home economics of a most classical nature. It was not even what we call
"the new home economics," such as resource management, cultural ecology, and
interhousehold dynamics. It was cooking, sewing, hygiene, and baby care. [It was]
all lots of fun, but it was not going to help those women who were farmers very
much. It was not going to give them credit funds or agricultural training.
So we had to figure out strategy, and I had all kinds of teams doing surveys and
studies, farming systems work, and agronomic trials. They all thought I was an
agronomist by this time. By this time when I would arrive someplace, I would have
my hoe, and I would plant in the soil and I would tell them the spacing. Here was
the urbanite come full circle and turned into a farmer. [laughter] [We were doing]
that at the local level and trying to change government policy at the national level.
I was instrumental in kind of moving along [changes in the country]. They were kind
of going along in that direction, but I was really a catalyst [with] the project to move
the Women's Program Section along to a real focus on women in agriculture and to
a real focus on upgrading the skills of not only the female extension staff but
combining them with the male extension staff whenever possible and making sure
that they could get better services to rural people. There were lots and lots of
components of that project. It was evaluated as the best project that the U.S.
government had done in agriculture during that decade--1975 to 1985. It was also--
this tickled me--the subject of a AAAS (American Association for the Advancement
of Science) radio broadcast. They did these one-and-a-half- to two-minute spots on
projects at that point. I remember people calling me from Los Angeles and saying,
"We heard about your project on the radio." [laughter] So that was really [neat].
To put a footnote or postscript to that, when I was back in [Malawi in] 1988 and
1990, I found one thing that tickled me a great deal was the number of women
having access to credit. When I had left, it was just a handful, maybe 3 to 5 percent.
But I started this method [in which] they would keep track of how many men [and]
how many women [got credit]. [We emphasized] that it was okay for the male credit
extension workers to work with the women farmers as well as the men and that it
was okay for women farmers to get credit. Their repayment rates were great. When
I got back in 1990, I met with the head of the whole credit program agency, and he
told me that now, just six years later, 30 percent of all the credit takers in the country
were women, and they were hoping to raise it to 40 percent.
So I am pretty pleased with myself, to say the least, and I am pretty pleased with the
results of that project. It really was a very successful project. I have a lot of
publications on the project as well.
Well, that [project] was 1981 to 1983. I came back to the University of Florida [after
that], and I did two things. I worked as associate chair [in the Department of
Anthropology] for that year that I came back, 1983-1984. I also started, along with
other female colleagues on the campus, something called the Women in Agriculture
program. We used to call it WIA. It has subsequently changed to the Women in
Agricultural Development (WIAD) program. [It is the] same thing. Anyway, we
started this Women in Agriculture program at the University of Florida in 1983. Then
I directed it for about the first three years, until about 1986. By that time I was
associate dean and doing other things, and I wanted others to have a hand in it as
well. But from 1983 to 1986, when I directed that, we managed to get funding from
the centers for African Studies, Latin American Studies, International Programs,
IFAS, and the Graduate School. We had assistantships, and we had a seminar
series. I will tell you how that works in just a minute.
Then in 1986 we had an international conference here, which 300 people attended.
It was called "Gender Issues in Farming Systems." We have a volume that came
out from that conference. We had a little additional funding from [the] Ford and
Rockefeller foundations for that conference. That program continues to this day. At
one point, I think about 1987 or 1988, there was actually a position for a director--we
had worked it up into that--and somebody was actually hired for that post.
Unfortunately, it does not have a complete happy ending, [and] that position is no
longer there for a number of political reasons. The program still continues, but there
are faculty [members] who volunteer their time to direct it. It still continues in the
form of a seminar series, and I actually just put together a concentration on the
But when I came back from Malawi, that first year I was associate chair. Then I
decided, I do not really think the Department of Anthropology needs an associate
chair anymore. It looks like things are pretty much under control. Five people had
come in from University College. The department had grown but now was
accustomed to its size. Everybody was integrated. It just did not seem to me that it
was necessary. So I said I did not think I wanted to do that any longer. I had done it
for three years. It was great experience, and I think it was useful for the department,
but that was enough for me. So [in] 1984-1985 I just concentrated on the Women in
Agriculture program. First we started off with occasional speakers, then we would
have them monthly, [and] then we merged with the farming systems people and had
them every Friday. It was kind of lively. I had the idea of getting senior people,
including men, on my advisory board.
One of my big supporters was E. T. York, who was chancellor [of the Board of
Regents]. He had been head of IFAS before. He was very supportive. He had
been one of the people at that conference in 1980 at the State Department on the
early meeting of women in development. He was a great help. I think that, in terms
of things that women do at the University of Florida, having mentors and having
people who are supportive [is very important]. I want to get to this topic.
J: OK. That is probably one of my questions, too, I think.
S: It all leads up to that. It leads up to the mentor in the associate chair position and
having supporters in the Women in Agriculture program. Hunt Davis was director of
the Center for African Studies, and we put him on the advisory board. We put E. T.
