Starting in 1967, when fewer than 1% of women completed any education beyond four years of college, the Washington State University (WSU) Sociology Department dared to hire three female faculty members who became lifelong friends. Lois B. DeFleur, Sandra Ball-Rokeach, and Marilyn Ihinger-Tallman were role models for many women and paved the way for those who followed.
Four decades later, volume editor Betty Houchin Winfield, who in 1979 was a new assistant professor in communications at WSU, prompted her former mentors to tell their stories, she had benefited immensely from their support and encouragement. In Winfield’s book, We Few, We Academic Sisters: How We Persevered and Excelled in Higher Education, the three women discuss their childhoods, educational and research efforts, personal lives, and career advancements. Though all married professors, they fought to be known as individual scholars, overcoming sexual discrimination and harassment as well as intense societal pressure to follow traditional female roles.
Their impressive careers parallel larger national events and the onset of increasing opportunities for women. Initially, associate or assistant professors, all three became full professors when it was exceedingly rare. Dr. DeFleur later held positions as dean, provost, and university president. Dr. Ball-Rokeach gained international status as a major media sociologist, and Dr. Ihinger-Tallman became WSU’s first female Chair of the Sociology Department.
Don’t miss this opportunity to celebrate their inspiring narratives that highlight the importance of community and offer invaluable guidance to the current generation of academics.
Betty Houchin Winfield has deep ties to Seattle, where she raised her children and completed her Ph.D. at the University of Washington. While teaching at various universities, including those in Missouri, North Carolina, and Poland, she maintained her Eastlake condo for summer and holiday stays. Throughout her academic career, Winfield achieved remarkable milestones, such as post-doctoral work at Columbia and Harvard, along with receiving prestigious teaching and research awards. She shares similarities with the subjects of We Few, We Academic Sisters by breaking gender barriers, becoming only the second woman to receive the University of Missouri system’s Thomas Jefferson Award and the first to hold the Curators’ Research Professorship in the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Following her retirement in 2012, she has made Seattle her permanent residence and remains actively engaged in civic projects, including leading the pre-COVID luminaire art project on the Pier 86 Grain Terminal waterfront.
Presented by Town Hall Seattle.