American Sociological Association

Alice S. Rossi

Alice S. Rossi

Alice S. Rossi

September 24, 1922 - November 3, 2009

Alice S. Rossi served as the 74th President of the American Sociological Association. Her Presidential Address, entitled "Gender and Parenthood," was delivered at the Association's 1983 Annual Meeting in Detroit,and was later published in the American Sociological Review (ASR February 1984, Vol 49 No 1, pp 1-19).

Rossi was born in New York City in 1924.  She earned her undergraduate degree from Brooklyn College in 1947.  She married Peter Rossi in 1951 (see separate profile on Peter Rossi, who died in 2006).  She earned a PhD from Columbia University in 1957. She started teaching full time in 1959 at the University of Chicago where she remained until 1967.  She joined Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore in 1967.  She was on the faculty of Goucher College in Baltimore from 1969 to 1974. She joined the faculty of the University of Massachusetts - Amherst in 1974 where she worked until her retirement in 1991.

The New York Times reported "In her scholarship, Professor Rossi explored the status of women in work, family and sexual life." She is remembered for much of her work, including the book The Feminist Papers: From Adams to de Beauvoir, which was originally published in1973. Rossi was a noted feminist scholar who was a founding member of the National Organization for Women.  She died in Northampton, Massachusetts on November 3, 2009 at the age of 87. 

The University of Massachusetts - Amherst published the following obituary on their website on November 6, 2009:

Alice Schaerr Rossi, 87, of Amherst, professor emerita of Sociology and a founder of the National Organization for Women (NOW), died Nov. 3.

Born in New York City, she was graduate of Brooklyn College and obtained a Ph.D. in sociology from Columbia University. She held faculty positions at Harvard University, University of Chicago, Johns Hopkins University and Goucher College prior to her appointment to the Sociology Department in 1974. In 1984, she was appointed the Harriet Martineau Professor of Sociology. She retired in 1991.

An early observer of women's role in the United States, she was widely known as an analyst of women's roles in relation to men's in modern societies.

She made her mark as both a prominent feminist and scholar. One of the 16 founders of NOW, she also pioneered changes in the status of women in academe through her research and leadership of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) Committee on the Status of Women. An early advocate of abortion rights, she startled both academic and popular circles with early calls for liberalization of abortion laws in Redbook magazine and Dissent.

As a scholar, she embraced what has become a controversial view that both biological and social factors influence the roles of women and men in our society. She was also a pioneer in the study of changes that occur over the life cycle in sexuality and social relations.

Her publications included "Academic Women on the Move," "The Feminist Papers: From Adams to de Beauvoir," "The Family" and "Feminists in Politics," a 1982 book that analyzed the effect participating in the first National Women's Conference had upon political aspirations. In 1990, she and her husband, Sociology professor Peter Rossi, co-authored "Human Bonding: Parent-Child Relations Across the Life Course." The University of Chicago Press published "Sexuality Across The Life Course" in 1994.

At the time of her retirement, Sociology Department chairman Gerald Platt said, "Of some 12,000 sociologists in the U.S., maybe 50 or 100 are known by everyone, and Alice is one of them. If name recognition means anything, she has it."

She was past president of the American Sociological Association and the Eastern Sociological Society and a member of the MacArthur Foundation's mid-life study group.

In 1989, she was one of six prominent Americans to be honored with a Common Wealth Award of Distinguished Service, established by the late philanthropist Ralph Hayes as an incentive for future contributions in fields that enrich human life.

Rossi was also a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

She also received a Ford Foundation Fellowship and awards for distinguished achievement from the State University of New York at Buffalo, the National Institute of Mental Health and Columbia University. In 1994, she was awarded an honorary degree during Commencement. She also received honorary degrees from Towson State College, Rutgers University, Simmons College, Goucher College and Northwestern University.

In 1983, she was a Chancellor's Lecture Series speaker. Her campus honors also included a Faculty Research Fellowship in 1983-84.

Two years ago, the Sociology Department established the annual Alice S. and Peter H. Rossi Lecture, honoring the two former professors. Peter Rossi died in 2006.

She leaves her three children, Kris, Nina and Peter, and six grandchildren.

November 6, 2009.

University of Massachusetts – Amherst