Oral History: Linda Newman

2021.07 - Linda NewmanNarrator: Linda Newman
Interviewer: Troy Reeves (2015), John Tortorice (2018)
Dates: 2, 24 April 2015
12, 26 May 2015
16 October 2018
Transcribed by: Teresa Bergen
Format: Audio
Duration: 4 hours, 55 minutes, 11 seconds


Linda Newman Obituary:
Linda H. Newman, age 82, peacefully died on Thursday, Dec. 28, 2023, at University Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin, following a stroke. She was born in New York City on May 24, 1941, the elder of two children of Edith Howard (Neilson) Newman and Sol Newman. Linda’s lifelong devotion to social justice was inspired at an early age by her parents’ passion for political activism, civil rights, and union organizing.

Linda grew up in New Haven and Hamden, Connecticut. After graduating from Hamden High School, Linda attended Brown University, majoring in English. She was a proud member of Pembroke College, then the women’s college within the university. After graduating from Brown in 1962, she moved to Madison to pursue a graduate degree in the renowned UW Department of History. While there, she met and married Kenneth R. Bowling, a fellow graduate student in the department. Their son, Andrew L. Bowling, was born in 1967.

After receiving a master’s degree in 1965, Linda continued her studies and also began a long career as an academic advisor in the history department. She later joined the School of Education Academic Services office, serving as assistant dean and advisor. In 2000, Linda received the school’s Ann Wallace Academic Staff Distinguished Achievement Award. Linda’s warmth, understanding, and deep interest in young people made a significant and lasting impression on hundreds of students—many of whom remained her friends for years. It was a common occurrence to have someone rush up to Linda and exclaim, “You were my advisor!” Both parties were always delighted to have a chance to reconnect.

Linda was an active participant in the university’s tradition of shared governance, serving on many committees related to academic staff issues, including a term as the chair of the campus Academic Staff Executive Committee (ASEC).

In the Newman family tradition, Linda drove cab as a side gig, and participated in the infamous 1979 Checker Cab strike that led to the founding of Union Cab of Madison Cooperative, a worker-owned taxi company.

After her retirement in 2007, Linda worked part time with the campus Ombuds Office, providing UW-Madison employees with confidential guidance regarding workplace issues. Retirement also afforded her the opportunity to pursue other interests—working toward a graduate degree in religious studies at Edgewood College, serving on the steering committees of both Grace Episcopal and Lake Edge Lutheran churches, and inhabiting her favorite booth at Barriques coffee shop. She also was deeply committed to Just Dane (formerly Madison Urban Ministry, or MUM), which she served as both board member and chair.

A particular joy to Linda was participating in MUM’s mentorship program, in which she was matched with a girl in need of an extra grownup in her life. She and her mentee formed a close bond and their friendship extended for many years, becoming one of the most significant relationships of Linda’s later life. Linda was also an animal lover, Packer fan, and an inveterate and passionate reader, and it was these pastimes with which she happily filled her final years.

In 2015, Troy Reeves of the UW-Madison Archives recorded a series of interviews with Linda for the Oral History Program. In this overview Linda discusses her rather atypical upbringing, her political activism, experiences within the Department of History as a student and advisor, and other aspects of city and university life since she arrived in Madison in the early 1960s. A delightful 2018 interview between Linda and John Tortorice can also be found in the oral history collection.

Linda is survived by longtime partner Barbara Gerloff, Madison; son Andrew L. (Lana) Bowling, Torrance, Calif.; grandchildren Tim Bowling, Sun Prairie, Wis., and Beth Bowling, Minneapolis; great-grandson Desmond Johnson, Sun Prairie, Wis.; brother Steve Newman, Chapel Hill, N.C.; and nieces Emily Newman (Michael Venutolo-Mantovani), Chapel Hill, N.C., and Dara (Mark) Histed, Washington, D.C. She is also survived by Barbara’s devoted family: Robert Gerloff (Lynette Lamb) and Julia Gerloff, Minneapolis, and Grace Gerloff, Chicago.

Linda just naturally saw the best in people, and she communicated that loving, optimistic vision in a way that encouraged all of us to become a better version of ourselves. Her singular, shining life will be celebrated at a memorial service on Sunday, Feb. 18 at 2:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church (1609 University Ave., Madison), with a reception to follow.

You can jump to each session here: 2 April 2015, 24 April 2015, 12 May 2015, 26 May 2015, 16 October 2018.

**To access the OHMS oral history page for Mark A. Stoler, which allows listeners to search text or keywords and to listen to specific sections of this interview, click here.**

Abstract: In her four April/May 2015 interviews with Troy Reeves, Linda Newman offered an overview her time at UW-Madison. Newman discussed from the 1960s through the 2010s and the following topics: History Department; College of Education; Teaching Assistant Association; the 1960s student protest movement; New England; research on Benjamin Rush. She also discussed the important role her parents played in her worldview, her work for two Madison cab companies in the 1970s, and her post-retirement work as a campus ombudsman. Finally, she discussed her time working for the School of Education and her post-retirement work in the Ombuds Office. This interview was conducted for inclusion in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Archives Oral History Project, specifically as part of its effort to interview long-time academic staff.

Key Words: Connecticut; History Department; School of Education; Teaching Assistant Association; Brown University; University of Wisconsin-Madison; David Lovejoy; Wisconsin Historical Society; William Appleman Williams; racism; ecology; Great Awakening; Vietnam War; student protests; 1960s; Sterling Hall bombing; Karl Armstrong; Benjamin Rush; Bill Cronon; George L. Mosse; Harvey Goldberg; Gerda Lerner; Checker Cab; Union Cab; Gay Liberation Movement; feminism; Marine Studies; Student Orientation, Advising, and Registration (SOAR); John Palmer; Henry Trueba; Emily Comstock; Academic Staff Assembly; Char Tortorice; Chuck Read; sexuality; Ombuds Office.


2 April 2015

Reeves: Okay, today is April 2nd, 2015. This is an interview with Linda Newman. My name is Troy Reeves. I’m with the UW Madison Oral History Program. And we’re interviewing Linda about her time here on campus, specifically as a member of the academic staff. So Linda, for sound quality purposes, could you say your name and spell your last name?

Newman: Sure. This is Linda Newman. And my last name is spelled N-E-W-M-A-N.

Reeves: That looks just right. I want to make sure we’re pointed at the right number. All right. We are. So, as I was chatting with you before I turned this on, I have a list of questions that I created when I thought that we were going to do this interview at the institute. And those are the questions that I’m going to follow here today. So, the first is if you want to describe the reasons for and the process behind the first job you got at UW Madison, which looks like it was in the late [19]70s for the history department.

Newman: Right. And I had been, I came to Wisconsin in 1962 to earn my PhD in history and discovered that I’m not a scholar. But I have an enormous—had and have an enormous affection for the history department. In [19]78, I believe it was, I was working on campus as an LTE in the Marine Studies Center. And the woman with whom I shared the office said that the woman who worked as the–what were we called? The departmental advisor is what comes to my mind, I’m not sure that’s the term in history—was moving up to become secretary of the faculty. And perhaps I would like to apply to be the academic advisor, the departmental advisor for history, which I very much wanted to do.

And at that time, Peter Smith (b. 1940) was chair of the history department. I had been a student of David Lovejoy’s (1919-1999), and also had worked in the department as a research assistant and a teaching assistant. And Peter Smith hired me. Possibly that was [19]77, because I started right after the first of the new year. And I think you had recorded that was [19]78. So, I worked for the history department and enjoyed it thoroughly. It was a wonderfully different perspective from what I’d had as a graduate student. And when I had come to campus in [19]62 as a graduate student, the history department was in Bascom. So it’s been, I mean, there’s so many ways it’s a joy driving up here today, thinking my goodness, I lived long enough to retire and be emeritus. And I love this place.

So, I worked advising undergraduates in the history department, which was a position that gave me lots and lots of access to faculty. We were then developing a writing requirement for undergraduates, 00:03:00 and integrated that in the history department into the seminar requirements, which I think pre-existed my term. I took over for Sue Finman (1928-2008) when I became undergrad advisor. And we worked out, we developed, my sense is we developed the major and the requirements, not that there wasn’t one there already. But with an emphasis on writing and also an emphasis on some exposure to historiography. And I think both of those could be accomplished in taking the seminar. And everybody was required to take a seminar.

And in addition to helping to put together the timetable, I got to work at SOAR (Student Orientation, Advising, and Registration), which I loved. And which became part of my, the whole time that I was on campus before the first time I retired in [20]07. And I also wrote, published, as it were, the history department newsletter.

So having come in as a graduate student, I had a kind of understanding of the US, we’d call them caucuses then, the US caucus doing advising with undergraduates. Then I got to know the European Caucus and the Third World Caucus and made some very, very good, some lifelong friends with faculty in the history department.

I don’t remember—yeah, I have. I was going to say. And I’ve hung onto some of my students too. Just stayed in touch with them over time and what it is they’re doing. And was very much engaged with the quality of teaching that was available to the students. Very, very, very predicably differential across the faculty and the graduate students. And in those days when I started, students enrolled with assignment committees. And those were a wonderful institution. It was a lot of legwork for the undergraduates to get their course schedules. But when you came into the history department, downstairs in humanities, you had an array of graduate students enrolling you in classes as well as me as the undergrad advisor. So we had lots to offer for what would go on with the class, what kinds of things were required. Sometimes it was the grad student who would be teaching that particular course. So it was a wonderfully interactive process that we lost when we went into more automated ways of enrolling for classes. So.

Reeves: So Linda, was that then, was that then the part of the official registration process for students?

Newman: Mm hmm.

Reeves: So if they were interested in a history class, they had to come find you all.

Newman: In the history department. And you would find the English department, the French department. And I don’t know if they were true, but the stories were that you might also find your future spouse while you were waiting 00:06:00 to see if you would get into French Revolution this semester or not. And then there were a fair number of tears of disappointment when you didn’t get what you’d hoped you would get. And why in the world had you stood in line. The classrooms, as you probably know, in humanities, often go down steeply. So we would be sitting at the bottom, and then they’d come down and hope that there’d still be a space in the class. Or could consult if it was not so busy with the graduate students sitting there. Because of course graduate students have nothing so much as opinions. And sometimes the student would recognize, they’d taken 101 history and they’d recognize their TA and then ask for advice. As I remember it, it was lovely. Those students might tell you when it was raining, it wasn’t so lovely. And when it was too hot. And then it was unpredictable, and that could be stressful, too.

Reeves: And so in the late [19]70s, I think you, well you did allude to this. In the late [19]70s, this was not an automated process.

Newman: No. No. Not yet.

Reeves: So was it all, when they would come down, was it all pen and paper? And somebody had to know, somebody had to know what the class enrollment cap was.

Newman: Right. And we would have had that data available to us. And fairly early on they were doing things with computer punch cards. So I don’t know where the two intersected or exactly how that worked. We certainly had paper and pencil rosters that we were working from.

