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Minault, Gail (1939–) - History of South Asia

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Gail Minault was born on March 25, 1939, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, of French and Scots-Irish ancestry. Her parents were both schoolteachers: her mother taught reading and math in primary school, and her father taught French and Latin in secondary school. She attended public schools in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, through ninth grade, then the Northfield School for Girls in East North-field, Massachusetts, for the remainder of high school. Minault grew up bilingual, learning French from her immigrant father. Among her early influences were her paternal grandmother, a war widow from World War I, and her mother’s sister, a war widow from World War II. These women’s experiences showed her the need for women to be educated and self-sufficient in order to support themselves and raise their children by themselves, if necessary.

Minault attended Smith College, spending her junior year at Ecole Nationale des Sciences Politiques in Paris, and graduating in 1961. After graduation from college and before attending graduate school, Minault worked for three years for the U.S. Foreign Service as a trainee in Washington, D.C., a junior officer trainee in Beirut, Lebanon, and an assistant cultural affairs officer in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. She studied several languages, traveled extensively, and made a decision to specialize in the history of South Asia. She resigned from the foreign service to do graduate work on a language fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania. She earned a master’s degree in South Asia regional studies in 1966 and a Ph.D. in 1972. Her dissertation focused on Indian Muslim political leadership in the early twentieth century.

Minault’s first academic appointment was at the University of Texas at Austin, where she still teaches as associate professor of history. She has been visiting professor at the University of California at Berkeley and at Centre d’Etudes de l’Inde et de l’Asie de Sud, Ecoles des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris. Minault is fluent in French, Hindi, and Urdu, and has speaking and/or reading knowledge of Persian, Italian, and German. She has spent about ten years of her life in South Asia, either in foreign service or on research fellowships. She has also traveled extensively in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Australia, and Europe.

Gail Minault is the author or editor of five books and more than thirty-five scholarly articles. She has written on women and women’s rights in Islamic communities, political poetry, and contemporary politics in India. She has received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Fulbright Foundation, the American Institute for Indian Studies, and the Joint Committee on South Asia of the Social Science Research Council and the American Council of Learned Societies.

Minault’s first marriage, to Thomas Graham, Jr., ended in divorce. They had one son, Mark Emlen Graham, who died at age two following open heart surgery, and have one adopted daughter, Laila Minault, born in 1973 in India. Minault later married Leon W. Ellsworth and now has one stepson, Alex Ellsworth, born in 1979. Her interests include music, singing, swimming, biking, gardening, and historic preservation in her Austin, Texas, neighborhood.

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