York on the advisory board. We put Chris Andrew and Hugh Popano on the
advisory board. We put Madelyn Lockhart [current dean of the graduate school] on
the advisory board. These things are extremely important in terms of programs.
I wanted to also mention that starting in 1985 I had applied for the post of associate
dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences after sort of having a year's break
from being associate chair but still directing the WIAD program. I got that post, and
my duties were focused on the international and interdisciplinary programs [such as]
African Studies, Jewish Studies, Greek Studies, Asian Studies, Women's Studies,
[and] Gerontology. Then [I was] working with the offices that assisted with [the]
overseas student program [in which students spend a] summer abroad in [places
like] Brazil, Yucatan, [and] Utrecht. We provided the academic scrutiny or oversight
from the college. Richard Downie's office [of International Student Services] did the
logistics on the programs for students. [Downie was the assistant director and dean.
[I was] also working with interuniversity linkages. I do not have a list in front of me,
although I remember some, [such as the University of] Innsbrook in Austria [and
universities in] Poland, Yucatan, [and] Hungary. I remember working and
negotiating with the rectors or representatives of those universities to have linkage
programs with the University of Florida. Some of them were of a major order, and
some were just summer schools. Innsbrook is an example [of a summer school].
We work with that summer school program with another institution--Tulane, as I
We have exchanges between faculty members. Our faculty members sometimes go
there for a year. Their faculty members come here in certain departments [like]
English or astronomy or some other department. Others, such as the one in Pecs,
Hungary, [are] mostly concerned with the English or psychology departments. [They
are] very limited. [We have] a student here, a faculty member there, [and] maybe a
student going to a summer school program. Still others [have] summer school
programs like the one in Yucatan in which the anthropology department in particular
does it on an annual basis, or the one in Brazil. We did one in Taiwan.
There were so many of them, and they really are very exciting programs. I worked
with those, and I worked with the interdisciplinary centers and institutes, international
centers and institutes, and affirmative action within the college. We will also get to
That was the first few years. Then, at the end, I was also supervising the curriculum
committee. [I was working on] the graduate and undergraduate curricula for all
twenty-six departments within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. I did that
job for three and a half years, up until 1988. I was actually preparing to go off to
Oxford University. I had been offered [something equivalent to] the status of being a
fellow there for a term or a year.
I was going to do that, and then I was offered the job at FAO [the Food and
Agriculture Organization of the United Nations] directing their whole worldwide
program on women in agriculture. I thought, This must be fate. After all, the first
thing I did in agriculture was in 1979, and by 1988 [I was asked to] direct the whole
worldwide show for the UN agency that specializes in agriculture. So I felt I had to
But let us get back a little bit. I think you want to talk about the University of Florida.
J: Yes. Let us go back even further. You were at Berkeley in 1963, right?
J: Now, what was Berkeley like in 1963?
S: I thought it was the center of the universe at that point. [laughter]
J: A lot of things were going on.
S: Yes. Then I went to San Francisco State. I noticed that Dr. [S. I.] Hayakawa
passed away. He got up and tried to quell the student riots and then became a
[United] States Senator [from California. I even] ended up at Cornell when the black
students took over the union, so I got to see all of it, the whole protest stuff, and was
really in the thick of those things during the 1960s.
I must say that, first of all, I did not let it affect my studies. [laughter] I have to say
that for the record. But I was really a participant. I really felt very strongly about a
number of those causes. I also got to see something that I think really affected me.
I would be at an event, and then I would read about it in the newspaper or [hear
about it] in the media, and as an anthropologist or as a scientist, I kept saying, "But
that is not what happened," or "They left out that," or "It was really different." So this
whole idea of ethnographic truth and how do you really report on something of that
nature was an important topic for me at the time.
J: You went to high school in California. Is that correct?
J: This was before things really started to get shaken up in society in 1960. When you
went to high school, was your interest in academics and math and science and
things like that a bit unusual for the people you might have hung out with in high
S: I do remember the high school being pretty much focused on social clubs. There
were Damsels and Ladies--these were the clubs--and you had the high school
sweater and the pins and all these kinds of things. I remember trying out for being a
pom-pom girl and a cheerleader. I was a pom-pom girl, believe it or not. [laughter]
I was also a member of the Damsels; I remember that. Then, I think because I was
doing too well in those science courses, I did not get into the final seniors' group
called Ladies. I remember feeling very badly about that.
It was pretty unusual to want to be a high school chemistry teacher. The one I had
in high school was a man, by the way. I am trying to remember my math teachers. I
think they were both men and women. But the chemistry teachers, for some reason,
were all men. It was not something that girls really did. It was unusual, but I always
had been kind of feminine, too. I dated, so that was not an issue.
I do recall at Berkeley, however, [that] there were only 2 girls and 400 boys in the
introductory chemistry class. I do remember the laboratories. I remember very
much the fact that the boys in high school had all had physics and those kinds of
courses like shop where you put things together and you learn about electricity and
all that. I had not had those courses. And I remember the first time I took physics I
got a D. It was just beyond me. There were only a few girls [in the class]. The
students who were female were mostly Asian students. You have to remember that
it is the West Coast and that time period. Some of them were foreign students, too.
