Linda Gordon

Linda Gordon, Professor of History at New York University and Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin, has specialized in examining the historical roots of contemporary social policy debates, particularly as they concern gender and family issues.  Her first book, Woman's Body, Woman's Right: The History of Birth Control in America, published 1976 and still the definitive history of birth-control politics, was re-published in a fully revised edition as The Moral Property of Women in 2002.  Her 1988 book, Heroes of Their Own Lives: The History and Politics of Family Violence, winner of the Joan Kelly prize of the American Historical Association, examined the history of family violence.  Gordon served on the Departments of Justice/Health and Human Services Advisory Council on Violence Against Women for the Clinton administration (a council abolished by the current administration).  Her history of welfare, Pitied But Not Entitled: Single Mothers and the History of Welfare (1994), won the Berkshire Prize and the Gustavus Myers Human Rights Award.  Her most recent book, The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction (Harvard University Press, 1999), was the winner of the Bancroft prize for best book in American history and the Beveridge prize for best book on the history of the Western Hemisphere.  Her next book, on photographer Dorothea Lange and American democracy, will be published by W. W. Norton in October 2009. I like the idea of stimulating discussion on visions for a good society, but I'm skeptical that this can be done with so many people, and particularly worried about an on-line discussion dominated by people who have lots of time or write for a living.  I'm also concerned about the shortage of feminists and young people among the group who initiated this and hope that this representation will change.  But I'll try to do my bit.  More important, I want to hear what others are thinking.  I no longer know what socialism can mean, but given the disastrous growth of inequality, both intra-national and international, feel more than ever committed to some version of class politics.  I am concerned about the tendency of race politics to swallow more general critique of domination; about the retreat of so much of the Left into academic jargon and abstraction; and about the renewed marginalization of gender issues and women in Left social theory.

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