In Memoriam Norma Basch

R. B. Bernstein's picture

We are saddened to announce the passing, on 29 September 2015, of Norma Basch, professor emerita of history at Rutgers University -- Newark, and author of notable studies helping to define the field of women's legal history.  She was 81.

A fuller obituary will appear soon, but for now we should note Professor Basch's cutting-edge, rigorous, and highly-influential scholarship, including her books IN THE EYES OF THE LAW: WOMEN, MARRIAGE, AND PROPERTY IN NINETEENTH-CENTURY NEW YORK (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1982), and FRAMING AMERICAN DIVORCE: FROM THE REVOLUTIONARY GENERATION TO THE VICTORIANS (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1999).  Both books are solidly grounded in wide and deep research in primary sources, including archives, legislative records, and court records.  Both books are models of examining the internation between legal culture and the larger culture of society, and the place of women and their rights and limitations on those rights in those cultural contexts.

Professor Basch also epitomized collegiality and generosity, both to her colleagues and to her students, as well as to younger scholars in the fields of constitutional and legal history.  (A personal note: she was instrumental in helping me to secure my first teaching opportunity, as a visiting part-time lecturer at Rutgers University -- Newark in the spring of 1988.)

It is hard to write about the loss of Norma Basch, unexpected as it has been and given how important she was as a scholar, a teacher, a colleague, and a role model to so many in her field.  We all will miss her insight, her rigorous approach to her field, and her humor and sardonic skepticism.

Respectfully submitted,

R. B. Bernstein
City College of New York, Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership
rbernstein@ccny.cuny.edu, rbbernstein@gmail.com