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Gordon, Linda (1940–) - U.S. Women’s and Family History; Modern Russian History

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Linda Gordon was born on January 19, 1940, in Chicago, Illinois, of Russian Jewish and Polish Jewish ancestry. Gordon attended public schools in Chicago; Denver, Colorado; and Portland, Oregon. Her father was a social worker and her mother a nursery school teacher; along with her high school teacher Marcia Freeman, they provided the most significant influences on Linda’s early life.

Linda Gordon attended Swarthmore College, earning a bachelor’s degree in history, magna cum laude, in 1961. One of her college teachers, Paul Beik, inspired her to become a historian. Gordon then went to Yale University, where she received a master’s degree in history and Russian studies in 1963 and a Ph.D. in history in 1970.

Gordon’s first academic position was at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, where she taught from 1968 until 1984, attaining the rank of professor of history. In the spring of 1994, Gordon was visiting professor at the University of Amsterdam. From 1984 to 1990 she was professor of history at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Still at Madison, Gordon was named Florence Kelley Professor of History in 1990 and Vilas Distinguished Research Professor in 1993.

Gordon is best known for her research on birth control, gender and the state, and domestic violence, but her training in Russian studies also produced a book.   She has published over fifty scholarly articles and nearly twenty articles for nonacademic publications, and is the author or editor of seven books. Each of Gordon’s four single-author books has been the recipient of or runner-up for one or more awards. Woman’s Body, Woman’s Right , her first book, was the runner-up for the National Book Award in History in 1976. Cossack Rebellions won the Antonovych Prize for 1983. Heroes of Their Own Lives , Gordon’s exploration of domestic violence in the lives of women and children in Boston from 1880 to 1960, won the American Historical Association’s Joan Kelly Prize for best book in women’s history or theory as well as the Wisconsin Library Association Award, and received nominations for the National Book Award in History, the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, and the American Historical Association’s Merle Curti Award for the best book in social history. Her most recent book, Pitied but Not Entitled: Single Mothers and the Origins of Welfare , won the Berkshire Prize for the best book in women’s history. A history of what is commonly referred to as welfare in the United States, this book is, as Ruth Crocker writes, “analytically sophisticated, densely footnoted, and informed by the passion that comes from writing about issues that are as urgent now as they were sixty years ago, perhaps more so.”

Among the grants and fellowships Gordon has received are a National Institute of Mental Health grant, an American Council of Learned Societies grant, a Guggenheim fellowship, and a Bunting Institute fellowship. She has spent invited residencies at the Bellagio Center, Dickinson College, and Stanford University. She has served on the editorial boards of American Historical Review, Signs, Feminist Studies, Journal of Women’s History, Contention , and Gender and History , and currently serves on the editorial boards of Journal of American History, Journal of Policy History , and Contemporary Society . She has acted as a consultant for four public television series and four films, and has served on the executive board of the Organization of American Historians. Gordon has lectured at over forty colleges and universities in the United States, Canada, Sweden, France, Poland, the Netherlands, and South Africa. She also regularly talks to nonacademic groups as well, providing historical reflections on family violence, sexuality, and reproductive choice.

Linda Gordon’s spouse is Allen Hunter; they have one child, Rosa Gordon Hunter.

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