About Cathryn Adamsky
Cathryn Adamsky was a pioneer and leader in the second wave of the women’s movement and a longtime activist for feminism and university women’s studies programs. Passionate in her determination to counter sexism and to bring women equality with men, Dr. Adamsky spoke up when it wasn’t popular to do so. Many of her university students found Dr. Adamsky’s classes life-changing; she opened students’ eyes to different ways to look at society. She was beloved by countless students over the years. Always one to treat people with respect, with no regard for status, class or position, Cathryn Adamsky worked indefatigably to make the world a better and safer place for women and children.
Cathryn Adamsky, daughter of Mary and John Adamsky, was born in Auburn, Massachusetts, on December 18, 1933. A daughter of working class immigrants, and a child in the great Depression, Cathryn grew up believing in the promise of America. Her mother’s dream was that her six children would graduate from high school. Kay, as she was known then, was captain of the high school basketball team and graduated from Auburn High School with honors. After graduating with high honors from Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, she married Peter K. Levison in 1955; they divorced in 1971. She received a Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Rochester in 1959 and held a post-doctoral fellowship at Yale University. From 1968 to 1971, she was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Chicago.
Dr. Adamsky was an Assistant and then Associate Professor of Psychology at Indiana-Purdue University at Fort Wayne (IPFW), Indiana, from 1971 to 1981. During this time she was a founding member of both the National Women’s Studies Association and the Association for Women in Psychology. In 1980, honor students voted her the highest recognition for stimulating academic interest in the School of Science and Humanities at IPFW. Dr. Adamsky also founded the Women's Studies Program at Indiana-Purdue University. She formed a committee of faculty and people from the community to develop a Women's Studies Program. Her meetings with the Deans and the Chancellor became well known for their excellent organization. She recruited associate faculty from the community to teach the early classes, whose syllabi were developed by the committee. The connection she made between the university and the community at large became a model for other women's studies programs. IPFW in Fort Wayne became the first state university to offer a major in Women's Studies. During her tenure at IPFW, Dr. Adamsky was instrumental in the foundation of the Fort Wayne Feminists, an organization still active. The FWF set up a "Cathryn Adamsky Women in Need Fund" in her honor.
Dr. Adamsky was Coordinator of Women’s Studies (1981-1987; 1989-1991) at the University of New Hampshire (UNH), where she taught from 1981 until her retirement in 1996. In addition to a teaching award presented by honor students at UNH, she was awarded the UNH President’s Commission on the Status of Women Award, presented by the late Bella Abzug, for outstanding contributions to the status of women at the University of New Hampshire, 1985.
Throughout her academic career, Dr. Adamsky published many papers and participated in workshops and presentations on such topics as feminist transformation of curricula, sexism and language, and sex differentiation in early infancy. She served on the editorial board of Women’s Studies, An Interdisciplinary Journal from 1973 to 1982. She was Project Director for the film, True Light, The Life of Marilla Ricker, first woman lawyer in New Hampshire and first woman to run for governor in the state. As Director of the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institutes on “Women in Nineteenth-Century American Culture,” held in 1987 and 1989 at UNH, she inspired some 90 secondary English and social studies teachers to re-think how they taught and what they taught. Here, once again, Cathryn Adamsky steadily and quietly empowered other people to insist that women be given equal opportunity and recognition.
Starting in 1975, Cathryn Adamsky spent summers at her cottage at the end of Tom Leighton Point in Milbridge, Maine. She cherished the solitude and beauty of the peninsula and welcomed her family and friends there.
Dr. Adamsky died in Washington, D.C., on March 22, 2007, at age 73 after a long, courageous battle with Parkinson’s Disease. She is survived by two daughters, Deborah Levison of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Lara Levison of Washington, D.C., as well as one granddaughter, Antonia Levison Ritter of Minneapolis, the “apple of her eye.”