There just really were very few female students at all. I hardly had any female
students in my classes.
Believe it or not, I do not remember being discriminated against. I just do not
remember, although I am sure it happened. But, you know, I was completely not
cognizant of any of that. I remember I did my chemistry, and I thought it was so
neat to be a female student because there were so few of us.
J: Did you have any discouragement [from your teachers]?
S: I never had any encouragement.
J: But that did not bother you, I guess.
S: I never had any encouragement, and I was not a particularly good student by the
time I got to Berkeley. I mostly think it is because I did not have the background in
the laboratory part of physics that the males had. I remember finding that
extraordinarily difficult. I watched all these males, and they had had it in shop. Girls
did not get those courses. Nobody ever mentioned the fact that I should have taken
a physics course in high school, for example. So I think, as I look back over it, I did
not have any strong feelings. I did not feel anything, but there was no
encouragement. I really see the need for that, especially with the new report that
just came out from the [American] Association of University Women on girls and
about the lack of encouragement in science and math. I have been talking about
that in my classes for years, but [now it has been validated]. I was blind. I was
unaware of it. I was completely unaware that that was either happening to me or
that anything else would have helped. I just thought that was normal.
Now, my dad was happy that I was going into chemistry and math. That seemed
normal to him. My mother would say, "Well, if you are going to have to do that, can't
you at least become a doctor?" She either wanted me to become a doctor or open a
restaurant. She had these much more traditional notions for what women should
do. [laughter] Who knows whether I was really being helped or hindered in a way
by the people who said I had to graduate in chemistry. In a way, you could say that
is encouragement for a female student in science. I do not know whether they had
that awareness themselves. They were just following, it seems to me, some kind of
a rule or way of thinking. So I would say very much as an undergraduate student I
never felt any discrimination, although as I look back and really think through it, I am
sure there was some, especially in those early classes. The professors, even in the
junior-senior classes--the small classes like lab science and chemistry--were just
brutal. But I just did not think of it in that way.
This is something I tell my students: I think for women, as they get older and go
through more of life's situations and processes, begin to see more and more of
these kinds of things. So it is something that happens, and I think women get more
aware as they get older. For men, it may be that their most radical period is their
younger period. Then they get more conservative.
Anyway, as a graduate student at San Francisco State, I do recall a lot of very sexist
comments, but I do not recall it ever bothering me at the time. But I had kind of a
bold personality. I remember [that] in the 1960s I smoked cigarettes, which I had
started in high school. It was a very bad habit. Then I managed to stop, of course,
but at that time, in graduate school and undergraduate school, that was a very cool
thing for women [to do]. (I notice that the percentage of women who started
smoking in the last twenty years [exceeds the percentage of men who started]. The
new [women] smokers far outweigh the percentage of men. They caught up with
men.) [Smoking] was something that women were doing to show a lot of autonomy.
At the end of high school and as an undergraduate and a master's student, I
smoked cigarettes. [I did] not [smoke] a lot, but I did it. I remember I even smoked
a little pipe. It was jeweled. I used to sit in my graduate seminars [and smoke that
pipe]. In the 1960s everybody smoked. The male professors would either have
cigars or pipes or cigarettes, and, of course, I was not going to let them outdo me.
[laughter] I think back on it and [realize] they did not intimidate me in the slightest
when I was getting my master's degree at San Francisco State.
Now, when I got to Cornell, the first several years were also fine. I do not recall any
problems in terms of faculty. There were no female professors in the department.
By the way, the situation at Cornell with women professors [resulted in] a famous
case [known as] the Cornell Eleven. [At first eleven and then five women who did
not get tenure were plaintiffs in the case. Then an additional forty women faculty, or
sub-faculty, also protested the low number of women getting tenure. Eventually it
was settled out of court, and currently there are more women who have been
tenured and promoted.] It took six years to get resolved.
Before I went to Zambia to do my fieldwork--from 1966 to 1968--1 was doing great.
Everybody was mentoring me and helping me. I thought the place was abysmal,
and I lived in the library, but I was working very hard and doing quite well. Right
before when I went to take my orals (before I went to Zambia), three women failed
and were pitched out of the graduate program. It really was not until that happened
that I started to look around and realized: Gee. There are not any women faculty in
this department. I looked at the ones who had failed, and they did not seem to have
a great number of flaws to them. You know, some people fail because they really
should not be there. But I kind of studied the situation, and I thought: Gee. I cannot
understand why that happened to them. So I walked into my exams, and I looked at
my committee and said, "Well, I certainly hope you do not fail me." I thought I had
better address that very directly because the men had gotten through, [but] the three
female students who preceded me [had failed], Anyway, I did fine.
