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Eisenstein, Hester, 2008 May 21

 Part of Collection
Call Number: RU 1051

Scope and Contents

Hester Eisenstein discusses her family background and how it influenced her choice of profession, touching on her undergraduate experience at Radcliffe and the differences between Yale and Harvard in the teaching of history. She recalls encounters with Hannah Gray (later Yale’s first female Provost) when Gray was on the faculty at Harvard, and with the historian, Mary Clabaugh Wright, who was the first woman to be tenured in Yale College. She speaks at length about the challenge of being one of the few women graduate students in the History Department, and her relationship with such Yale historians as Robin Winks, Stanley Mellon, John Blum and C. Vann Woodward. A lengthy account is given of the prevailing culture of Yale in general and the history department in particular, and how research in France (and subsequently the arrival of co-education in 1969 and the events surrounding May Day, 1970) enabled her, as a young faculty member, to articulate her growing socialist and feminist consciousness in her teaching practice as well as in her intellectual and political engagements. Eisenstein discusses her association with African-American students like Armstead Robinson, and explores the extent to which women’s issues were part of political activism at Yale, touching on her friendship with feminist, Naomi Weisstein. She describes being on the Yale College Executive Committee during this period, considers the effect of the Yale tenure system on young faculty, and speculates on why she was denied tenure. She recalls how Elga Wasserman was instrumental in her being hired by Barnard College to run its new experimental college. Her first encounter with the contemporary feminist movement is described, together with her role in pioneering a feminist curriculum at Barnard, where she developed the Women’s Studies program in association with feminist historians like Anne Kar Baxter. She recalls the first The Scholar and The Feminist Conference and the first National Women’s Studies Association conference in 1977. In the context of her experience as a senior civil servant in Australia, she explores the term “femocrat” and the role of feminism in Australian public policy in the 1980s. Her interview concludes with a critique of contemporary American academic feminism and the future of Women’s Studies in the context of 21st century globalization.


  • 2008 May 21

Conditions Governing Access

Permission to access must be obtained from interviewee until January 1, 2040.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to cite or quote must be obtained from interviewee until January 1, 2040.

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English

Biographical / Historical

Hester Eisenstein was born October 14, 1940, in New York City into an upper middle class, intellectual, Jewish family. In 1961 she graduated from Radcliffe College with a B.A. (magna cum laude). The following year she earned a M.A. from Yale, where she also took her Ph.D. (in 1967). She won the Mary Cady Tew prize for the best first year graduate student in 1961. She taught history at Yale from 1966-1970, as an instructor for the first two years and subsequently as an assistant professor.

After she left Yale, she was hired as Director of the Experimental College at Barnard College where (in 1975) she introduced its first course on feminist theory and (in 1977) co-founded the Women’s Studies program. In 1980, Eisenstein moved to Sydney, Australia, for personal reasons. From 1980-1988, she was a “femocrat” (a female senior civil servant), working from 1981-1985 in the Office of the Director of Equal Opportunity in Public Employment in New South Wales implementing a government-funded affirmative action program for aboriginal Australians, immigrants and women. During 1985-1988 she was chief education officer in the Equal Employment Opportunity Unit at the Department of Education of New South Wales.

On her return to the United States she worked as an associate professor in American Studies and Women’s Studies at the State University of New York, Buffalo. From 1996-2000 she served as Director of Women’s Studies at Queens College, City University of New York, where she is a professor of Sociology.

In addition to many articles in journals and anthologies, Eisenstein’s major publications include: The Future of Difference (edited with Alice Jardine, G.K. Hall, 1980); Contemporary Feminist Thought (G.K. Hall, 1983); Gender Shock: Practicing Feminism on Two Continents (Beacon, 1991); Inside Agitators: Australian Femocrats and the State (Temple University Press, 1996), and Feminism Seduced: How Global Elites Use Women's Labor and Ideas to Exploit the World (Paradigm Books, 2009).


Former child record (uri=/repositories/12/digital_objects/129772 - title=[Preservica] ru_1051_2012-a-039_eisenstein_hester_audiorecording) was deleted from catalogue on [Fri Aug 27 12:01:30 EDT 2021] as matching Preservica null 035c54da-8bdf-4993-817d-07380a2821a6 was deleted.

Processing Information

This material was originally acquired in 2009 as a direct network transfer from Yale shared network attached storage and artificial logical AD1 forensic images were created. AD1 images were extracted in May 2020 and resulting files processed. Audio files which had been originally recorded in short sequential tracks, were merged together into a single processed master wav file with fre:ac software.


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