In Memory of Cathryn Adamsky
March 28, 2007
Former UNH educator Cathryn Adamsky, a pioneer and leader in the second wave of the women's movement, and a longtime activist for feminist causes and university women's studies programs, died Thursday, March 22, in Washington, D.C. at age 73 after a long, courageous battle with Parkinson's Disease.
She was coordinator of Women's Studies at UNH from 1989 to 1991, where she taught until her retirement in 1996.
Passionate in her determination to counter sexism and bring women equality with men, Adamsky spoke up when it wasn't popular to do so. Many of her university students found Adamsky's classes life-changing; she opened students' eyes to different ways to look at society.
Adamsky earned her Bachelor’s Degree in psychology from Clark University and her Ph.D. from the University of Rochester.
She experienced sex discrimination early on; she and her former marriage partner had co-authored many research papers on rhesus monkeys. After their divorce, she found it difficult to get research grants. She told a reporter, “Women aren’t supposed to work with monkeys.”
Grants would not be given to her because it was assumed that her former husband had been doing most of the work, when, in fact, they had published together.
“In fact, she said, “I was the principal researcher. It was depressing at the time, but I got over it.”
Adamsky focused her research on the psychology of women and early childhood development. She came to UNH in 1981 to serve as the full-time coordinator of the women’s studies program.
“The women’s movement doesn’t need martyrs,” Adamsky said in 1985 Campus Journal story. “It needs good, strong women, who live into ripe, old age.”
She believed the strength women needed could be gained in the classroom.
“You see students change,” she said. “When they learn about women’s history – the voices that women have had – they change. The past makes them powerful; the knowledge of the past gives them strength. Women’s Studies must become part of the mainstream….that is, if it’s relevant, it must be assimilated. It’s not ‘add women and stir’. It’s taking a new look at the world.”
Adamsky was the recipient of the 1985 Women’s Commission Award, which was presented to her by Bella Abzug, former New York congressional delegate. In her presentation, Abzug praised Adamsky’s work to make women more visible and equal to their male counterparts as contributing members of the UNH community. Adamsky was one of the key organizers of the university’s Non-Sexist Language Policy, adopted in 1985 by the Faculty Senate.
“The policy tends to ruffle feathers, and it’s not meant that way,” she said during the Campus Journal interview.
She explained it wasn’t a censoring; instead, it was about including women. “It’s not difficult to say ‘she and he’ if it means something about your place in the world. And if it doesn’t affect your place in the world, then think about your mother, your daughter, your sister, your niece.”
Adamsky remains a role model for campus leaders to create equal educational and employment opportunities for all. She inspired many to take a new look at the world.