When I came back from Zambia in 1972 and won that competition to teach the
course in anthropology in women's studies, I remember [that] this was the time when
women's studies was starting, and everybody at Cornell was talking about, "We do
not have female faculty." By this time there was a female faculty member, and she
was denied tenure. I decided for my final lectures in the course on women's roles
cross-culturally that I would do an analysis of women faculty and students in Cornell
in the Department of Anthropology.
I had this notion that in the 1950s and 1960s, before I got to Cornell, there had been
this "golden age" there. Cornell was very famous for applied anthropology. When I
got there, Alan Holmberg and Paul Doughty taught in the program. [The] Vicos
project in Peru [had been done through Cornell]. Alexander and Dorothea Leighton
and Joan Mencher [were also associated with Cornell]. I heard all these names, and
they included women. But when I got there, the women vanished. Subsequently,
one was hired, but she did not get tenure. So I thought, There must have been a
golden age here.
Cornell was a leader in coeducation as a university. In fact, I have a couple of
books on the shelf here called Women at Cornell. I went back through all the
records in the anthropology department, and I found out that the famous Dorothea
Leighton, with her M.D. and Ph.D., had been only an adjunct or some kind of
professor with no salary. Joan Mencher had been there only for a year. Every time
I pulled up the name of a woman, [she] had not held a regular post in that
department. Then I did a quantitative analysis and found that there was no shortage
of female graduate students. There were plenty of female graduate students, and
really and truly a lot of them did pass, even though those three did not.
So many females in the last decade and a half had been in Ph.D. programs and had
earned their degrees, but none of them were ever employed by Cornell. There had
never been a full-line female faculty member in the department, and no female had
ever gotten tenure in the department. I presented that as the last lecture in the
course. Nothing happened, by the way, in case you are thinking a bomb fell or
something. I guess people knew it was real; it was true. But it got me thinking.
The other thing that got me thinking was the first lecture I gave in that course.
Instead of saying, "He did this," or "the study of mankind," or "He did that," I
changed the pronouns to, "She did that." I do not know what the students thought,
but it completely changed my own way of thinking [to the recognition] that both men
and women had done all these things. That was after I came back from Zambia.
The Zambian women were very, very strong. [They had] very loud, boisterous
voices in the matrilineal society that I looked at. They were very strong and had a
lot of say-so, especially as they got older. The teenage girls were giggling types, but
by the time they finished having their kids, these were tough women. They were
healers and economic contributors to their society, and they were responsible for the
food. The papers that I had written at the end of the 1970s, plus the Zambian
experience and then coming back to Cornell and teaching a course on women's
roles cross-culturally and reviewing the literature that was available, really opened
my eyes. This was up until the spring of 1973, just before I came here to the
University of Florida, in the fall of 1973.
Then I watched what was happening to the female faculty at Cornell. There were
very few [females], they were fighting for very few new positions, [and] very few
people were tenured, in spite of the fact that Cornell had a marvelous reputation for
Then I came here to the University of Florida. I have been very lucky at the
University of Florida for two reasons. One is that both in the Department of
Behavioral Studies and in the Department of Anthropology there have been what I
called the "critical mass" of women. At the time I started in behavioral studies, there
were three or four or five women on regular lines. I think we were all assistant
professors; maybe one was an associate. But then again, there were not too many
full professors, either, maybe only one. Everybody was an assistant or associate
[professor] in that department. But maybe a third of the department was female
[and] on regular lines. In anthropology at the same time, let me see. [Elizabeth]
"Liz" Eddy was chair and a full professor for a couple of years, and Martha
Hardman-de-Bautista was already a full professor. Then there were a couple of
associate professors and a bunch of assistant professors. So about a third of the
department in anthropology were women, and they were not all concentrated at the
J: [It was] quite different from Cornell.
S: Yes, and quite different from most of the other departments in the college, as I found
out from being in charge of Affirmative Action for the college. So in terms of what
happened in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, I would say that I was always
keeping track of the number of female faculty by rank and by department and by
tenure and nontenure status. It really was like pulling teeth in a lot of departments to
try to get them to hire that first person. See, in anthropology it was always a non-
issue, so I never felt for my own self that that was a problem. That probably gave
me both a good perspective and a lot of strength to carry on this particular topic. I
knew my own colleagues did not find it particularly unusual, nor were they
threatened by it. Whether they were male or female, they did not mind having
colleagues who were female.
But at the college level, there were some departments that had a couple of women
faculty. A number of those women, especially if they did not have a critical mass,
had problems getting tenure. Some of them did not get tenure. I remember many of
them coming to see me over the years. I would work with them to try to disentangle
the situation. Was it that they were not publishing? Was it that they were being
discriminated against? Had they not prepared their vita correctly? I remember I
became a big expert on preparing vitae. In fact, I even did one session in which I
pulled out different people's vitae and told them, "Do this, do not do that, add this" or
"subtract that." I felt that, often, women did not present themselves very well.
Actually, I still perform that service, both for colleagues and for students.