Reeves: And you said you at that point, so it looks like you worked at history for probably roughly eight years.

Newman: Yes.

Reeves: During that time, you were publishing the newsletter?

Newman: Yes. Yes.

Reeves: How again in the sort of pre-digital age, how were you publishing a newsletter and how were you getting it to the people you wanted to get it to?

Newman: The department office mailed it out. And I actually hired a graphic artist who was working—I’m trying to think what department she was attached to. She was a friend of mine. She wasn’t in the history department, but she designed a template for the front page. And my memory would be that I would, I had a secretary. That’s right. My secretary would probably type up the articles and then somebody formatted it. Because it was, you know, how a newsletter would look in those days. Columns with the, I think all that Jana designed was “history department newsletter,” that just was the banner across the top. And the process by which my secretary or the staff downstairs, the office was third floor, the department office was third floor, my office was on the fourth floor—how they all got it out to alums, I suspect they had a mailing list and labels, but I don’t know. 00:09:00 And I feel as if I initiated it. And I think whoever the advisor was who came after me kept it up for a while. But then it did not persist. And then as a quasi-alum, I finished a master’s degree but didn’t finish my PhD, I would get for a while the departmental newsletter. So it evolved into something that was much more under the auspices of the chair than it had been when I had started it.

Reeves: And how would you get at or compile the content that would go into the newsletter?

Newman: That’s a good question. I must have circulated something to the faculty to know what was new. I did a few book reviews myself. I remember I wrote a review of one of [Jan] Vansina’s (1929-2017) books. But I suspect the faculty would have provided me with information. And I might have written about changes in the undergraduate major. I don’t know that we were particularly interested in numbers then. I mean, we did major decks and all of that, because that gave you a different kind of access. And it gave me some kind of handle on the number of majors we had. And I talked a lot with faculty as to what was happening in terms of undergraduate courses. And working on the timetable, because I was responsible for the department’s timetable, graduate, and undergraduate. And helped to monitor enrollments, now that I think of it, because then as I assume now, there was this minimum number, you needed to have X number in order for the course to go. And we would have trouble sometimes with grad seminars, because you might have dissertators, but they might not be enrolling. And then there was a certain number of grad seminars the faculty wanted to offer that were not necessarily focused on their own graduate students who were doing the PhD with them. They were more broadly conceived as of interest to a whole range of graduate students, maybe not even the history department.

And then there were levels also for 100, 200, 300-level undergrad courses. And you didn’t want those to be under-enrolled, either. And I must have worked closely, I know I worked closely with the chair in the creation of the timetable. And I think also I was collaborating with the chair in terms of monitoring enrollments. And sometimes with the grad students, you’d be kind of getting in touch with your grad student who was doing her research on the ground in Africa and saying, no, you need to enroll this semester because we need the count. That kind of thing.

Reeves: The other thing you mentioned that I’d like to get there before we get to your job change on campus is you mentioned that you got to work 00:12:00 at SOAR.

Newman: Right. Right.

Reeves: So first off, just because we don’t know who will listen to this and in what context they’ll listen to it—

Newman: Right.

Reeves: –I wonder if you could explain briefly what SOAR is and then maybe what your involvement in it was.

Newman: Right. SOAR, initially it’s an acronym. And it was Student Orientation and Advising for Registration. And the College of Letters & Science students and their parents were invited to campus. At that point I think probably just maybe for a day and a half. And at that point it was very much the College of Letters & Sciences project. And as an advisor in history, I was invited to participate one year. I was hired nine months. But then if I were working at SOAR, orienting the students who would be freshmen in the fall, or be entering the university as a transfer student. So with credits coming so that he or she might enter as a sophomore, junior or senior, bringing credits from other postsecondary institutions.

And it was a very, very collegial process. So you got out from looking at the world from the department, into understanding the college as a whole. At that point for me, the college, the schools and colleges all over campus were a very dim concept. And I would work at SOAR that one summer as an advisor. And I had current undergraduates working with me to assist me. And I worked in the L&S, Letters & Science, pool of advisors. I wasn’t particularly connected to history. And we would at that point work with students with what they were bringing to campus, the results of their test scores so they would know where to start in math and in English and possibly in a foreign language. But they were not in fact enrolling for classes because the assignment committees that I talked about happened just before the start of classes, fall or spring. So they would come up with a projected schedule of classes, which they might or might not get when they came back in the fall. But it was a chance to do orientation more broadly than just enrolling for classes. So we would be looking at what they were interested in, what they were bringing from high school, how the classes might fit together. I think we may have had the schedule to look at, so that you could figure out that you weren’t setting yourself up to do two things at the same time during the fall semester.

And there were lots of, advisors who would come over from the math department. Advisors would be coming over, staff from the foreign language departments, and would sit and talk with students about their choices 00:15:00 based on the results of their placement tests as they were choosing courses.

Reeves: Okay. One more thing I just thought of, since we were going to interview you at the Academic Staff Institute, I’d like to ask what you sort of knew or what you remember knowing about being an academic staff person during this first position in the history department.

Newman: Almost nothing. And this comes in as we begin to look at the transfer over into the School of Ed. What did work for me at SOAR in terms of academic staff was beginning to get to know staff who worked at SOAR who weren’t necessarily linked to departments. But looking back, most of the staffing of SOAR was done by academic staff. Some faculty had summer assignments and worked it. So that looking at my career on campus in relationship to academic staff, some of my strongest, some of my strong academic staff friendships began at SOAR. But I didn’t know then to think of myself as academic staff. And I’d have to say, in addition to all the changes in enrollment practices that I witnessed, and in which I participated because I came active with SOAR, I think even before I got to the School of Ed, every summer, because I was so enthusiastic about it. And then over time, SOAR itself became an institutional entity fulltime over the year. And I was very much a part of that. So my whole career after that first summer, which probably wasn’t my first summer on campus. But when I got asked to do SOAR, from then on, I worked at SOAR until I retired. And academic staff became much, much clearer to me. And when I got into governance, you know, that’s all that’s to come. But thank you for the question. Because at that time, I really had no understanding at all.

Reeves: Okay. So let’s shift now to the move from the history department to the School of Ed. It looks like roughly 1986.

Newman: Mm hmm.

Reeves: So the first question is why change at that time?

Newman: Right. And this takes us right into the faculty academic staff. What I began to realize in the history department is that I was very isolated in terms of colleagues. The academic staff in the history department at that time, as I understood it at that time, the history department had and has a very significant project working with the federal government 00:18:00 on the documents in relationship to the beginning of the United States. Having to do with the first Congress, having to do with when it started, the ratification of the constitution. And those people were academic staff people.

But faculty are a species unto themselves. And I began to feel like I would like a larger scope for what I was doing. But most of all, I wanted colleagues who were not faculty. The universes are very different. For one, which I found striking in the history department, but I think it is campus-wide, pretty much. Faculty are so much driven by the research project. And the research project is often not here. So that there was a sense of the department belonged to the classified staff and me. And I got along pretty well with the classified staff. You know, it was complicated.

And when the opening for an assistant dean in the School of Ed came to my attention, I thought I think this is what I would rather do. I think I’d rather be, I associated that job with what I knew of the Academic Affairs Office in Letters & Science. Because I worked a fair amount with the people I understood to be deans in the College of Letters & Science, now I know they were indeed assistant deans. And a lot of them were concurrently getting their PhDs. I didn’t know that at the time that I was working as an advisor.

So, I was looking to change the collegial setting in which I was working. And very much enjoyed the interview process. John Palmer (1928-2023) was at that time dean of the School of Education. And I was their very clear second choice. And the first person they wanted turned them down. So, there I was, across the hill and up the hill in the old education building.

And I’ve always been fascinated with how the terrain changes based on where your office is. So the university at which I worked when I was in the School of Education had almost nothing in common geographically with the university at which I worked when I was in the then-humanities building, which regrettably is named after that remarkable man, George Mosse.

Reeves: So is there a way you can explain a bit more what you mean 00:21:00 by how the geography—I mean, it’s not the geography, per se.

Newman: No, no, no. It’s the perspective.

Reeves: Right. It’s the perspective as you change in geography. So maybe a bit more on the perspective?

Newman: The history department being in humanities sits at the, what would it be, the west end of State Street, so that the focus was very much State Street. The then-Elvehjem. And what I’m talking about is the visual terrain. So to walk, every day to walk up Bascom to the education building put the hill—and I don’t mean climbing up and down the hill so much as the, not only the visual. But humanities is a mixed blessing, you could say, the building. What’s fun for me is as a graduate student, it was being built. And one of my personal sort of records is that I’ve a son. And he was born in January of [19]67. And my aunt came out to visit at some particular point and took a picture of me. There was a wall around the hole. And the wall had marvelous graffiti. And I was a quite pregnant graduate student. And she placed me in front of the graffiti. I think what it said was teaching assistants, or graduate teaching assistants are the heart of the strength of the university. Words to that effect, anyway. And there I am standing there, a TA. And I was a TA while I was pregnant. And my undergrads kept saying, “We didn’t think you’d get to stay through the final. Are you really still here?”

And for me then, it was a comedown for the history department to have been banished down to humanities from Bascom. I didn’t think about it in complicated bureaucratic ways. I love, to this day I adore Bascom Hall. And I love old Education. And I loved looking at North Hall out my window. What I did was I moved my perceptions, literally, from sort of subway twentieth century architecture to buildings where, I mean, John Muir (1838-1914) was reputed to have had a dorm room in North Hall or whatever. And his picture’s in Bascom. And when I was, 00:24:00 before I came to work at the university, I was married into part of the crowd who were doing the Institute for Environmental Studies. The people who were creating it. And there was even that tension between who was creating it—enough of that. So I have always been very, I learned to be very passionate about Aldo Leopold (1887-1948). And everything that UW represents in that way. And my then-husband was getting his PhD in history but minoring in wildlife ecology, or working with McKay and those people. So it’s a little bit far from the—

And I’ve learned over time that the School of Ed came onto campus later than the College of Letters & Science. I’m interested in the history of postsecondary education. Not enormously, but I’m a historian. And it’s just so interesting the way universities put themselves together. And I would often say to my students when they became frustrated with this or that about the university that it does not, energy invested in trying to figure out how it all works is energy wasted. Because it’s people meeting in committees, making decisions in a context that even at our, you know, even doing our best kind of history, we’re not going to recreate the context. It’s just not going to happen.

Now one of the things to throw in here is that I started studying history when the human race was understood to be a single gender. And it’s been really exciting intellectually for me to now live in a world where my partner’s niece is choosing Beloit College where she’s going to go next year because it’s so careful about encouraging non-specificity about gender. And I’m old enough so that I will say to my contemporaries, I think I understand why this is so important. But it’s very difficult for me to kind of, it’s not intuitive. I am as respectful as I know how to be of the truth of it. But listening to her last Thanksgiving, I was just fascinated to think, what do you know? When I came to school, what we would say is, grad students in history, history was the history of tall white men. And then we learned to modify that. Tall, white, straight, temporarily able-bodied men. It’s changed. And of course, it never was true.

