Remembering Sandra Morgen

A celebration of life for anthropology professor Sandra Morgen will be held Tuesday, Nov. 29.

Morgen died Sept. 27 of ovarian cancer, at age 66. The celebration takes place from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the Ford Alumni Center’s Giustina Ballroom.

A pioneer in feminist anthropology, Morgen joined the UO in 1991 as an associate professor of sociology, then moved to the anthropology department in 2002. She served as director of the Center for the Study of Women in Society from 1991-2006 and later held leadership roles in the graduate school before returning to teach undergraduate- and graduate-level courses.

Colleagues said Morgen touched all areas of the university and that her commitment to taking women’s perspectives seriously resonated well beyond campus.

“Sandra Morgen was one of the most influential scholars the College of Arts and Sciences has ever seen,” said W. Andrew Marcus, Tykeson dean of arts and sciences. “It was obvious to anyone who spent five minutes with her that she was passionate about her causes and research—and damned smart. But so much of what Sandi accomplished was because everyone wanted to work with her.”

Morgen studied women’s and gender issues as they relate to race, class and public policy. She played a critical role in the founding of feminist anthropology and the anthropology of North America.

She spearheaded a major shift in anthropology in the 1980s with a project that led to the publication, Gender and Anthropology: Critical Reviews for Research and Teaching. The book sparked the revision of many of the most widely used anthropology texts across the nation.

Lynn Stephen, anthropology professor and former department head, said it will be impossible to fill the void left by Morgen on campus and throughout the field. As recently as the 1980s, Stephen added, the idea of writing a dissertation on gender was dismissed with laughter.

“People were told it wasn’t real research,” she said. “(Sandra) opened so many doors to people who couldn’t get articles published.”

Morgen, Stephen and Stephen’s spouse, history professor Ellen Herman, developed a deep friendship over the years.

“(Sandra) personally and professionally cultivated relationships of all kinds like they were precious flowers,” Herman said. “Her life was very purposeful. She was so encouraging, not only to peers but also to students, the quintessential mentor. Her mantra was love, generosity, courage.”

The university honored Morgen in 2015 with its Outstanding Career Award, which goes to faculty for distinguished scholarship.

Morgen also made her mark on the graduate school. She was named associate dean in 2008 and vice provost for graduate studies in 2010. Always concerned with the experiences of graduate students, Morgen oversaw a campus climate survey that led to significant change in the school.

Several colleagues and friends have sought to endow the graduate school’s Public Impact Graduate Fellowship fund in Morgen’s memory.

The fellowship supports the work of graduate students whose research could help improve economic opportunity, social justice, political participation and scientific solutions to pressing social issues. Morgen began the fellowship in her first year leading the graduate school. (To donate, visit:

Morgen earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas in 1972 and her PhD in anthropology from the University of North Carolina in 1982. Before coming to the UO, she taught at Duke, the University of North Carolina, the University of Massachusetts and Penn State.

Morgen published several books on gender and inequality, including Into Our Own Hands: The Women’s Health Movement in the U.S. 1969-1990, winner of the Basker Prize from the Society for Medical Anthropology in 2004.

Morgen helped found the Society for North American Anthropology, which honored her in 2003 for outstanding contributions to anthropology in U.S.

She served as president of the Association for Feminist Anthropology and the Society for the Anthropology of North America; was on the board of the National Council for Research on Women; and was a member of the American Anthropological Association’s Commission on Race and Racism.

In 2004, the National Council for Research on Women honored Morgen with its Women Who Make a Difference Award.

Carol Stabile, acting associate dean of social sciences, said women in academia benefited from Morgen’s trailblazing efforts and unceasing support.

Said Stabile: “She created pathways, created networks, at a moment in time when they didn’t exist.”