Anyway, as I think back on it, the college started increasing the number of women
faculty mostly at the lower ranks through about the mid-1980s. Then they made a
few senior appointments. You know, when I left in 1988 [to serve as chief of the
Women in Agriculture program at FAO] I just thought that this was going to continue.
[laughter] Lo and behold, I am really flabbergasted, coming back three years later,
to find that virtually no new female faculty had been hired since I was gone. I realize
there are budget cuts and lines being attenuated. I came back to the Women in
Agriculture program and thought: This must be great. There must be all kinds of
new blood. I looked around, and it was the same people. Some of the students
were new, thank goodness. They pass through the program and graduate, and new
ones come in.
I was [even more] flabbergasted because we are dealing with two colleges. We are
dealing with the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and we are dealing with the
College of Agriculture [and] IFAS. Those are a lot of departments. I thought that I
would come back and find a handful of new female faculty, preferably at many
different ranks in that program. There were not any. I should not say there were not
any. I found one. But there were not many. There are still male professors
interested in [equality for women] and female professors and male and female
students. That is just great. But I really was surprised that there had not been more
hires of female faculty, and I really think it has probably peaked at the University and
is in some kind of a holding pattern.
Right before I left there was one female chair hired in one department, but I do not
see that proliferating very much. There is still the one female slot--you might
consider it that way--or woman associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts and
Sciences. That has not increased. Why there should be one [woman] out of five
[men] instead of two out of five or three out of five, I do not know. The dean is a
Of course, in Student Services there are female deans. So when you get the
numbers, a lot of people are coming from that [unit]. But those are traditional
positions. There have always been female deans of female students or deans of
students and social services. That has been so since the University went coed in
1947, and that is traditional on American university campuses anyway. So when I
see those fancy numbers that were in the paper not too long ago, I pretty much
know where they are coming from. [I know] that they are coming from people in
There have been one or two major appointees in top positions, but we have only one
female vice-president, Cathy Longstreth [Ed.D., associate vice-president for
Academic Affairs]. We do not have many in academic disciplinary type positions
[who are in] in administrative posts. I do not think that the number of women faculty
has increased. I think the momentum was sort of lost there for a while. It was pretty
important, and it got up to 13 or 14 percent, [as] I recall. I need to get those
I remember I used to keep very close records and tallies of these things. A lot of
these people are at the lower levels, and the majority of them, by the way, are at
sub-faculty levels. The college has a lot of language courses; we teach nineteen
languages as well as a very large freshman English program. In those kinds of
programs there is a tendency [to retain a number of] sub-faculty positions that are
renewable on an annual basis. [There is] a tendency for many of those--a
disproportionate amount--[to be held by women]. Sometimes even a majority seem
to be held by female faculty. They are non-tenure-accruing posts. That is what they
call sub-faculty. [It is] not that their skills are in any way inferior.
So that is what I think is happening. I think we are in a holding pattern in terms of
hiring female faculty at a decent level, what I call the critical mass level, and not just
one here and one there. There have been some additions to it. Then there has
been attrition. Ironically, my own department, anthropology, lost three female faculty
members: a full professor and two associate professors. But in that particular case
they lost them because there were job offers of a better nature elsewhere. Those
did not have to do with not getting promotions [or] not getting tenure [or] not feeling
comfortable because of gender in the department. It has nothing to do with that,
because it is a department that had a critical mass, where gender was a non-issue.
But that is not the case in some other departments.
Another topic I want to talk about is mentors and supporters. This was a topic I did
work on as associate dean. I was trying to put together a mentoring program for
junior faculty. I kind of had sold some people on the idea because I really saw it as
being extremely critical. It had helped me, for example. When I was associate chair
I felt the chair of the department had acted very much like a mentor--really the first
one I had ever had in all those years of doing all those things. He happened to be a
man. He is the person who taught me efficiency and flexibility. His idea was very
much one of facilitation. I must say it influenced me trying to get the best out of
people and those kinds of notions. I think that is the closest I have come to having a
In terms of the Women in Agriculture program, I got a chance to see what it is like to
have supporters. They are not mentors but are supporters of a program. [They are]
both men and women in senior positions, and [I got to see] how they can help junior
colleagues in programmatic efforts and things like that. I thought that was pretty
important. So I was putting together something on a mentor program for the
college. (I do not know what happened to the paperwork, come to think of it, but
somebody still has it up there or it has been thrown out.) As I had a steady stream
of usually female assistant professors through my office (and sometimes associates
and sometimes even full [professors]) talking about the trials and tribulations,
especially in certain departments that either were not hospitable or did not have a
critical mass or both, it seemed to me that what they were telling me was that the
young assistant professors, the junior faculty, who got some direction by the chair or
by the senior faculty did better, on average, than those who did not. Now, some
who did not [do well] were men as well, of course. [I would ask them questions such
as:] "What do you focus on? Which journals do you go for [in order to get your
material published]? Do you really go out of your way to serve on this committee or
that committee? How do you balance your time? Who likes you? Who invites you
I hate to say it, but those buddy-buddy kinds of things are very important. This is a
non-academic example, but it is one that has stuck in my mind. I think the first
woman who became a judge in Alachua County was named Margaret ["Kathy"]
Wright. When she won that election, I remember that she gave this example, or
somebody gave this example about her. I cannot recall at this point. But it was the
notion that when lawyers and judges take breaks when the court adjourns or
whatever, they all go into the men's room together, and they talk about the case.