Reeves: Right.

Newman: So. And what I noticed, in the students, is that my history 00:27:00 majors were much, much more diffuse in their interests and personalities than my teacher preparation students. The teacher preparation students, they knew where they were going and that’s what they were going to do. Now, blessedly, when I went over as assistant dean in the School of Ed and then I morphed into being a senior advisor, because things got reorganized over the time that I was there, but I worked with the art students, too. And I worked with, then we had, we got occupational therapy and physical therapy. And physical therapy students are their own breed of cat completely. And of course these are generalizations. And then we have psych. I mean, it was just, it wasn’t entirely teacher preparation. And then fascinating to watch the faculty in the School of Ed with their varying understandings of the Department of Public Instruction, and the extent to which the Department of Public Instruction could interfere on their turf. Never mind that everything they were doing was so that our students could get licensed to teach, you know.

Reeves: Thank you for all of that.

Newman: You’re welcome.

Reeves: There’s probably various points I could cut in there to ask other questions. But I want to ask you a specific about this job in the School of Education. And that is, what was it? What did you do?

Newman: While I was assistant dean, I supervised the office which admitted and certified students. And I supervised a staff of eight, ten, twelve, something like that. Classified and academic staff. So I had advisors working for me and I had classified staff working for me. And that was when classified staff still generated documents and did that kind of work. But they also really, really, really knew how to read a transcript to figure out if, I mean, one woman was assigned, she was the certification officer. And she knew what it took to be licensed to teach history, and she would read the transcript accordingly. And all of those people worked for me.

And then I was, there was a Field Experiences Office, which was parallel. And they supervised and were staffed by classified staff and some graduate students who supervised the process by which the teacher preparation students were in the schools. And that was complicated. And when 00:30:00 Palmer left, I think he was succeeded by Henry T. Trueba. I’m not positive. But Henry Trueba became the dean of the School of Ed. And he had a very, very, John Palmer himself had been a schoolteacher and was very much interested in schools and teaching. And Trueba became more fascinated with the arts end of things, but also was interested in redesigning things administratively. So the office which I supervised was tucked into the human relations office. They were put together. And the woman who was head of the human relations and Field Experience Office, it was the Field Experience Office, she became the assistant dean. And I was bumped to becoming senior student services coordinator. Lost the administrative responsibility but held onto SOAR, and held onto working with students individually.

So, I think it would be fair to say that as an administrator I was not enormously gifted. But I think we did fine. And I think we got a dean who had a different kind of taste for putting things together that maybe fit together, maybe they didn’t. And I feel enormously fortunate to have been able to continue the work that I really love doing. And was it a status shift? Maybe. At that point, Henry Lufler (1944-2018) was assistant dean with some, now that I look back on it, some HR kinds of responsibilities. And he and I were friends.

So, I went into him and I said, “So, Hank. They changed my position. Do you think I should make a fuss about it?”

He said, “Well, I sure hope you don’t.”

But it was very good advice. I mean, one of the ways that I understand this institution is that you’re far better served—and this comes off as move into governance, never mind being an ombuds, but you’re far better served not to fuss. And that’s a large blanket statement. And I’m sure at the point at which Trueba put our offices together, the whole institution was smaller than it is now, and perhaps a little less bureaucratically dense. But again, I think it suited me better to be in the role that I was in. And for better or worse, the person who was put into what might have been my position, was then asked to leave. I don’t mean the day after tomorrow. But I am pretty strong in my people skills. And she was dreadful with people skills. And by that time, Chuck Read was the dean. And it mattered enormously to Chuck Read that the people serving this woman were very, very unhappy. And that’s one of 00:33:00 the really high points, I would say, of my time here was the conscientiousness with which he listened and looked and then asked her to work somewhere else. Which she does. Did. I don’t know if she does anymore, but she did. But he just wasn’t going to have that going on in his staff.

Reeves: So let me clarify then. So initially when you came onboard at the College of Ed, or School of Ed, excuse me, you still had student responsibilities?

Newman: Yes.

Reeves: It sounded like to me that there was a lot of administrating, not a lot of student interaction. But that wasn’t the case.

Newman: That’s true. And we were what would be called, I think, a fairly flat office. So that the assistant dean who preceded me was Chuck Quinn (1924-2011). And he had Bob Miller working for him. And Bob went on to become the secretary of the academic staff. Not the first one, I don’t think. Anyway, I don’t have that in my head this minute. Maybe he was. Might have been. Anyway, and Chuck and Bob Miller saw students, and I saw students. But I didn’t have, it’s foggy in my mind. We went to a system in the unit. And I can’t remember if it was pre- or post-merger, where certain parts of the alphabet were assigned. But I certainly saw students the whole time. And when I worked at SOAR, I saw students. But I had more supervisory responsibilities when I was the assistant dean for staff. And I worked very, very, very hard at that. And I also, in the role of assistant dean, got very, very caught up with quality improvement. And that’s part of the space in which I got to understand academic staff sort of beyond the office. Because some of the same people I’d run into at SOAR were very much involved with the quality improvement work.

And there was a lot of back and forth as to whether or not there was any point in letting anybody leave her desk to go and learn how to do things more effectively. I mean, I would take time to go and do the training. And then I remember Hank Lufler saying he didn’t see what the point was because then I wasn’t sitting at my desk. But that wasn’t directed at me specifically. I think that’s been, maybe not now, but at that point in the university’s growth, there was a fair amount of skepticism about professional development, I think is what we would understand it. And I think that’s a lot of the way the academic staff over time has educated the campus. 00:36:00

And now I’m really thinking more from inside governance that university campuses cannot be run by faculty. It can’t happen. Faculty do what they do, and I fervently believe in shared governance. But so much of the work, including academic research kinds of work, is done by academic staff. And has to be, going back to what I was saying about my realization in the history department that the faculty weren’t there. Sometimes they were. But even when they were, they might still be in Africa. You can’t run UW-Madison when you’re actually in Tanzania, doesn’t work.

Reeves: So then is it at this point, so these early years at the School of Ed, I mean, you just alluded to it if not flat out said it that you became more at least understanding of what academic staff did.

Newman: And what happened, very specifically, and this would have been after the merger, because I remember the office I was sitting in, so I wasn’t the assistant dean anymore. And Char Tortorice called and said, “So, you want to be on MASA (Madison Academic Staff Association)?” She might even have said do you want to be the head of MASA. I’m not positive. Or if it wasn’t her, it was Rick Daluge. But anyway, whoever it was, called and I thought, well, sure. I mean, who wouldn’t?

So through them, and there had been activities that I went to that were sponsored by MASA. And what I understood through MASA was that academic staff was organizing in order to get ourselves voices in critical decisions affecting the university. So the assembly was coming into existence. And I don’t have the dates on that. And the issues were common across campus. Having to do, I think quite naturally I was more interested in getting departmental representation for instructional and research academic staff people since the work of the institution is research and instruction. And I don’t think I’ve ever shifted from that. And I have a very, very passionate commitment 00:39:00 to faculty as the core and the faculty as a regenerating resource. So that lots and lots of my conversations with undergraduates would have to do with going to grad school. And when I was in history, I used to tell them not to do it. And then one or two would come back when they were seniors and say, “Please!” And then I thought Linda, you’re being way too heavy-handed. I came to telling people never take my advice unless you want to, but I give it very strongly. But at that point, I hadn’t quite said that. But most people earning bachelor’s degrees have had enough. And it equips you to do anything you want to do. And I still believe that. I think the whole STEM thing is a little misguided, but that’s a different story.

So that the enterprise of creating and disseminating knowledge was never done alone by the faculty. And partly because from MASA I went on to ASEC [Academic Staff Executive Committee], went on to be chair of ASEC. And that group of people with whom I served on ASEC were very, very interested in the professorial titles for academic staff. And it was a fit for me. Because while I was and remain skeptical about how much the world does or doesn’t understand distinctions among titles, depending on, you know, how much towards the center or on the periphery you are, for a person to earn a PhD wherever he or she did, and come and do that kind of work here, but not be tenure track, should have no less investment in the institution. I mean, if we were parsing it, they should have more. But I mean, either side of that’s absurd.

And the people that the faculty train are not all going to be tenure-track faculty, if you just look at the numbers. But Research I universities, or Research II, because I don’t know what the difference would be, must have staff beyond the tenure-track faculty. And we do. So then it’s a question of are we equals? Well, that’s a vexed question. But do we have institutional support for governance? And the answer very clearly is yes. And we have it in the assembly and we have it in the faculty senate and we have it in the Associated Students of Madison.

And one of the things that characterizes citizens at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and I would assume most post-secondary institutions, is everybody can talk now. 00:42:00 I exaggerate. And my respect for people who do technology is infinite. And their patience with those who don’t have happy relationships with the technology, their patience is incredible. The number of people who sat very quietly while I just (makes explosive noise). And then when I calmed down, we could resolve the problem. So they don’t talk so much.

And it’s so much fun to articulate what’s important in terms of the wellbeing of the people doing the enterprise, doing the work here. And in terms of their sense of their own worth. I mean, that’s really where my passion is for, and I would talk to people about dividing the whole university into As and Bs. And on day one, the As would tell the Bs they were doing great work. And the next day, the Bs would say the same to the As and it makes a difference. So, maybe you want to ask me something. (laughs)

Reeves: So, so we’re talking about academic staff, about your learning about academic staff. So did you choose to become president of MASA when either Char [Tortorice] or Rick [Daluge] asked you to?

Newman: Yeah.

Reeves: And that was after [19]91 when you became senior service, so [19]91 is when the, you’ve been calling it the merger.

Newman: Right.

Reeves: Okay.

Newman: Yes. It was. And that probably meant that I had more freedom to be out of the office than I would have been if we hadn’t merged. I’d never thought of that before.

Reeves: Do you recall, I think you alluded to it if not flat out said it. But as you became head of MASA, what were your interests in leading it, and did they dovetail with what MASA’s general interests were in the academic staff issues?

Newman: Right. Yes. As I remember, we were very interested in having governance structures. So I don’t remember where we were in the process of the assembly, but I think the assembly was already in place. Because I went from MASA to ASEC. And there wouldn’t have been any ASEC except when there was an assembly. 00:45:00 And where I was, I mean, I worked a lot on the professional titles. That to some degree belonged to Wilt Sanders and the guy in ag, who was just at a, he was part of, this guy whose name I’m not remembering, was part of a panel that Joe Elder was on at the institute. But I’m not remembering.

Reeves: This is Stefan Hagan?

Newman: Yeah, Bill. Bill was also very, very interested in the professorial titles. And I was very supportive, because I felt as if I understood it well, having started in the departments. And that’s one of my biases is that I feel as if you don’t understand the university as well if you weren’t grounded in a department. It’s probably fair to say you understand it differently. And I remember being at the College of Engineering at a CASI meeting. I was very, very excited with the development of the CASIs. And they seemed to me to represent one of the really fundamental accomplishments of academic staff governance. But one of my colleagues whom I knew well from SOAR, we were talking about professorial titles. And he was saying in a kind of—I don’t mean this to sound disrespectful, it may be a little bit extra benevolent tone that I should have, Linda Newman should of course have a professorial title.

