The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI) congratulates Fellow Sheila O’Connor-Ambrose along with co-editor and Senior Fellow Ann Hartle on their efforts to complete the fourth volume of History and Women, Culture and Faith: Selected Writings of Elizabeth Fox-Genovese.

AHI Fellow Sheila O’Connor-Ambrose

Elizabeth Fox-Genovese was that rare scholar who continued to master new fields throughout the course of her career.  In her primary discipline, history, Betsey–as nearly everyone called her–began as an expert on eighteenth-century French political economy and then became an important leader in the study of the history of women, producing one of the great classics of women’s history, Within the Plantation Household: Black and White Women of the Old South (1988) and becoming the founding director of the first Ph.D. program in Women’s Studies at Emory University in 1986.  She and her husband, historian Eugene D. Genovese, produced a series of works on southern intellectual life in general and on theology and religion in particular, culminating with the appearance of The Mind of the Master Class: History and Faith in the Southern Slaveholders’ Worldview in 2004 and Slavery in White and Black: Race and Class in the Slaveholders’ New World Order in 2008.  But history was not the only discipline in which Betsey distinguished herself.  As the Eleonore Raoul Professor of the Humanities at Emory, a position she held from 1986 until her death in 2007, she had a position in and supervised doctoral dissertations in the departments of Comparative Literature, English, and African-American Studies.  She published in academic journals and in popular publications that ranged across the humanities, and she moved effortlessly from discussing the detective novels of Dick Francis to the challenge of postmodernist literary theory to a critique of Franz Fanon’s theory of colonialism.  Her growing disillusionment with establishment feminism, best expressed in her Feminism Without Illusions: A Critique of Individualism (1991) and “Feminism is Not the Story of My Life”: How Today’s Feminist Elite has Lost Touch with the Real Concerns of Women (1996), and her conversion from Marxism to Roman Catholicism in 1995 led her to write even more widely as she contributed cultural criticism and commentary to both academic and popular forums.  She was that rare and valuable person: a public intellectual whose writings reflected both exceptional erudition and a heartfelt concern for the dignity of all persons.  Her death robbed of us of a vital voice.

At the time of Betsey’s death, her husband, Eugene Genovese, began to compile her varied writings that had appeared in various journals, magazines, newspapers, and in edited volumes.  The results staggered even those, like Genovese himself, who knew her well.  It immediately became apparent that a project to publish these pieces would require several volumes.  Under the general editorship of the gifted historian and close friend of Betsey’s, David Moltke-Hansen, a team of scholars from various disciplines agreed to edit a five-volume series that would bring Betsey’s scattered but significant writings together and make them available to a wide audience.  The University of South Carolina Press has just completed this major publishing event, and several AHI fellows, academic advisors, and friends contributed to it, including Founding Fellows Bob Paquette and Doug Ambrose, Senior Fellow Ann Hartle, and Fellow Sheila O’Connor-Ambrose.

AHI Fellows Co-Edit Volume 4 of Fox-Genovese Project

Sheila co-edited, with Ann Hartle, the fourth volume of History and Women, Culture and Faith: Selected Writings of Elizabeth Fox-Genovese.  This volume, entitled Explorations and Commitments: Religion, Faith, and Culture, focuses on Fox-Genovese’s conversion from a secular historian to a devout Catholic and the intellectual fruits of that conversion.  Ann, a professor of philosophy at Emory, was a friend and colleague of Betsey’s.  Sheila was a student of Betsey’s at Emory, among the first students admitted directly in 1991 into the Women’s Studies PhD program.  Editing the volume proved especially rewarding and meaningful to Sheila, who, in addition to being Betsey’s student and friend, was also her godmother.  The final section of Explorations and Commitments contains excerpts from Betsey’s highly private journals in which she speaks movingly of her struggle with physical challenges, including Multiple Sclerosis, and the comforts and mysteries of faith.

Please click here, to read the University of South Carolina’s description of Explorations and Commitments: History and Women, Culture and Faith.