That is how things are sometimes negotiated; let me put it that way. I remember her
saying that she did not have that [situation]. There was no way to have that informal
but extremely critical interaction. Of course, there are a lot of female lawyers, too,
and it works out and it does not work out. We can think of a million ways that it does
and does not happen.
It is that very extra touch--sort of [having a senior professor] assist a junior colleague
[by] suggesting a journal [to publish in] or, [if] the senior person cannot do a review,
[he or she can] give it to a junior colleague to do--that becomes something important
in that person's vita or life or direction. Just a willingness of a colleague to review a
proposal for the National Science Foundation or something [like that] may put that
person in good standing with a senior faculty member who is going to vote on that
person for tenure. I really was pretty interested in that whole notion of mentoring,
both for male and female junior faculty, so the college could assist them as much as
Tenure has become such a hard thing for people both psychologically and
[professionally]. The standards have escalated--all for the good, of course--but it is
sometimes a little difficult if you do not get pointed in the right direction. I was
working on that [but] did not really get to put it into practice. But it was something
that I was working on in that capacity as associate dean.
[In addition to that] I had to handle the harassment and discrimination kinds of
cases. The harassment ones are so unpleasant from everybody's point of view. I
think everybody loses. People should not think there are only female [victims of
harassment]. There is sometimes harassment of males. Those cases are actually
few and far between, but they do occur. Most of [the cases] were male faculty
[harassing a] female student. I have not seen very much on that topic since I have
been back. But the majority of cases that I handled for the college were of that
nature. There were [some cases of male faculty harassing] female faculty, but, for
the most part, they were male faculty and sub-faculty sexually harassing female
[Those cases] are very unpleasant. [It was difficult] to be a woman administrator
and to have to point them out and deal with them amongst people who--certainly at
that time--pooh-poohed the notion. I think that, given the present climate, they are
taken a little bit more seriously. [It is] not that women necessarily are successful in
their cases, as we found out, but the topic seems to be taken just a little bit more
J: You were working with Affirmative Action. Is there a certain committee that you
were on with regard to that?
S: As you can see, there are two full pages of committee work [on my vita]. I cannot
believe I did all these committees as I look at it now. I have them divided into
Universitywide committees, and I was on for several years [the] Senate Steering
[and] Senate Nominating [committees] and [the Faculty] Senate. I think I managed
at least three years on each of those. [I was also on the] University Curriculum
Committee and the International Studies Programs Committee [and] Academic
Freedom and Tenure [Committee]. I think [I was active for] over three years on all of
those. [I was on] a lot of committees at the University and college levels. I was the
resource dean for the Curriculum Committee, the International Studies Committee,
and various search committees for the interdisciplinary programs and for some of
the department chairs and so forth. Then there were committees in the Graduate
School. I was also on a lot of committees in IFAS [laughter], mostly because of a lot
of the linkages and working with some of those programs and the Women in
Agriculture [program]. At the center level [I was on] many committees in the Center
for African Studies. Then, of course, at the department level [I served on] a lot of
committees in the anthropology department and in the behavioral studies
That reminds me that on all these committees--departmental, college, center,
program, Graduate School, and Universitywide kinds of committees--there is always
a debate, I think, that comes up in terms of women. Should they be on committees?
How many committees should they be on? Should every committee have a woman
on it? These are some of the issues. And the answers to some of those questions
are kind of like the following: I do not like committees with a token anything on it
because no token man or token woman or token black should be looked to [to
answer,] "What do women think?" "What do blacks think?" I mean, nobody turns to
a man on a committee and asks him to generalize what all men think about
something. If you turn it around and ask the same questions, you feel silly.
But I do think women need to be on these committees, and I think it is better if there
is not just one [woman] on a committee. [There needs to be] a critical mass [of
women], not tokenism. At the same time, I do not think that any people should
serve on so many committees that their programs and their careers are in any way,
shape, or form jeopardized. They should be rewarded for doing them. Some of
them are extremely time-consuming, and some of them, actually, are very useful in
terms of promoting and carrying out activities and policies. Others make work.
J: So were your Affirmative Action activities concentrated in one particular committee
or one position?
S: In Affirmative Action we monitored the progress within the college department by
department in terms of male to female by rank and tenure. We talked to search
committees about the need for representation on the search committee and in terms
of getting candidates. There is a whole procedure, by the way. Every college has to
follow it. Any time they search, you have to evaluate these male and female
candidates. I also had to monitor the ads that went to advertise the positions. So
from time to time I would have to tell people to put in the fact that we are an equal
opportunity employer and [to] emphasize the fact that women and minority
candidates are encouraged to apply. [We even monitored] where they sent the ads
and how positions were advertised. It was the whole process of recruitment that is
part of the Affirmative Action.
