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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 and society in the Antebellum South. She became a primary voice of the conservative women's movement. She was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2003.
Elizabeth Ann Fox 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 (née 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 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.
In 1969 she married fellow historian Eugene D. Genovese and changed her surname to Fox-Genovese. They collaborated on some historical works in the course of their careers and had a professional partnership. In the 1970s they founded the journal, Marxist Perspectives, publishing the first issue in Spring 1978. Described as "brilliant but short-lived", it was published into the early 1980s. In 2012 Dissent magazine announced plans to digitize issues of the journal in a collaboration for open access with the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research, and make it available online.
In 1986 she was recruited as founding director for the Institute for Women's Studies at Emory University. At the Institute, she served as director and began the first doctoral program in Women's Studies in the U.S.; she personally directed thirty-two doctoral dissertations. She also taught history as the Eleonore Raoul Professor of the Humanities.
In 1993 L. Virginia Gould, one of her former graduate students, named Fox-Genovese and Emory University as co-defendants in a sexual discrimination and harassment lawsuit. Emory settled the lawsuit out of court. Financial details were not released.
Fox-Genovese grew up in a household of secular intellectuals who were respectful of Christianity but nonbelieving. For most of her adult life, she 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). She said she was also reacting to the pride and self-centeredness that she had witnessed in the secular academy. Some observers regarded her reputation as a feminist as being at odds with her conversion, but she found it to be "wholly consistent." She wrote, "Sad as it may seem, my experience with radical, upscale feminism only reinforced my growing mistrust of individual pride."
Fox-Genovese's academic interests changed from French history to the history of women in the United States before the American Civil War. Virginia Shadron, assistant dean at Emory, later said that Fox-Genovese's Within the Plantation Household (1988) cemented her reputation as a scholar of women in the Old South. Contemporary reviews praised it; one described her work as bridging "the gap between the study of individual identity and the economic and social milieu." Mechal Sobel of The New York Times wrote, "Elizabeth Fox-Genovese undertakes the enormous tasks of telling the life stories of the last generation of black and white women of the Old South, and of analyzing the meanings of these connected stories as a way of illuminating both Southern and women's history--tasks at which she succeeds brilliantly."
This book received the following awards:
Fox-Genovese also wrote scholarly and popular works on feminism. 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.
|date=(help) (5 vols.)