Florence Howe

Florence Howe
Florence Howe square.png
Howe in 2014
Florence Rosenfeld

(1929-03-17)March 17, 1929
Died September 12, 2020(2020-09-12) (aged 91)
Academic background
Alma mater Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts
Academic work
Main interests Feminist author, publisher, literary scholar and historian

Florence Rosenfeld Howe (March 17, 1929 – September 12, 2020) was an American author, publisher, literary scholar, and historian who is considered to have been a leader of the contemporary feminist movement.[1]

Early life

Born in Brooklyn, New York on March 17, 1929,[2] Florence Howe was the daughter of Samuel, a taxi driver,[3] and Frances Stilly Rosenfeld, a bookkeeper.[3] Howe loved learning from a young age. Her mother encouraged her daughter to follow a teaching career.[1]


In 1943, Howe entered New York City's highly selective Hunter College High School.[4] She was one of only five young women from Brooklyn to do so. She graduated high school early and attended Hunter College. In 1949, she was awarded entrance to Phi Beta Kappa, the elite academic organization which commends superlative academic achievement. Various people in power encouraged her to take graduate courses in literature and to become a college professor. After receiving a BA in English in 1950 from Hunter College, Howe entered Smith College and earned an MA in English in 1951.[1] In 1954, Howe attended the University of Wisconsin, resuming her work in graduate studies for art history and literature.[3] She was awarded an honorary doctorate by DePauw University in 1987.[5]


In 1960, Howe was employed as an assistant professor in the English department at a private women's college, Goucher College, located in Maryland.[3] She taught African American children in a Mississippi freedom school during 1964 and chaired the Modern Language Association commission on the Status of Women in the Profession. In 1964, Howe’s book Myths of Coeducation, featured one of her essays titled “Mississippi Freedom Schools: the Politics of Education.” In 1965, the essay was published in the Harvard Education Review. This essay written by Howe explains her journey with feminism and how she was able to relate issues such as education, race and politics within feminism.[3] In 1967, she signed a public statement declaring her intention to refuse to pay income taxes in protest against the U.S. war against Vietnam.[6] In 1970, Howe founded The Feminist Press,[7] "an educational nonprofit organization founded to advance women's rights and amplify feminist perspectives",[8] the organization had published three books by 1973.[9] In 1973, Florence Howe took on the role of President of the Modern Language Association after being voted in.[3] In 1978, another essay written by Howe titled “Myths of Coeducation”, explains women's education and how it “functions within the patriarchal limits of the society in which it exists.” [3] From 1972–1982, Florence Howe assisted in editing the Women's Studies Quarterly, a peer-reviewed journal.[3] In 1977, Florence Howe was presented with an honorary doctorate in humane letters from New England College.[3] In 1979, Florence Howe was presented with another honorary doctorate in humane letters, given by Skidmore College.[3] Florence Howe was responsible in co-editing various literature pieces throughout the years, such as “With Wings: An Anthology of Literature By and About Disabled Women (1987); Traditions and the Talents of Women (1991); and No More Masks (1993).”[3] In 1982, Florence Howe published the Feminist Scholarship: The Extent of the Revolution, a journal article in which she wrote about her findings with feminism in higher education.[10] In the years 1983 and 1993, Florence Howe served as a U.S. Department of State Grantee.[3] In 1987, Howe was employed as a professor of humanities at SUNY.[3]

Personal life

Howe married three times during the 1950s–1960s, and took the last name of one of her husbands, Ed Howe. She married Paul Lauter in the 1960s and divorced him in 1987.[4]

In 1964, while living in Baltimore, Florence Howe travelled to Jackson, Mississippi as a Freedom Summer volunteer and was tasked with serving as a teacher in a Freedom School for black children. There she met a 16-year-old girl, Alice Jackson, with whom she became close. Jackson came with her to Baltimore and Florence became her second mother, although an adoption was never formalized.[4]

Howe had no children of her own, and she was survived by Jackson, her two children and four grandchildren, who referred to Florence Howe as Baba.[4]


Florence Howe died on September 12, 2020 in New York City, at the age of 91. She lived on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, and prior to her death received hospice care for Parkinson's disease.[4]

The Florence Howe Award

The Florence Howe Award for feminist scholarship of the Women's Caucus for the Modern Languages is named in her honor.[11] The Florence Howe Award is an annual feminist scholarship acknowledging two outstanding essays by members of the Women's Caucus, one from the field of English and one from a foreign language. The authors receive $250 and are honored at an event hosted by the Women’s Caucus at the annual MLA meeting.[12]

Selected bibliography


Chapters in books


She contributed the piece "The Proper Study of Womankind: Women's Studies" to the 2003 anthology Sisterhood Is Forever: The Women's Anthology for a New Millennium, edited by Robin Morgan.[13]


  1. ^ a b c "Gale Encyclopedia of Biography: Florence Rosenfeld Howe". biography.yourdictionary.com. The Gale Group. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  2. ^ "Howe, Florence". Library of Congress. Retrieved 9 March 2015. CIP data sheet (b. 3/17/29)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Florence Rosenfeld Howe". link.galegroup.com. Retrieved 2019-12-05.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Florence Howe, 'Mother of Women's Studies,' Dies at 91". New York Times. 2020-09-13. Retrieved 2020-09-13.
  5. ^ "Journalist Howard K. Smith Addresses DePauw's 585 New Graduates".
  6. ^ "Newspaper clipping of open letter to the U.S. War Committee, 11 March 1967" (archive pdf). Letter to Mr. W. Walter Boyd from Herbert Sonthoff, March 28, 1967. Penn State University Libraries: Horowitz Transaction Publishers Archive. 28 March 1967. p. 4. No income tax for war! Now particularly the U.S. war in Vietnam. STATEMENT: Because so much of the tax paid the federal government goes for poisoning food crops, blasting of villages, napalming and killing of thousands upon thousands of people, as in Vietnam at the present time, I am not going to pay taxes on 1966 income.
  7. ^ "Authors: Florence Howe". feministpress.org. The Feminist Press at City University of New York. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  8. ^ "About FP". feministpress.org. The Feminist Press at City University of New York. Archived from the original on 17 March 2015. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  9. ^ Howe, Florence (July 2014). "Lost and found – and what happened next: some reflections on the search for women writers begun by The Feminist Press in 1970". Contemporary Women's Writing. 8 (2): 136–153. doi:10.1093/cww/vpt022.
  10. ^ Howe, Florence (1982). "Feminist Scholarship: The Extent of the Revolution". Change. 14 (3): 12–20. doi:10.1080/00091383.1982.10569860. ISSN 0009-1383. JSTOR 40163691.
  11. ^ Glasgow, Joanne; Ingram, Angela (1990). Courage and tools: the Florence Howe Award for Feminist Scholarship, 1974–1989. New York: Modern Language Association of America. ISBN 9780873523455.
  12. ^ "Women's Caucus for the Modern Language". November 16, 2018. Retrieved April 23, 2019.
  13. ^ Library Resource Finder: Table of Contents for: Sisterhood is forever : the women's anth. Vufind.carli.illinois.edu. 2003. ISBN 9780743466271. Retrieved 2015-10-15.

External links