Well, that was perfectly ridiculous. Of course I shouldn’t have a professorial title. Well, that was perfectly ridiculous. Of course I shouldn’t have a professorial title. I did not finish my dissertation. I’ve never been involved in research. So part of what I get interested in is, it’s a complex system here. All of them are, I’m sure. But this is the one I’ve lived in for years and years and years. And no it’s not accurate to say that an administrative academic staff person should have a professorial title. No, she shouldn’t. And it isn’t either true that all research and all instructional. But I think the place that you could put the two together would be with the indefinite appointments. I mean, the indefinite appointment is said to be analogous to tenure, and I think it is. But it’s analogous not because of the length of the appointment, but because of the qualifications in order to get that affirmation. It’s never been a job security issue. People talk about it that way, it annoys me. It has to do with recognizing the accomplishments in the framework of what it takes to do research and teaching and not necessarily both. Because we have tenured faculty who don’t do much teaching because of the nature of their research. Fine. I mean, those are reasonable decisions.

And I was very ferocious 00:48:00 and I think contextually with my colleagues with instructional academic staff, never mind the titles, being involved in curricular decisions within the departments. It was perfectly ridiculous for them not to. And not graduate students. I mean, graduate students are apprentices. Academic staff may have been graduate students. And I also get very worked up about terminal degrees. I think that’s what you need in order to qualify for these kinds of titles. There’s other kinds of titles.

And what I got teased for somewhat by Barry Robinson (d. 2005) and Wilt Sanders was I was always talking about communication. Always. And no matter how often we said communication was critical, I said it again. And I’m very fiercely opposed to the notion that if you put it on the web, you have communicated. No you haven’t. Many people, myself included, don’t necessarily like to read stuff on the web. Stuff on the web ages out. And you don’t necessarily have staff inclination to correct it. And when you want participation, it makes no sense to set up barriers. So if somebody calls and says, “I need this piece of information,” you want to do something with them verbally. Send them something through all the ways we can send things and refer them to the web, of course. But what I would run into at times in governance was somebody who said, we don’t need to go across campus and talk to people.

I also was doing, facilitating surveys and would have people come and talk about how they would like to see the campus change. But I didn’t have the kind of support from the secretary of the academic staff at that point to translate all that into documents that we could send out. So we kind of lost it. Well, we’ve had very different secretaries of the academic staff since then. And the one I worked with was Colleen McCabe, and I liked her enormously. But she had a very this is what we do and we don’t necessarily expand. And I’m very expansive. The follow-through maybe not so much. But particularly people talking to, not to themselves, to each other. And we had meetings to look at how things might be done better. But we didn’t know what to do with the data that we collected. So.

Reeves: One or two more things this time. So you’ve talked about SOAR a lot and I want to make sure we, at least in this session, you get to say what you did if it were indeed different 00:51:00 at SOAR when you were at School of Ed as opposed to SOAR when you worked for the history department.

Newman: Okay. The SOAR itself became, through Donna Shalala’s (b. 1941) efforts, a two-day experience much more campuswide in its staffing. And we got registration at SOAR. In the School of Ed when I worked at SOAR and I kept it independent of my title, I hired the advisors to work at SOAR. I led that team, so to speak. And we hired students. And that was some of my most intense work with students. The people that I hired to work with me at SOAR, I would work SOAR, but some of my fellow advisors would work at SOAR also for the School of Ed. And also, I’m trying to think who had the leadership of it. I think it would have been Letters & Science initially. We developed a SOAR team, I think it would have been Dick [Richard] Barrows from agriculture for a while was sort of heading that up, where we met all year-round in order to think about how most effectively to get the information that a student needed to SOAR those two days that he or she was at SOAR. And we worked very hard to maximize the academic benefits to the incoming freshmen. And over the years, our concern with and care for the parents increased across time. Because parents, I think, became more engaged in our awareness that we couldn’t just, you know, wish we could stick them in a closet and lock the door. That was not a healthy response to their desire to be engaged with what the student was enrolling in.

And I did a lot of work with welcoming the whole group on the first day of SOAR. I did a lot of communication work at SOAR and supervised everybody who does SOAR at the School of Ed. And to this day, that’s a place where I can get a little, because I’m in touch with the School of Ed staff and the evolution of the SOAR program now that I’m retired and not able to make it all happen. They’re doing fine. But that communication piece is so incredibly important. And for students, what I was always, but I feel the same way about staff, we need to assure each other that 00:54:00 we’re doing fine. And that our sense of how things might be better needs to be nourished. In terms of a student, he or she needs to be encouraged to take the courses that are going to be the most interesting. To step away if things aren’t working, with the notion that they’ll come back. But it’s sort of like I want to (sighs) I want to bring more air into the conversation. I want to bring spaciousness. I want to bring a pause. Because if you don’t draw back, and you’ve done all these things in high school and you’ve taken all these AP credits and your mom and your grandpa think you’re going to do this, it’s very hard to figure out how to make the space to say, I really might like to be a computer engineer. I know they want me to come back to the farm. Whatever it is.

And I don’t have the words for it this minute, but there’s an analog in terms of how we support ourselves as staff, too. And the campus is, this is very much flowing over in town 00:55:17 but the campus is horrendous in its negligence around what it takes to supervise. Just horrendous. And the pain. I mean, because all we’ve had are budget cuts. So we need to learn how to be creative around that and careful, which is nothing to do with the outcome. You know, your kids are at such a great age for what’s happening right here and how might we change that just a little which says nothing about what’s going to happen in high school, nothing. Well, we have that kind of freedom here, too. And if we don’t have any money, how about if we talk to each other a little more? Not about money, which isn’t asked, that question.

Reeves: It’s all about money. Well, so I think I want to wrap up today with sort of looking at this chronologically. And I know some of your discussions have moved into the present day.

Newman: Right.

Reeves: But let’s look at this as your time in the history department and then your early time at the ed department.

Newman: Right.

Reeves: And maybe before giving you space for final comments, maybe what sort of memorable experiences stand out from those years?

Newman: Wow.

Reeves: Big question, I know.

Newman: Oh, it’s a wonderful question. The key experiences 00:57:00 of those years were student-faculty connections. And I worked across the hall from George Mosse. And some of my, some of the highlights are undergraduates of mine whom he worked with and who really caught on with him. But also relationships with faculty. I mean, I think my devotion to faculty comes from both places because the stature, the magnanimity, the attention to detail of among the faculty with whom I worked as just extraordinary. And what I developed, and I think it was in those times, particularly after I started at the School of Ed early on, was realizing that if a faculty person had a student here, a child, it was the most lovely way to talk to them, to listen to the person. And I loved, loved working in the history department with the faculty in terms of what courses they were going to offer. And the undergraduate seminars were what I loved, because they got to teach something small. And maybe related to their research, maybe not. But it was going to be a different kind of relationship between that faculty person and the students in the seminar.

But most of all what I wanted was for the students to find that professor who was just going to change everything for them. And they do, really, really often. And sort of on the other side of that, and more in the era of email, to try to get through to students that you don’t send an email to a faculty person to say please let me in your course because I like the time it meets. (sighs)

And some of the wonderful conversations would come when a student was really thinking about independent study. Again, not because I need three more credits, but had kind of done everything he could think of to do in a subject area. And then we would talk about how you might go and talk to a professor whom you’ve had a course with to see if you could do an independent study to follow up on what you’re beginning to be really excited about.

And I also loved getting through to students that they could change the trajectory. I would say to them, “Advisors really have a lot of magic around the calendar. So if you’re coming up on a deadline to drop, and you really need some data 01:00:00 you’re not going to get until after the deadline, we can work with that. I’ll put it in the notes that we said if the grade comes back in Chem 103 where you’re just not going to do well enough and it’s going to absorb so much of the time between now and your finals that you really want to drop it, we can drop it after the deadline. But that’s because you came now and we’re having the conversation. And you’re recognizing that you may or may not be able to master the material.”

And I would also encourage my students early on in the semester to drop if things weren’t working. And that was very hard for them to kind of get that that really would just vanish and then they’d have more time. But they also often felt, and their parents felt, that doing more each semester would get them to the end point quicker. So, I would talk to them about having to go to the hospital because they were so exhausted and not finish the semester at all. So, think about that.

Reeves: Any final thoughts today? Just in general? Anything that—and this is broad again. But it doesn’t, time-specific. Anything you feel like you want to get on the record now in case we don’t when we meet again.

Newman: Yes. As a friend reminded me recently, I am a trained historian. And what I truly love and have loved from the time as far as I knew all there was was humanities building and the historical society, is the university’s respect for its own history. And not so much when he was doing archives, but Frank Cook became a very good friend of mine. And studying history and working with the historians here has been a privilege like nothing else. Obviously not uniformly.

And Maury [Maurice] Meisner (1931-2012), who taught Chinese history here, when he would turn in his slips for his course, because it was all done on paper, a line across the top would be, “The dean has once again refused my suggestion that we just don’t have next semester. In light of which fact this is what I’m going to teach next semester.”

Reeves: Well, Linda, I want to thank you very much for agreeing to come here and meet and talk with me today. I appreciate it. So, this concludes the interview with Linda Newman.

End session 1.


24 April 2015

Reeves: Okay, today is April 24th, 2015. This is the second interview with Linda Newman. (coughs) Excuse me. My name is Troy Reeves with the UW Madison Oral History Program. Linda, for sound quality purposes, could you say your name and then spell your last name?

Newman: Yes. This is Linda Newman. And my last name is spelled N-E-W-M-A-N.

Reeves: Thank you. I think we’re going to be fine. I just want to—

Newman: You bet.

Reeves: Okay. As I mentioned before I turned the recorder on, we’re really interested in talking to you about your early years on campus.

Newman: Right.

Reeves: And if I remember right, you started here as a graduate student in the early [19]60s?

Newman: Nineteen sixty-two is when I came here.

Reeves: Okay, 1962. So if you wouldn’t mind starting by answering the question why UW and why 1962?

Newman: Okay. Of course. In 1962 I graduated from Pembroke College in Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. And that spring, Rosemary Pierrel (d. 2004), who was the new dean of Pembroke College called a group of us together to tell us that if any of the graduating class of [19]62 were to go on to graduate school—maybe it was earlier than the spring, but anyway, maybe fall of [19]61—we would be the ones to go. Nobody, I mean, this was the [19]60s. Nobody had suggested to me that I might go to grad school. What I was realizing, I did an undergrad major in English literature at Brown University, was I didn’t know anything. So it was a very wonderful idea to go to grad school. Talking to classmates, women classmates since then but also in my experience working on this campus, there was a fair amount of gender bias as to who got advanced degrees in those days. Not women. But she was very encouraging and she was a dean.

