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Freedman, Estelle (1947–) - History of Sexuality

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Estelle Freedman was born on July 2, 1947, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, of Jewish ancestry. Her father was in sales and her mother was a freelance writer. She attended Herbert Hoover Elementary School and Hebrew School as a child, and her early influences included her grandparents and summer camp. Freedman attended Barnard College, earning a bachelor’s degree in history, cum laude, in 1969. A combination of concern about the origins of contemporary social issues of the 1960s and a love of historical research motivated her to become a historian. In graduate school Freedman was influenced by concerns about women’s issues and the challenge of resisting the obvious discrimination against women scholars.

Freedman pursued graduate work at Columbia University, earning a master’s degree in 1972 and a Ph.D. in 1976. She taught at Princeton University as a lecturer while she completed her dissertation, then took an appointment at Stanford University, where she has been since, as assistant professor from 1976 to 1983, associate professor from 1983 to 1989, and professor since 1989. She has also been visiting professor or scholar at California State University at Chico, Oberlin College, and the University of California at Davis. In 1978 Freedman received the Dean’s Award for Distinguished Teaching, and in 1981 she received the Lloyd W. Dinkelspiel Award for Outstanding Service to Undergraduate Education, both at Stanford University.

Freedman has held numerous fellowships, including those from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the American Association of University Women, and the Newberry Library. She was named a fellow of the Society of American Historians in 1990. Freedman has also received research grants from the Pew Foundation, the Radcliffe Research Support Program, Stanford University’s Institute for Research on Women and Gender, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Estelle Freedman’s most recent publication, Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America , which she wrote with John D’Emilio, describes the evolution of American sexuality during the last three and a half centuries, examining in particular the ways in which sexual practices are influenced by contemporary economic, social, and ideological forces. Intimate Matters was a main or alternate selection of the History, Quality Paperback, Psychology Today, and Book-of-the-Month Clubs; it was also a “Notable Book” of 1989 in the New York Times Book Review . Two of Freedman’s other works were award winners: Their Sisters’ Keepers: Women’s Prison Reform in America, 1830–1930 won the Alice and Edith Hamilton Prize for best scholarly manuscript on women, and Victorian Women: A Documentary Account , for which Freedman was an associate editor, won the Sierra Award for the finest multiple-author book from the Western Association of Women Historians. Freedman has also written twenty-seven articles and essays and edited a special issue of the journal Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society .

In terms of professional service, Freedman has served as consulting editor to Feminist Studies; as associate editor of Signs and Journal of the History of Sexuality; and on the editorial boards of Journal of Women’s History , the Journal of Sex Research , the Journal of Homosexuality , and Women and Criminal Justice . She has served on the nominating committee for the Organization of American Historians and on the program committee of the Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association. She has also served on the advisory board of the Northern California Lesbian and Gay Historical Society. Estelle Freedman has served as consultant on numerous film productions, including the Academy Award-winning “Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt,” about the AIDS quilt, and “The Celluloid Closet,” a Public Broadcasting System documentary. She produced a historical documentary video, “She Even Chewed Tobacco,” and provided expert testimony for the Federation of Women Teachers of Ontario, Canada.

Estelle Freedman’s partner is Susan Kroeger. Her hobbies include playing folk guitar.

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