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Strobel, Margaret Ann (1946–) - African Women’s History, History of Imperialism

university studies national illinois

Margaret Ann Strobel was born on February 15, 1946, in Grand Forks, North Dakota, of German, Norwegian, and Swedish ancestry. Her father was an assistant superintendent for a Standard Oil Company warehouse; her mother was a homemaker, then a motel maid and factory worker. Strobel attended Winship Elementary School in Grand Forks, and then Central Junior High, Westwood Junior High, and St. Louis Senior High School in St. Louis Park, Missouri.

Although neither of her parents went to college, they provided Margaret Strobel with the motivation to attain an education. Her father was her biggest early influence. He was basically self-taught, having gone to small two-room schools in rural North Dakota, but he loved to read philosophy, history, and Russian novelists, especially Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. As a young man he wrote a history of his own family, interviewing his grandfather about the Strobels’ migration from southern Germany into the Odessa area under Catherine the Great and their subsequent immigration to the Midwest in the 1880s. Margaret read her father’s book and many of the others he regularly purchased from estate sales of people living near the University of North Dakota. The other early influence on her life was her high school humanities teacher, Marjorie Bingham, who modeled for Strobel the life of an intellectual.

Strobel attended Michigan State University on a National Merit Scholarship earmarked for children of Standard Oil employees. As a first-year student, she was challenged by a faculty member to go to Nigeria as part of a university program. That same year she took an anthropology course from a professor who was a Bengal specialist. Strobel initially went to Africa with a strong interest in Indian studies, and she pursued South Asia studies for a time. She then decided to pursue African history, and applied to and was accepted into an African history program at the University of California at Los Angeles.

At UCLA in the late 1960s, Strobel became involved in the feminist movement. Her Ph.D. exams took place the day after four students were killed by national guardsmen at Kent State University, and her exams were stopped before the completion of the agreement of the committee because the police were assaulting students outside the building. At the encouragement of her advisor, Strobel combined her interests in feminism and African history and proposed a dissertation in African women’s history, a field with not a single monograph yet published. She received a Fulbright Hayes dissertation fellowship. “I am amazed that the selection committee took the leap of faith and gave me what was by the early 1970s a very scarce resource,” she recalls.

After receiving her doctorate in 1975, Strobel accepted a position as interim director of women’s studies and lecturer in history at the University of California at Los Angeles. From 1978 to 1979 she was lecturer in women’s studies at San Diego State University, and in 1979 she accepted a position as associate professor of women’s studies and history at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Strobel was promoted to professor in 1988. She has also served the Women’s Studies Program at the University of Illinois, as director from 1979 to 1990 and as acting director from 1990 to 1991.

Margaret Strobel is the author or editor of six books, one of which, Muslim Women in Mombasa, 1890–1975 , was the co-winner of the Herskovits Award from the African Studies Association. A second, Three Swahili Women: Life Histories from Mombasa, Kenya , has been translated into Swahili. She has explored issues related to African women’s history, Western women and imperialism, and restoring women to history in studies of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Middle East. Dorothy Helly, in a review of Strobel’s European Women and the Second British Empire , writes that she “demonstrates that rewriting an imperial history that is sensitive to gender, culture, race, sexuality and power is an exhilarating enterprise.” Strobel has also written more than fifteen scholarly articles. Her current research interests have taken her in a somewhat different direction: her book in progress is titled Feminism in the 1970s: Socialist Feminism and the Women’s Liberation Unions .

Strobel has held many fellowships and received many awards. She has been a fellow with the Fulbright Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the Institute for the Humanities at the University of Illinois, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. She was selected as one of fifteen women for a biennial photo exhibit, “Celebrating Chicago’s Women Leaders,” in 1992, and was one of ninety women to be honored in “Full Circle,” a public art project in 1993. She received the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1993 and is currently a Great Cities Institute Scholar at the university.

Strobel has provided a great deal of professional service, from co-coordinating the first National Women’s Studies Association national conference in 1979, to serving as chair for the American Historical Association’s program committee for the 1997 annual conference. She is currently co-planner for a forthcoming conference on women and global history, chair of the elections committee for the National Women’s Studies Association, and member and future chair of the selection committee for the Joan Kelly Prize in Women’s History and Theory for the American Historical Association.

Margaret Strobel is married to William J. Barclay and has one child, Jessica Barclay-Strobel. Bill gave up his job as an assistant professor of sociology at San Diego State University so that she could take up her job at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Strobel’s interests include canoeing, reading feminist murder mysteries, and “overcommitting” herself to activities inside and outside the university. The activist interests that she developed while at UCLA influence her current activities, which include addressing issues of multiculturalism and gender in the schools; running candidates for local office; and, on campus, pushing feminist issues, building alliances with other units, and pushing the university orientation toward service and relevance to the community while it remains a research institution.

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over 4 years ago

Correction: "has been translated into Swahili." The interviews were done in Swahili and translated into English.

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about 7 years ago

Edit the first paragraph. The school is called St. Louis Park Senior High School and it is in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. Not Missouri.