And I wanted to study history. So, I thought about studying English literature. But my mother—who was a scholar in her own right, finished her bachelor’s and that was it—said, “No, no, no. You need to study history.” So, well, okay.

So, I applied to Brown and to Yale and to Wisconsin. And I got in here. So, it was a huge turning point but somewhat, you know, when you ask three may I come and one says yes.

So, we drove across country, and I moved in with a new graduate student, Mary Van Wilkins, from North Carolina who was studying with [Irvin G.] Wyllie (1920-1974). And she was friends with my boyfriend. He knew her from Unitarian summer camp.

So as I recall, I went up to Bascom Hall as bravely as I could manage. And went into the history office, which was overseen I’m pretty sure even then by Mrs. Dick. And Merrill Jensen (1905-1980) was the chair. And I went into Merrill Jensen’s office and he was 00:03:00 an imposing figure of a man then. And he said to me as I recall, “So, are you colonial or revolutionary?”

And I said, kind of weakly, “Colonial.”

“Well, then you go down the hall and talk to David Lovejoy.”

So I did. And as it turned out, David Lovejoy had gone to grad school, I believe, I think he went to Bowdoin in Maine, went into the army, came back and did his graduate work at Brown with Ed[mund Sears] Morgan (1916-2013), as Lovejoy might refer to him. I certainly wouldn’t have. So we had that in common. And we also had, as it turned out, a tremendous amount in common. We became enormous friends.

And I was admitted to the PhD in US history at Wisconsin without a history major. But I had, thankfully, in retrospect, taken an amazingly powerful US history course from James Blaine Hedges (1891-1965) at Brown, who was very near and dear to David. And had a great deal to say about the Articles of Confederation and Merrill Jensen, which became meaningful to me as I—what I did is I started here. I was in Lovejoy’s graduate seminar, but I took a fair number, thank goodness, of undergraduate history courses, since I didn’t know a whole lot of US history. I don’t think I knew to realize how little world history I knew because there was the US, right? So I did lectures, at least two if not three lecture courses with Merrill Jensen in classrooms in Bascom. We had, and I’m not going to have the chronology, I was a grad student from [19]62 maybe through [19]68. And I worked part of that time, which I’ll talk about, in the department. I married a fellow graduate student. We have a son. And he was born in [19]67, so I’m not quite sure how all of the chronology goes.

But I studied, I worked consistently with Lovejoy. Worked on a master’s thesis, finished a master’s thesis the year that Lovejoy was on leave and James Morton Smith (1919-2012) was here and served as my thesis advisor. And my thesis committee, as I remember, was James Morton Smith and Merle Curti (1897-1996) and I’m not sure who the other member was. And Smith was very clear in saying to me, “Yes, this is a good piece of work. Our chief task here is to say yes, we think you can go on and do the PhD. And we do.” And so I was encouraged at that point. I did not finish. But that’s a later decision.

We had William R. Taylor (1922-2014) I think had come and was here before he went on to Stony Brook in New York. And he was doing Curti’s task. So doing history of American thought, more or less. Those were the books that Curti 00:06:00 had written some of them. And let’s see. I’ll kind of sort through. Cronon, David Cronon (1924-2006), who went on to become the dean of Letters & Science, taught recent US history. So I know I did that course. And then because I was a graduate student in US history, I also was a research assistant. So I worked for maybe one year I think it might have been a year, I worked for the history of Wisconsin project, which was housed in the state historical society. And when you came to study history at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, it turned out that you also came to be what I might call an acolyte in the historical society because there’s not institution like it anywhere. And I knew, as I look back now, I knew that the city of Madison consisted of Broom Street, where I had an apartment, walked from there to the top of Bascom. It was in those days 30 below on the thermometer. Friends who’d come here from Texas to go to grad school and had a car, you took your battery out of the car at night and at the top of the hill, of course, you got to sit and listen to Merrill Jensen, so what more could a person want, really?

Let’s see. So I worked for Larry Larson, who worked in the history of Wisconsin project along with Charles Glob and with Alice Smith. But I worked, my employer was Larry Larson. And the dating for my time in graduate school goes something like this. In the fall of [19]62, we had the Cuban Missile Crisis, as I remember. So that was an era when you were working on your paper for your graduate seminar saying to each other, “And we’re doing this because? I mean, the world’s ending. How much difference is this going to make?” But we managed to persist. And lo and behold, here in 2015, the world is still with us, thank God.

Let’s see. Who else would I have studied with? I worked for Leon Litwack (1929-2021) in the historical, I mean, I was doing research on his behalf looking at I think Black lives in the United States post-Civil War. I think that’s the book he was writing, on which I was doing some of the research while I was a graduate student. I taught for Larry [Laurence] Veysey (1932-2004). And Larry might have taken Taylor’s job and would have held the American thought/American culture position before [Paul] Boyer (1935-2012) came. Because Boyer, I don’t think Boyer came until after I was back in the department as the undergraduate advisor. 00:09:00 And I liked Taylor tremendously. I liked his course very much. Wasn’t so crazy about Cronon.

And then my friends were people who were getting like a PhD from Cronon or from Wyllie. We were a pretty tightknit group. And I married one of Jensen’s students. Which makes Jensen more of a, he and his wife are extremely kind. As was David Lovejoy and his wife Beth. And his daughter was a Unitarian and therefore friends with, I think, friends with my boyfriend from Brown who did not go on to grad school. Oh, yeah, he did. He went on and got an MFA, but that’s a whole other story.

So I’m just trying to think what else might be of interest. I was working in the historical society when Kennedy was assassinated. And I remember Larry Larson coming out of the office. They were up on the third floor over in a wing with all of the faculty carrels. And Larry Larson walking out of an office and saying to me, “They shot the president.”

And I said to him, “The president of what?” Then I just remember being glued to the television set to watch everything that we all watched in the aftermath of Kennedy’s assassination.

And I was a TA for, wow, I’m not going to remember this guy’s name at the moment. It was Glad, it was Paul Glad (1926-2018). I was a TA for Paul Glad. And he was teaching the second half of the US survey. I don’t think I taught for him for the first half. Maybe it was the first half. I was teaching in the fall of [19]66 because I was pregnant. And my baby didn’t come until after the end of the semester. And my undergrads were telling me, “Oh, Mrs. Bowling, we really wanted you to have this baby before we had to take the final.” (Reeves laughs)

And one of my challenges then in teaching were my students who would, I mean, not many of them, but one or two, who came after me with the notion that if I gave them a good grade, they wouldn’t have to get drafted. And I was very clear that one grade was not going to make the GPA shift enough. And that I wasn’t in the habit of giving grades out. And I remember I think saying, and thinking this was a very wise thing to say, that if one gave grades based on your reasoning before you took the course, then we’d have a different kind of experience while everybody trotted forward to tell me why they in particular needed an A.

But. Let’s see. Possibly 00:12:00 now the calendar is a little fuzzy for me. But my then-husband who was getting his PhD with Jensen did his, we had special fields and minors as part of our graduate degrees. And Kenneth [Bowling] did his minor or special field in wildlife ecology. Which came back to me today walking in—I’m probably going to start to cry—and seeing [Robert] McCabe’s (1914-1995) book about Aldo Leopold in a display right when you came into this library, because yesterday was Earth Day. And we were all very involved with the first Earth Day. Which may have been, by then I may have been working as the advisor in the history department. That’s what I’m not remembering, sort of where the shift came. Let’s see.

And Paul Glad was a wonderful historian. And somewhere along the line, the department moved down into the humanities/Mosse building. One of the people I worked with as a graduate student was William Appleman Williams (1921-1990). And he was extraordinary. And I to some degree credit him with my decision to apply to Wisconsin. My parents had very good friends then living—I grew up in Connecticut—and my parents had very good friends living I think in Norwalk. A couple. And we were visiting them after Christmas at some point during my undergraduate years. And they hadn’t opened their Christmas presents yet, which I found inconceivable. I mean, it was after December 25th, what was their problem? But one of the presents they had opened was a book by William Appleman Williams. And we were all, my parents and they were very leftwing people. And I started to read, I cannot remember the name. I think it was a general history that Williams wrote. But I started to read it and it was just glorious. I mean, I didn’t have much historical perspective, but I loved the way he wrote. So I am positive that’s why I applied to come to Wisconsin. He was a diplomatic historian. I didn’t know from those kinds of categories. So when Jensen said “colonial or revolutionary,” I’m positive colonial was the right choice. But perhaps if I had known that Williams taught diplomatic history and if I’d had the book in my mind, I might have said diplomatic, which would have been a mistake.

The reason that colonial history was correct for me is that I turn out to be, looking back, a student of religion. So that I looked at, in my master’s thesis, I looked at not precisely religion—yeah it is, yeah it is. I’m getting confused between what I did with my master’s 00:15:00 and what I did with my dissertation research. I studied the Great Awakening in Connecticut and looked at its impact on the relationship between church and state because Connecticut had a state, the state lower-case S, established the congregational church. And what that meant was that you were paying taxes to the congregational church. And there were people writing into Hartford to complain about that. And my mother, God bless her, went and copied out a lot of those letters which I used, petitions, I used as part of my master’s thesis along with the writings of Elisha Williams (1694-1755). And in the course of researching the master’s thesis was able to get a small glimpse of what an extraordinary institution the state historical society is. They had the largest collection of printed materials about United States history anywhere in the world, and I imagine they still do. So they were wonderfully helpful, old, as I knew it then before I started studying theology after I retired, histories of Connecticut and histories of the colonies that were very, very helpful to me in putting together the thesis that I did write.

So I’m not sure. I mean, the other thing that I thought about, I’m trying to think. We hired somebody from Vanderbilt, I’m now mixing up, this would have been when I was the undergrad advisor. Part of what happened, which Troy reminded me of, was while I was here, was the Vietnam War. And we were, I was part of demonstrations up and down State Street to the Capitol to try to persuade the United States to withdraw. And it felt as if we made that decision with Johnson. I don’t know, I haven’t particularly studied it since. What I do remember when I was the undergrad advisor, part of my responsibility in that role was distributing course evaluations. And I was distributing the course evaluation, this is what I’m stuck now with who this guy was, he preceded Boyer in the sort of Curti, but it wasn’t Taylor, I don’t think it was Veysey. I think he may have left here and gone to Vanderbilt. In any case, he was lecturing on the era when there were lots and lots of protests. 00:18:00 And he, it was the humanities building and he was saying to his students, “There are National Guard soldiers outside this building”. And then he paused and he looked at them and he said, “If you can believe that.” And I thought, whoa! That’s not the way I would have taught that particular bit of history, but I’ll just keep distributing the evaluations. It just depends on where you’re sitting when these things happen.