Then, from time to time, [I was] actually able to work with the units. As I look over
the list of committees, [I am reminded that] I was chair of a number of search
committees, so I would be able to do it that way.
J: But it was an activity that you were carrying out in [your capacity as dean].
S: It is a formal thing that has to be done in every college.
J: With the associate dean. You were associate dean of the college, right?
J: So that is what you were doing.
S: No. [I was responsible for] all the interdisciplinary programs, all the international
programs, Affirmative Action, and curriculum. [There were] those four things.
S: Of course, in terms of the interdisciplinary programs, one of them was the Women's
Studies program. That is one of the programs within the College of Arts and
Sciences. I remember that I was trying to oversee that one [and] direct the Women
in Agriculture program. I gave that up in 1986, but I became associate dean in
1985, so that kind of overlapped a little bit. [I was also trying to] sort of look out for
hirings and so forth. All of that was focused on women. Of course, my own work
and research is on that topic. As associate dean I tried to be balanced in terms of
not only doing that particular topic [but remembering that] I had these other
responsibilities that had nothing to do with that.
J: I was going to ask about AWF.
S: Oh, the Association for Women Faculty.
J: Someone had told me, or it was on a list somewhere or something, that you had
helped organize it. Is that correct?
S: Yes, I think I probably was one of the founding mothers, but I think the credit ought
to go to some of the more senior people who got together. But I did participate in
J: Did someone perceive that women faculty needed some sort of an association that,
for various reasons, might be helpful?
S: I think so. I think that, from what I hear about the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s
(before I arrived), except in certain fields, certain disciplines, certain colleges (like
the College of Nursing or the department of home economics [which was called
Family Life]) where women were in those units, there were [only] a few women
faculty. There was one nuclear physicist who was female and one economist. Not
only did these people not really have a chance to meet other women faculty, but
they were not being promoted very much.
I remember discussing the title of AFW. When you say AFW, it leaves out the
preposition. [Should it be] the Association of Women Faculty or for Women Faculty?
I remember we spent a lot of time trying to sort that out, the argument being that it
is not only for women. Anybody can join who wants to join. It is not only for women.
I do not know whether there ever have been male members, but the idea was that
anybody--even non-faculty--could join, and gender was not a discriminating factor.
[It is] a place for the women faculty to do certain things.
I remember over the years they have had all kinds of programs. For example, they
would always have sessions on tenure and promotion. I remember I did some
sessions for them on how to do your vita. So it was an association where people
could go for mentoring.
J: A girls' network.
J: Could the University of Florida or the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences do more
to encourage the student--say graduate students, because I do not know about
undergraduate students--in terms of doing graduate school work, becoming faculty
members, or things like that? Could [the University of] Florida do a little bit better in
terms of their student population?
S: Well, anytime you get a large university and large classes, you can only do so much.
I notice a difference this term. I am conscious of the teaching stuff now, having just
returned [from the deanship and FAO to the classroom. I notice] the difference
between having a small honors class [this term] and a having large regular class last
term. I can actually do some counseling [if] the students ask for advice. One
student was actually discussing with me: What should I minor in? Should I continue
in anthropology? I think there is a lot more opportunity to work with students in the
smaller programs than in the larger ones, though it is not that much. Of course, we
have talked about the counseling and the teaching for years and years at the college
level. I think that some students need more encouragement, advice, [and]
counseling, and they do not get it. Others seem to have as much as they want.
They are perfectly happy with an occasional chat and some time with a catalog. I do
not know. I am not sure I understood you.
J: Maybe I am looking at it in terms of bases in graduate departments--not so much the
advice, but in terms of encouraging, in terms of the structure of the program. I
suppose the women faculty would be a part of the restructuring in terms of women
S: I think that women students are really curious about women faculty at the graduate
level. The undergraduate level is almost gender blind. Sometimes they do not
notice whether they have a male teacher or female teacher. Whether it is a male or
female student may not make any difference, although I am probably glossing over
things by saying that. But at the graduate level, people are pretty interested in role
models. I know I always was interested in my female professors. [I had such
questions as] Who were they? How did they run their lives? What did they look at?
What were their perspectives? I kind of see that. I saw it a lot this term in my
graduate seminar. I walked in today, and somebody said: "Are you going to tell us
what you are going to do in terms of those consultancies? Can you tell us?"
[laughter] It turns out I am going to do one for the UN for a couple of months. I think
they are really interested in what you do in research and how you structure your life.
[It] may be [that female students are interested in female faculty] a little bit more so
than the male students [are] with the male faculty. I am just guessing, but I think so.
They want to know how you define your job and how you are going to do marriage,
parenting, and career.
J: [They are] a little bit concerned about the backlash effect of the early 1980s.
S: The backlash is incredible. The backlash is dreadful.
