Elaine Hedges, 69, English professor, authority on women's history, studies

June 12, 1997|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Elaine Hedges, the founder and coordinator of the Women's Studies program at Towson State University and an English professor for more than 20 years, died of undetermined causes June 5 at Sinai Hospital. She was 69 and lived in Roland Park.

Dr. Hedges, who retired last year, was nationally known as an authority on women's history and women's studies. She wrote or edited 12 books and wrote scores of articles related to women. Her writings were used in college classrooms nationwide.

"She was a truly profound and reputable scholar in a field that was criticized about not being serious about real scholarship," said Clarinda Harris, a longtime friend who chairs the English Department at Towson State.

Women's studies "was something that was very personal to her," said Dr. Hedges' husband, William L. Hedges, whom she married in 1956. "She was quite a changed person after the women's movement revived in the late 1960s. In a sense, she was liberated."

Dr. Hedges founded the Women's Studies program in 1972, offering a handful of courses. The program grew into a fully developed curriculum and is recognized as one of the best nationally.

Hoke L. Smith, president of Towson State, said Dr. Hedges fought hard for the program's development.

"She played a critical role in starting the women's program," he said. "She had the intelligence and knowledge of the field, and a dedication to the development of women's studies and worked with a wide variety of people."

A native of Yonkers, N.Y., Dr. Hedges graduated from Barnard College in New York City in 1948, and received a master's degree from Radcliffe College in 1950 and a doctorate from Harvard University in 1970.

From 1951 to 1971, she taught at Harvard, Wellesley College, San Francisco State University, the University of California at Berkeley and Goucher College.

In 1972, Dr. Hedges was named director of Women's Studies at Towson State and an English professor the next year.

She was twice selected as a visiting professor of American studies at the Free University in Berlin, and in 1989 traveled to China for a series of lectures on the American women's movement.

Among the books Dr. Hedges wrote are "In Her Own Image: Women Working In The Arts" and "Hearts And Hands: The Influence Of Women and Quilts On American Society."

Dr. Hedges was a member of the American Association of University Professors, the National Women's Studies Association, Women's Caucus for the Modern Languages and the Modern Language Association of America.

A memorial gathering is planned for 3 p.m. tomorrow in the Potomac Lounge of the University Union at Towson State. A memorial service is planned for September.

In addition to her husband, Dr. Hedges is survived by a son, James L. Hedges of San Francisco; a daughter, Marietta Hedges of San Francisco; a sister, Dorothy Faye of Greenwich, Conn.; and a grandchild.

Pub Date: 6/12/97

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