I feel as if I was conscious as a grad student of what, the historical society was pretty amazing. I certainly loved Bascom Hall. I don’t feel particularly one way or the other now that it’s become administrative 00:18:49 whether that’s wonderful or just what it is. But also that it was an incredible history department. And the other graduate students partly I was saying before we started recording, Stanley Kutler (1934-2015) who taught constitutional law passed away the first part of April here. And he was a new professor when I came as a grad student. The kind of energy—that’s the only way I can describe it—among the graduate students, mostly I knew the US graduate students, was wonderful. And certainly I have some friends who’ve gone on and had a career and been successful. And in my advising work bumped into recently in the last two or three years, bumped into a student who had studied with Dick Kohn 19:38 who had a career at the University of North Carolina. And this person was his undergrad student. And then was here as a grad student but also working as an advisor. So that was just a fun encounter.

So is there something you can think of to ask me?

Reeves: Sure. I have quite a few things I think I can ask you.

Newman: Okay.

Reeves: I want to back all the way up to the beginning and ask if you’ve reflected upon how you gained an interest in or a love of history.

Newman: Oh. Well, I think it goes back to my parents. My parents were, I have come to understand, intellectuals. So they read a tremendous amount and they had opinions forever, as did their friends. And most of them would at that time have described themselves as communists. So there was in our family, particularly my mother, but my dad, too, really, a sense that you don’t understand anything except historically. 00:21:00 And it’s been something of a shock to me as I’ve grown up that there are a whole lot of people whose perspective is ahistorical. My mother had gone to Smith and actually studied with Merle Curti and got revolutionized, so to speak, by his lecturing on the Scottsboro Boys (1931), I probably should, young men, who were falsely accused of rape. And in response to that, when my mother graduated from Smith in 1935, she went to the Soviet Union. Coming back from the Soviet Union, she went to New York City and worked for a taxi company that went on strike. And that’s where she met my dad, who I think would have come back from having fought in Spain, against Franco. So that growing up, I went out and campaigned. I think I was, what, seven years old, for Henry Wallace (1888-1965) for president. And lots and lots of our friends came and talked politics. And in some ways, my reaction to that piece of it because when you’re, my experience with my parents being communist is you always know who’s right and who’s wrong. And I hate that. And it took me a long time to sort of come back around to being as passionately, as passionate about racial and social and economic justice as I am now. I’m ferocious about that. But I’m very, very, very skeptical about labeling anybody as right or wrong. We stopped talking to my best friend’s family when the Soviet Union went into Hungary. And never made any sense to me then. It doesn’t now.

And it was my mother who really said, “No, you can’t study English literature. You have to study history.” And fortunately for me, when I was studying English literature at Brown, and then I did American lit here as my minor in the history department, we studied literature very much contextually. So it wasn’t so much of the new criticism. I bumped into that, where you’re supposed to just look at the poem and it was supposed to tell you stuff.

The other piece of my PhD was a special field. And for that I cobbled together medieval history. So I studied with David Herlihy (1930-1991) and I studied with Gaines Post (1902-1987). And through them I began to get this tiny inkling that the United States wasn’t all there was of human history, thankfully. I mean, thankfully I began to realize that. And through them, I heard about [Susan] Reynolds (1929-2021), who had been a very renowned medieval historian. And we had, I’ve also been trying to remember who this guy was. We had a visiting scholar 00:24:00 when I was a graduate student who was a Southerner with a huge reputation. I took the Civil War course with Richard Current (1912-2012). So he was a pretty substantial—I don’t think we had any bad historians here—Current was a historian of the Civil War and was himself from North Carolina, as was my roommate who was studying with, I can’t remember Wyllie’s first name, and he was one of the people who put UW Parkside together. So he was one of those faculty people who sort of drifts off into administration or decides to go into administration which was what Dave Cronon did, also. But I can’t remember the name of this very renowned Southern historian with whom I studied, I took a Civil War course. And, I mean, there’s another one, there’s a very famous Civil War historian who I didn’t study with but I can’t remember who he was, and lived in Shorewood. So you began to get a sense of lives beyond the campus. So, do you have another question?

Reeves: Mm hmm. So, and this again goes back, because I—one should never assume, but I assumed anyway—that you grew up in Connecticut, you grew up in New England—

Newman: Yes.

Reeves: –that that might also be a part of your interest in history.

Newman: Oh, absolutely. And thank you. I mean, very, very much so. And much more, again, I took it for granted. So in my mom’s going to Smith and her—it’s wonderful to realize how powerfully, this is her, I miss her. She had studied with a sociologist at Smith who studied the Grimke sisters. And then when Gerda Lerner (1920-2013) came on staff and wrote about the Grimkes, my mother was a little annoyed that she didn’t give more credit to those professors from Smith. But I also went, she took me to Amherst, which made a huge impression, and to Emily Dickinson’s (1830-1886) house. So, my mom and I both loved literature as well as history.

And New Haven. It’s not chicken and egg. It’s just coming into my head that way. That having decided to study the Great Awakening—and this is the first time I’m really realizing how much that’s my home country—and Rhode Island. I mean, when you graduate from Brown University to this day, the seniors process and go sit in Roger Williams’ (c. 1603-1683) church. There’s only room for us. So, 53 years later, that’s still us. But we sat in the church because it wasn’t big enough for anybody else. But Rhode Island’s history is so much the story of 00:27:00 how I first knew the story of the origins of the US. That the Puritans got mad. Some of them went to Holland and then they came here. And those who couldn’t get along in Boston started Rhode Island. And Connecticut was more of, I think, more of a business, that sounds right, mercantile decision. I think they just moved down the river and made Connecticut and Yale so that they would have more opportunities.

And what I am remembering, which is more about how do you, how do you do the thing you love? I studied the history of New England without sort of knowing it. My friend Suzanne Desan who teaches French history, her dad was Belgian and taught in D.C. And she fell in love with France. So she figured okay, so she’s a historian of France. That worked. Wow. Yeah.

And my grandfather, my grandmother on my mother’s side traces herself back to the Mayflower, which I knew all the time I was growing up. And my grandfather’s, her husband’s family back to the Dutch in New York, and in my study of history and growing up, I’ve become tremendously critical of imperialism and colonialism. And again, only this minute thinking about, I suppose there’s, I’m not sure—well, you can cast, certainly cast the arrival of the white man in New England as imperial/colonial vis-á-vis the indigenous people.

And we had a tremendous indigenous awareness somewhat unconsciously growing up, just with place names. But again, now that Troy has asked me, we spent huge amounts of our time as kids at the Peabody Museum. So yes, there were dinosaurs. But there also were American Indian displays. And, for as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to understand a place sort of from the geological formation to the present moment, which takes me right back downstairs to Aldo Leopold and Bob McCabe understanding the ecology. I mean, I think ecology was huge for me. And again sitting here, it folds into history in ways that I have never thought about before.


So yeah, I’ve been doing what I was set down here to do, for heaven’s sakes, more than I knew. And very much in my mother’s footsteps. I mean, she should have been an historian. She was a medical secretary. That was how she earned a living. And she was a passionate believer in going away to school and working for a living.

And my dad worked for a living until he got fired because he would argue with them about this, that, or the other thing. But I do remember he made a store downtown in New Haven take Little Black Sambo out of the window. So I mean, I’m proud of them for lots of reasons. But I hadn’t quite realized how much my career grows out of the way I was raised. It makes sense, but I hadn’t realized it. So thanks for the question.

Reeves: Mm hmm. So you mentioned ecology and you mentioned your husband at the time.

Newman: Right.

Reeves: And his interest in wildlife ecology. Was your interest in ecology pre-him? Or was that a link that came—

Newman: Well, what happened for us as a family, because my son was born, is that we bumped into John Steinhart (1929-2003) and the beginnings of the Institute for Environmental Studies. And John Steinhart and his wife Carol put together what we called the commune. I’m not sure that’s quite what it was. So a group of us, John came before he moved his family, as I understand it, he had a Ford grant and—Bryson, Reid Bryson (1920-2008). There always seemed to be, so I sort of lived inside the creation of IES. And there seemed to be a little bit of tension as to whether it was Bryson or Steinhart, and I’m definitely in the Steinhart school. I never examined it objectively. But Kenneth, my former husband and I, joined with John and Carol Steinhart and some students working in wildlife ecology to create a communal living arrangement first in Middleton and then in University Heights. So it was a two-year communal living. And Steinharts had three kids and we had one. And those were the children. And they were creating IES 101. They had a house on Dayton Street, just east of Park, that was the IES house. And a lot of them and I worked in 101, IES 101. I worked in it one summer and Dan Kozlowski was teaching it. He was in ornithology. And we taught 101 and took everybody out to the Kickapoo River and took everybody up to the Apostle Islands. 00:33:00 So I was learning ecology collaboratively with Ken who was making wildlife ecology his minor. And he’s a practicing historian yet today with First Federal Congress Research Project. That’s not all of it. And there’s a piece of that that sits in the history department in the Mosse building which [Gaspare J.] Saladino (1936-2019) is a part of that and Rich Leffler is a part of that. And then Kenneth Bowling works out of DC, but comes here and teaches archival research and that kind of stuff. So I learned some of that partly reading Ken’s dissertation that he wrote for Jensen.

But also we did a lot of work with, or we collaborated with the people doing IES. Susan Flader was part of that. She wrote on Leopold and went off to teach at the University of Missouri. And we also were in touch with the Leopold kids. I’m not necessarily going to remember. One of the Leopolds was then administering the arboretum. But we knew a daughter. And I just remember being part of that group of people who were more science-based grad students on the campus than I was. So, yeah. Ecology became a pretty big deal.

And Harriet Irwin was part of all that. She was the daughter of a plant pathologist, I think, here. But those were all the people who were caught up in the creation of IES. And then teaching the introductory course. And then when I was an undergrad advisor and working the School of Ed, I was sending my kids to take those courses. My students.

Reeves: So you talked about, I think you said apartment on Broom Street.

Newman: Right.

Reeves: You talked about Bascom Hall.

Newman: Right.

Reeves: Historical society.

Newman: Right.

Reeves: Where else? What other places on campus did you become familiar with?

Newman: I worked, now we’re getting over into when I was employed. I worked for a while through knowing Steinhart. He was in the political science department. He had been a science advisor in the White House. And then IES was the Institute for Environmental Studies before it became the Nelson Institute. So I worked for the Marine Studies Center under Bob [Robert] Ragotzkie (1924-2021) 00:36:00 because Steinhart knew that job was open. And I think I did that as an LTE. But that meant that I was in space sciences and engineering. So I worked there for a while and got to know, made friends with Charlotte Stein who went on then to be in limnology. So I knew those buildings. And then when you did your research in the historical society, you got to know the Memorial Union really well. So the Memorial Union, I have ever been a let’s have coffee somewhere where we usually have coffee. So they didn’t have any Peet’s. So then I would have been mostly a cafeteria coffee drinker, as I recall. But you just would, you’d be working on your research in the historical society. Then you’d go over there and have coffee. And then, I would.

