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February 5: Mirra Komarovsky and “Women in the Modern World”

February 5, 2014
komarovsky49Mirra Komarovsky, a sociologist who wrote several books of enduring influence, including The Unemployed Man and His Family (1940) and Women in the Modern World: Their Education and Their Dilemmas (1953), which is credited with inaugurating the contemporary analysis of gender roles in society, was born in Russia on this date in 1905. Komarovsky came with her family to Wichita, Kansas when she was 16, after the Russian Revolution. She was educated at Columbia (despite gender-biased advice that she eschew higher education) and served on the faculty of Barnard for more than thirty-two years. In 1973, she became the second female president of American Sociological Association (founded in 1905), which in 1991 awarded her its Distinguished Career Award. Komarovsky's research during the 1980s tracked the many changes taking place in young women's consciousness and life choice in response to the feminist movement. She died at 93 in 1999. "Young women are becoming aware that the call to equal opportunities for women outside the home is an empty slogan as long as the society insists on traditional role segregation within the family. Some women react to this discovery with equanimity, others with frustration, resignation or indignation. But the real touchstone of their aspirations is the longing for a society in which the rhetoric of equality will be realized as fact." —Mirra Komarovsky