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Elizabeth Ann Fox-Genovese (May 28, 1941 – January 2, 2007) was a feminist (and later, in the view of some, antifeminist) American historian particularly known for her writing about women in the Antebellum South. She was also a primary voice of the conservative women's movement.
Fox-Genovese was born in Boston, Massachusetts. She was the daughter of Cornell professor Edward Whiting Fox, a specialist in the history of modern Europe, and Elizabeth Mary (Simon) Fox, whose father was real estate mogul Robert Simon. Her father was Protestant, of English and Scotch-Irish descent; her mother was Jewish, from a family that immigrated from Germany. Elizabeth Fox-Genovese studied at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris in France and attended Bryn Mawr College, where in 1963 she received a B.A. in French and history. At Harvard University, she earned a M.A. in history in 1966 and a Ph.D. in 1974. After completing her PhD she taught at Binghamton University and The University of Rochester. In 1986 she began teaching history at Emory University, where she was the Eleonore Raoul Professor of the Humanities and the founding director of the Institute for Women's Studies. At the Institute, she began the first doctoral program in Women's Studies in the U.S. and personally directed thirty-two doctoral dissertations. She was married to and sometimes collaborated with fellow historian Eugene D. Genovese.
In 1993 Fox-Genovese and Emory University were named as co-defendants in a sexual discrimination and harassment lawsuit filed by L. Virginia Gould, one of her former graduate students. Emory settled the lawsuit out of court. Financial details were not released.
Fox-Genovese grew up in a household that was respectful of Christianity but nonbelieving, and for most of her adult life considered herself Christian only "in the amorphous cultural sense of the word." Having "thoroughly imbibed materialist philosophy," she inhabited "a world that took it as a matter of faith that 'God is dead'." In 1995, however, Fox-Genovese publicly converted to Roman Catholicism, due in part to her deep unease about "moral relativism" (since she found "a world in which each followed his or her moral compass" neither rational nor viable) and in part to the pride and self-centeredness that she said she had witnessed in the secular academy. Some regarded her reputation as a feminist as being at odds with her conversion, but she herself found it to be "wholly consistent" and wrote, "Sad as it may seem, my experience with radical, upscale feminism only reinforced my growing mistrust of individual pride."
Fox-Genovese died in 2007, aged 65, in Atlanta. The following year, Eugene Genovese published a tribute to his wife, Miss Betsey: A Memoir of Marriage.
Fox-Genovese's academic interests changed from French history to the history of women before the American Civil War. Virginia Shadron, assistant dean at Emory, said that Within the Plantation Household cemented the reputation of Fox-Genovese as a scholar of women in the Old South.
Fox-Genovese also wrote scholarly and popular works on feminism itself. Through her writings, she alienated many feminists but attracted many woman who may have considered themselves conservative feminists. Princeton University history professor Sean Wilentz said, "She probably did more for the conservative women's movement than anyone.... [Her] voice came from inside the academy and updated the ideas of the conservative women's movement. She was one of their most influential intellectual forces." Fox-Genovese reportedly had no patience with the cultural feminist trend of viewing women and men as possessing completely different values, and she criticized the idea that women's natural instincts and experience of oppression gave them a superior capacity for justice and mercy.