And then teaching, by the time I was a TA we must have been, yeah, we were in humanities. Because one of the vivid, vivid memories of being a TA, which I might have talked about last time, was being on the assignment committees. So you sat down on the bottom of all of those graduated lecture halls. And then the undergrads came pouring at you to get their rooms and classes. And then I would teach in the smaller rooms in humanities.

And I got to know Helen C. really well because I think, I mean, I’ve always been crazy about the English department. And I’m not positive if I was as acquainted, when I was doing my minor in American lit, I think I must have been taking classes in Helen C. White. I don’t think, I don’t think that building is—they were building, okay, they were building humanities, I think I said this last time, when I was pregnant. But I think humanities may be newer than Helen White. Anyway, so the English department is a home space for me across time. And then the house over on Dayton. And then I worked in humanities when I worked in the history department. I don’t think there’s any place else that was sort of familiar, particularly.

Reeves: Okay. So, Linda, you’ve mentioned a couple key moments in history, if you will. Cuban Missile Crisis, 00:39:00 Kennedy’s assassination. There are some key moments in our campus history during that time period. So I want to sort of through a little word association here.

Newman: Sure.

Reeves: And you shouldn’t ask a question you don’t know you know the answer to, but I’m going to ask it anyway. Were you involved in the teach-ins that happened in, I think it might have been [19]64-[19]65 related to Vietnam?

Newman: No. Insofar as I can remember, I was definitely not teaching them. The question I would have for myself, and I don’t know what the answer is, where I was, I don’t mean geographically. Because Williams would have been involved with those and at some point, but I think it was later, I became really good friends with [Harvey] Goldberg (1922-1987). But I don’t think I was then. So I remember demonstrating against the war. But, and I know that the teach-ins happened. But I don’t know that I was feeling connected enough to this being an undergraduate educational institution as distinct from a place where there were history majors. I think it was still a kind of segregated understanding.

Reeves: So how about the Dow riot then? October [19]67.

Newman: Wow. Wow. No, I think I was an observer, which doesn’t capture the emotion of it. I think I was very, very, very angry. And feeling betrayed by the institution. But more betrayed by the country to have been using napalm in Vietnam. And that, so that had to do with, as I recall, the recruiters being on campus to ask people to go over and interfere where we shouldn’t have been a presence anyway, as far as I felt. But I don’t think I was on the hill that day. And the images I think are images that I have from seeing them in the press, but not from having been there. Where I remember marching would have been up State Street to the Capitol. And I never went to see The War at Home (1979) because 00:42:00 I didn’t trust them. But apparently my son and I are in some of the footage of young mother and child out in opposition to the war.

What was very hard for me was the TA strike because I wasn’t a TA. I wasn’t quite sure where I belonged. But I was very much a union kid, so, you didn’t cross picket lines. But I remember struggling even then with how it was that if you were going on to become a professor, how you got to be in a union in opposition to the faculty. Which was the way that I understood it as it evolved into the TAA. I think it was very different from the way I understood it at first. And I remember one of the grad students telling me—this was definitely when I was the undergrad advisor—that I was part of management. And I guess I understand that now. It didn’t make any sense to me at all then. But, you know, you live and learn. Ideally.

Reeves: So where were you at just sort of in general in your life in the spring of 1970? That spring of 1970 was Kent State, was President Nixon’s making this secret war in Cambodia un-secret and lots of rioting on this campus.

Newman: (sighs) Boy. I might have been in Connecticut. Because it’s not, it’s not, again, it’s not in my—when was, when did the building blow up?

Reeves: Sterling Hall was August of 1970, so a few months after the April/May stuff that went on.

Newman: Okay. Okay. Okay.

Reeves: And the TA strike was sort of March/April.

Newman: Yeah, then I was here. I was here. I know I was really, really, I think we were living, I think Ken and I and Andy, our son, who was born in [19]67, were living in a duplex in the arboretum along Carver Street out of the East Marsh. So I think I was working on my dissertation, a mom, passionately against the war, passionately opposed to the Army Math Research Center. And I never have, in later years, when I got involved with first Checker Cab and then Union Cab, I was friends with the brother 00:45:00 of the guy who ran away. Not Bert [Dwight] (1951-2010), but I’m trying to think of their—

Reeves: The Armstrongs?

Newman: Yeah. I was friends with Karl[eton] Armstrong afterwards because Karl was at Checker and then Union Cab. And then I was friends with him when he ran the juice cart down on State Street. So my sympathies at the time were absolutely with the people who used the bomb. I don’t think it’s quite that clearcut now, meaning [Robert[ Fassnacht (1937-1970) having been killed seemed to me to be, if I would have been asked at the time, I might have said collateral damage. I wouldn’t say that now. I mean, I don’t think that—well, I suppose the simplest way to say it is I have evolved into understanding that I’m nonviolent. That violence never does anything helpful. But in the context of my current and pretty much lifelong horror at racism, it’s a little difficult to know how you sort of land nonviolent. But that’s different.

So I think for most of what was going on in [19]70, I was a very, very impassioned observer. And a protestor when it seemed like that was something I could do.

Reeves: So, let’s sort of change gears, but it’s obviously the same time period, because you just mentioned a dissertation. What was your dissertation research?

Newman: I was studying Benjamin Rush (1746-1813). I got interested in him, I’m not even quite sure why. How. No, I do know. I was working with Lovejoy. He came back from; I think he must have been doing research in England. And I was looking at Rush as a social informer in the context of the American Revolution. And what I was interested in was to what extent was or was not the revolution about social change? And what I got interested in through studying Rush was the continuity between some changes having to do with understanding mental illness as between the United States, England, and Scotland. So how do you treat people with mental illness? What do you do? And Rush believed in, I mean, he had a combination of understandings which in part had to do with 00:48:00 what do we call that, temperance and Sunday schools as ways to respond to the impact of poverty in terms of people’s learning and ability to negotiate things socially. I don’t know that I would have said it this way then. So, he had an interest, I believe an interest in public education. But more than that, an interest in Sunday schools. And a very keen interest in mental hospitals with ideas about how you could ameliorate conditions. Some of it maybe having to do with bleeding.

So, I think where I was at that point was the history of medicine, to some degree. And I know there was, he was writing about having the people in the mental institutions put things in piles as opposed to sizes. And trying to figure out what if any relationship there was with the politics of the American Revolution to some of the social ideas, reform ideas, that he was promulgating. And I didn’t come to any particularly satisfactory conclusion. And my personal conclusion was that I wasn’t a scholar. Meaning that I loved—loved—research. And I had loved, in the context of the master’s, reading sermons. And I got very, very caught up and fascinated with Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758). And he didn’t play into my master’s thesis that much. But some. Some. In terms of the Great Awakening.

And in that context, I got very interested in how in the world do you ever figure out cause and effect? Because the people who were proclaiming the Great Awakening proclaimed it as being the answer to a falling away of energy involved in religion. But I always thought, well, yeah, but you’re looking back across the energy peak. So from over here, you might decide that this slow period somehow generated this period. But you don’t know that. So, that was—

And with Rush it was more how much were the efforts to create humane treatment for people with mental illness in England and Scotland related? And Rush himself I think had been educated in Edinburgh or had spent time in Edinburgh. So as with 00:51:00 the Great Awakening in religion, it was becoming very clear to me that the sort of, the ocean wasn’t dividing the transmission of ideas at all. That there was a fair amount of commonality in trends in religion and also in ways to think about how best to manage society. I suppose you could say it that way.

Reeves: One more thing for today. And you’ve mentioned a lot of names here. I think most of the names that you mentioned besides your husband’s are faculty.

Newman: I think so.

Reeves: And I’m wondering if you wouldn’t mind talking about some of your fellow graduate students at this time.

Newman: Oh, not at all. The people, okay. Mary Van Wilkins was in Wyllie’s seminar and I’m not sure what she went on to do. Bill [William M.] Tuttle Jr. was one of Cronon’s students, and I was friends with a fair number of Cronon’s students. Dan Carter is, I’m not sure [MA at University of Wisconsin-Madison, PhD at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill]. He might have been Cronon’s student. And he had a significant career. I know I’ve seen his books. Let’s see. There was a couple, and there were some women. Miriam Langsam was a good friend and she might have been Curti’s student [Wyllie]. Mary Ann Gibeline and Frank [John] Cook were graduate students and then married each other and are here. Jerry Frost went on to teach at Vassar and I think he was in Lovejoy’s seminar with me. Maxine Neustadt, now Lurie, was in Lovejoy’s seminar. And she’s retired from Seton Hall. And John Lurie, who I didn’t know, but she married him, retired from Rutgers. Dick [Richard] Kohn was at University of North Carolina. Jim Curtis, these are the Jensen seminar people whom I knew. And Jim taught somewhere in the west. Cary, Francine Cary, that’s her married name. And I’ve forgotten 00:54:00 what her husband’s, oh, first name was, Ron[ald] Story. Ron and Ellen Story. Ron Story was one of my best friends. And he was Taylor’s student. Faculty. Taylor went on to Stony Brook on Long Island and Ron Story made a very significant career for himself at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and was friends with Boyer before Boyer and his wife moved here to be on the faculty, Paul moved onto the faculty. And he’s passed. Dan. I didn’t know Paul Buhle. I knew of him, but I didn’t know him. Then there’s a woman, I’m trying to get her to come back into my head, who had a big career. And I don’t know if she would have been Goldberg’s student. And I knew the woman who went on to marry Maury Meisner when he got divorced [Lynn Lubkeman], but I’m not remembering her name. And she’s here.

Reeves: Well, that’s a pretty substantial list. Thank you for that.

Newman: Oh, you’re welcome. You’re welcome.

Reeves: Maybe just one more thing on that, then we’ll wrap up.

Newman: Sure.

Reeves: So outside of the seminar or the class that you may have shared with fellow or took with fellow graduate students, what sort of interaction, type of interaction, did you have with your cohort?

Newman: The graduate students?

Reeves: Yeah.

Newman: Parties. A lot of social gatherings. And it was kind of continuous, as I remember it, from when I was first a grad student through getting to know everybody in IES. And the people in IES, we all lived together, as I said, for those couple of years. So you would get together Friday or Saturday night and you would have something to drink. When Ken and I were living right off Carver Street, we were kind of transitioning from alcohol to pot. So then the parties were slightly different, but not tremendously different. So lots and lots and lots of conversation at parties. And I think dinner parties a lot, but not with anything fancy. That one of us would cook 00:57:00 and then everybody would come over and you’d all go someplace else. Like Tuttles pretty, Tuttles were in Eagle Heights. So pretty soon we were cooking and we were bringing our kids together. And lots and lots and lots of conversations. But not so much, I mean, field trip kinds of things would go on for the IES kinds of relationships. But those often were more attached to courses. And when it was time to travel, we traveled as a family unit, not with more extended socializing. Concerts, certainly. Lots of concerts. But I’d go with Ken. And a fair number of going out of town to a farm where there’d be lots and lots of music and lots and lots of people. Not Woodstock. We drove past Woodstock. But Wisconsin, Madison’s own sort of versions of those, which would have been, I think, late [19]60s and early [19]70s.