J: [It is an] either/or [situation]. Just one or the other is what they are contending with.
S: I think the students are pretty much protected from that backlash. I think the student
status is an artificial universe, and they are protected from that. For example, I think
the current figures are that women earn seventy-one cents for every dollar that men
earn in a comparable post, or that women with a college degree, on average, earn
less than a man with a high school degree. Those are pretty shocking statistics.
But when you are a student, you are not thinking about that. You think you are
going to go out there and have equal opportunity to get a job. It is true for a lot of
people; they do [get jobs and are paid equally]. But these are averages, so that
means there are a lot of people who do not. It takes awhile for that to sink in. You
may start out the same as a male colleague, but then maybe one or two females
within the organization will skyrocket, but the rest will just stay there. There are
"stars" or "pets." Those things work, too. Or it may be a situation where everybody
stays at that level. Otherwise, I think we would have seen even more progress.
What did I just read? Only two CEO's in the Fortune 500 companies are women,
and just a very small fraction of the Fortune 500 companies have women on their
boards. Now, that does not affect a student very much, but it will catch up [with
J: I have heard it said here (it was secondhand) that the women students and perhaps
women faculty [need] to be twice as good as any of the men up for that position or
for graduate student money [if they are to be successful].
S: Let me just comment on that. Bella Abzug said that we will know that things are
right when a mediocre woman gets a chance just like a mediocre man. But there is
a tendency to have expectations that if you hire a woman for a post, she will at least
meet all the criteria. She has to have some kind of an edge, usually, to get selected
over a male candidate. If a man and a woman are really of equal ranking or
standing, then you have to see what the situation is. Is there a natural tendency to
hire the male? Are the committee members mostly men? Are they really trying to
go out of their way to hire women? (They need to do so.) If there is usually not a
pressing need, I think the nod generally goes to the male candidate.
It is not a question that women have to be twice as good; they have to jump that
male candidate in order to be selected unless there is a predisposition to want to
hire a woman. Now, for example, I always say, here were departments who had no
women who were desperate. I think they, at some level, were truly concerned. I
would say: "Of all the people you bring to interview, bring three female candidates.
You are more likely to have a female selected if you bring three female candidates."
But the tendency was to bring one female candidate and two male candidates.
That has been repeated over and over again. And then [from this comes] the adage
that the woman has to be twice as good to jump those two male candidates. Then
people say, "You see?" That is where that comes from.
J: I heard that, and I was not quite sure if I agreed or whether I thought that was a
good way of approaching a career.
S: No, it is not a good way of approaching a career. That is how people see it, but it is
often because of the situation. If you really wanted a woman candidate, you would
bring three female candidates to interview. You would select for that. Or you would
bring two females and a male or something of that variety. But that is not usually
the way it works. She would have to be so much better than the other two to get the
J: Is there anything else that we have not touched on? Because the focus is on
women in faculty and administration and things like that, we could have an interview
over women in Africa and research that you did over there. There are so many
things that we could include.
S: Or women in FAO.
Let us talk more about women in administration here.
S: As a female administrator, I would say that I do not really think things have changed.
I can count the new [female] appointees on half a hand. The woman administrator
is really under the gun to perform, to be multifaceted, to not be too partial to women,
to be judicious in what she does, to maintain standards, and those kinds of things.
There are so few of them that they often get tapped for a number of things. I found
myself being invited to Visions 2000, which was supposedly the top one hundred
community leaders--former mayors and developers and those kinds of people.
There were not very many people from the University, but I think being in that post
of associate dean put me in the running for being a participant in that. I personally
enjoyed it a great deal and believe that if one is going to do development and policy
work, one should also do it in one's own community. [I offer that story] just as an
example of being invited to a great number of things.
I must say that at the Food Agricultural Organization of the United Nations when I
was chief of the Women in Agricultural Production in Rural Development, I would
look around at cocktail parties and at meetings and thought, I am here all the time.
My colleagues of comparable rank, in what I might call sister units (actually they
were brother units; the organization is 90 percent male) [laughter], were not there. I
was there, and oftentimes I was the lowest-ranking person in terms of rank because
there just were not any higher[-ranking] women for a time there. So there is that
tendency to be a bit on display and to have to represent and be all things to all folks.
That is sort of a strain on the individual to make a lot of presentations, although I
must say you get better at it, and it gets to be really more enjoyable.
The other thing that I see as important is to act as a mentor to junior faculty and to
students. I will just close simply by saying to not do unto others some of those
things that have been done unto you. I think maybe more faculty members who are
female can say that than male faculty members, because over the years you start
accumulating these experiences in which people [have] treated you in a certain way.
Perhaps there has been a harassment or perhaps there has been a discriminatory
action or perhaps you as a student were dismissed in some way as "that little girl
there" not counting very well. You do not have to repeat those things with your own
students or your own junior or senior colleagues or other people. So that is one
lesson I learned. It took a long time. [laughter]
Is there anything else you want to include?
There are a million things, but I think that will do.