Reeves: Okay. Linda, I want to wrap it up for the day. I want to give you space, though, if there’s anything on your mind. Either from this time period that we’re talking about—

Newman: Right, right.

Reeves: —or anything on your mind that you’re afraid we may not get on the record the next time.

Newman: The only thing that I think I’m learning through the process, for which I’m profoundly grateful, is what an extraordinary history department this is. And how fortunate I feel to be doing this piece of work with the archives as you represent them. For allowing me to carry the torch. I mean, that’s really what it comes down to. Because I have felt that reference almost from the minute I walked into Merrill Jensen’s office. And I understand myself to be exceptionally fortunate. And I have been telling a lot of the people I care about, about the first visit here. For how powerful it is to look at all of the people whose lives intersect through the history department. And the changes in terms of the demographics from tall white men. I mean, 01:00:00 lord knows they’ve got a good place. Good spot. But the women and the people of color and the stories. I mean, I was having coffee yesterday with Steve Stern. And he’s really excited about an historian who’s now in the department who’s looking at the building, I think it’s the building of where it is that the Chicago Bulls play in terms of its impact on local versus trans-local powers in the space it’s being set down in, or was set down in. In my head, I was contrasting that with the way I understand that, I haven’t read it, Bill Cronon to have looked at the creation of Chicago initially, and all of the forces that come to play.

And then that takes me to what I do need to say, a couple of things, is Bill Williams sending me out to look for the impact of the frontier in American history on the floor of the US Senate. Because that’s where he was looking for it was in the rhetoric used at the end of the 19th century.

And the story I have to tell you about Bill Williams, I knew I had to tell you how much more important he was than I had yet said, is that when I was in his graduate seminar, he just went to the box of notes like this and he just took a chunk of them out and handed them to me. And said, “These should give you a good start.” He was incredible. And had been in the navy and loved the ocean and then went to Corvallis. So, he just was like yes, Bill had to go home to the water.

And with Litwack, he had to go back to California because that’s where he was from. So the intersection of the personal histories, but most of all, the power of the teaching. They were good. They were good. And still are.

Reeves: Well, Linda. I want to thank you for the time you gave me today. I appreciate it.

Newman: You’re welcome.

Reeves: This concludes the second interview with Linda Newman. Thank you very much.

Newman: My pleasure.


End Session 2.


12 May 2015

Reeves: All right. Careful of that chair. Sorry. It has a tendency to, if you lean too far forward. Sorry. I didn’t warn you about that.

Newman: It’s okay. So far, so good.

Reeves: So today is May 12th, 2015. This is the third interview with Linda Newman. We are in my office inside Steenbock Memorial Library. And my name is Troy Reeves with the UW Madison Archives. Linda, as we’ve done in the past, could you say your name and spell your last name?

Newman: Yes. Linda Newman. And Newman is spelled N-E-W-M-A-N.

Reeves: All right. Okay. So, I sent you a list of questions yesterday. We just briefly chatted about how you felt about them. Seems like you feel fine about them. So we’ll start—

Newman: Very much so.

Reeves: —numerically and somewhat chronologically. So the first question on the list is what comments you might have on your father’s involvement in the Spanish Civil War.

Newman: Thank you. That was huge in my life. When I was younger, my parents’ political commitments, having been communists at a certain point in time, weighed on me. I think I’m a somewhat socially conservative person. Now in my later years, I’m extraordinarily proud of them. And my parents had the songs of the Lincoln Brigade music, as I look back on it. And particularly left music, as though I thought of it as the music, played a huge part in my growing up. So Paul Robeson’s (1898-1976) voice is just totally a part of me. And he has a song he did called “Ballad for Americans:” “Starting out in ‘76, the sky was red” and I could go on. But I don’t need to. And I learned the songs of the Spanish Civil War. And I learned, unconsciously I suppose I could say, tremendous pride in the Republican cause in Spain.

And after Franco died (1975), and Franco was a looming enemy that I was aware of. The other looming enemy growing up was the Fat Man. Because the Daily Worker, to which my parents subscribed, characterized capitalism as the Fat Man, which I have to say, gets more and more apropos the older I get as I look at it. After Franco died, my mother and brother were able to go to Spain. And as my mother said, it filled the hole that had been in her heart since probably 1936. And her becoming a radical when she was studying with Curti at Smith 00:03:00 and learned about the Scottsboro Boys, took her to New York City to work for the taxi union where my dad was working after returning from Spain. So it’s very much—and she met him in the context of a taxi strike in New York City. So that whole politics.

And then later, when I worked in the history department and became very fond of Stan Payne. When I was working as the undergrad advisor, I got to know the chairs more. Chairs of the department more than I did other faculty, just because of administrative responsibilities. And Stan Payne is by no means a leftist. So it has been enlightening my whole life to recognize how focused and one-sided my parents’ views of things were. Because I just assumed that, you know, and I’m exaggerating, everybody’s dad fought in the Spanish Civil War and everybody loved the Dodgers when they were in Brooklyn. So the Spanish Civil War is, I suppose, just a part of my childhood. Just like learning pretty young that my mother’s ancestors came over on the Mayflower. So it was a fascinating household.

And one of the blessings of this part of my life is how close my brother and I are getting. So that lots of memories come up between us. It was not so much the case growing up.

Reeves: Thank you for that.

Newman: You’re welcome.

Reeves: So the next question sort of somewhat falls in that, growing up as you did with the parents that you had. Did you know anything about Madison’s—

Newman: Oh, yes.

Reeves: —sort of left-leaning community in the [19]60s when you came here?

Newman: Very much so. My aunt, I often lay all of my sanity and my current partnership, also, to my father’s sister Miriam, my Aunt Miriam, who first lived in Brooklyn. And I visited there. In Manhattan. And I just flat out adored her. And she had a nephew on the other side of her family with whom I hung out when I was in high school. No, it was when I was in college. Some. And he was all full of UW-Madison talk. And all full of, from his perspective, and I didn’t particularly think of him as any kind of expert, but that that’s where I needed to go to school, given my background because my father was nothing if not boisterous about his views about everything.

And then as I think I said before, our friends that Christmas before, probably when I was a senior in college, had gotten a William Appleman Williams book for Christmas. And I had looked into that. And I think Williams, I think this is slightly naïve, but I think he was, 00:06:00 he was politically involved, for sure. And I think, I’m just trying to think which piece of things. And he may have been somebody who was, Williams may have been somebody kind of stimulated by [Joseph] McCarthy (1908-1957) to be more a civil libertarian kind of person. I don’t think he was a leftist by any stretch. But I think he was perceived that way a little bit when you looked at what the spectrum was from right to left at that point in the department.

Reeves: I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t know this for sure, so I’m going to ask. So when you started working for the history department in early [19]78, was Williams still there? Or had he moved to Oregon by then?

Newman: No, I think he was in Oregon by then. In fact, I’m virtually certain he was in Oregon.

Reeves: Okay. Thank you.

Newman: You’re welcome.

Reeves: So, we talked a little bit about your involvement in the protests, the Vietnam-era protests.

Newman: Right. Right.

Reeves: The stuff that happened on campus. But I’m curious as to whether or not you became involved in other political or social activist movements sort of outside the campus, particularly in the [19]60s and [19]70s.

Newman: That’s an interesting question. I mean, somewhere along the line I became a pretty ardent feminist. So I was doing consciousness-raising and I was doing that with I think, I’m trying to remember, at the same time that I was driving a cab for Union Cab. So that, yeah. That was between being a grad student and coming to work at the university. But the circle of women with whom I met were graduate students in women’s studies. I hadn’t thought about this at all lately. And one of the jokes, I don’t know if we can—well, I guess I can say it, do what we want with it—is that none of us knew how to roll our own joints. We were feminists but we always had our boyfriends roll the joints. (Reeves laughs) And I’m not remembering the last names of those women. But they went on to be successful.

And I had been parenthetically trying to remember for you Scott and Joan, who were a couple. And they eventually split up. And Joan [Scott], I cannot get her last name, became a very renowned historian. I think he did as well. And one of them might have been working with Goldberg, but I’m not sure. 00:09:00 But then there was this Nancy person. And not remembering who the other women were in that circle. So I was involved with that, which was on and off campus.

And when I was at Checker Cab, and I think I’ve said this before, I helped to create Union Cab. So that was a situation of going out on strike at Checker and getting involved with, I’m trying to think what union that was. We affiliated with a union where it wasn’t all together logical. It definitely wasn’t the Teamsters. But they were very, very helpful and eventually Checker folded. And I was driving for Union when I came and got the job as the history advisor, I’m pretty sure. And then I drove for them during the summer until my appointment became a twelve-month appointment.

Reeves: Okay. So, I want to come back to the political activism stuff. But since you talked about driving cab, was that primarily, did that primarily happen between when you decided not to get the PhD and then getting the job in the history department?

Newman: Yes because what I remember is that I drove 76. We created a red, white and blue taxi and called it 76, because it was [19]76. So that must have been before I started at the history department as an undergrad advisor. But somewhere in there, I worked as an LTE in the Marine Studies Center, based on my involvement with the creation of the Institute for Environmental Studies. So.

Reeves: So, to come back to your social and political activism, were you involved at all in the Gay Liberation Front, Madison’s—

Newman: Oh. Yes. Let’s see. Steinhart. John and Carol Steinhart became sort of the core of what, we called ourselves the commune. And we lived together for two years. One year across the lake and one year in the highlands. And my then-husband, who was a PhD student of Jensen’s, and he finished and works with a national publication, blah, blah, blah. But anyway, he was involved with IES and all of that. But he also was gay. And came out at that time. And then he 00:12:00 became very close friends with members of a gay household. They lived on East Johnson. And one of them was a grad student in history and one of them was a grad student in American studies, maybe. No, I think the other one was getting his degree in urban planning. And through them, Dale Hillerman was one of them Chuck Thruow the other in Dale’s past. But Dale was involved with the gay center that was at that point upstairs from Oriental Specialties, which was on State Street. And I had no inkling at that time that I was gay, am gay, whatever, however one parses all of that, I don’t, particularly. But Dale needed, was going out to talk somewhere. But the lesbian didn’t show up. So I went and passed, except it turned out I wasn’t passing, I didn’t know that. (laughter)

And I’ve had occasion to remember, they do lots of posters for the festivals on Willy Street. And I spent a great deal of time at Katy’s American Indian Arts. And they have a poster for maybe the Fête de Marquette, I think it is, which is the [Edouard] Manet (1832-1883) painting with the naked man and the clothed—no, the dressed, clothed men and the naked women. For the Fête de Marquette, everybody’s got their clothes on. But then when we did a gay picnic, when I still was aggressively affirming that I was straight, we did an opposite poster where I was in the poster as the woman fully clothed, and two gay men were naked sitting around me.

And when John Tortorice discovered that when he was doing some kind of gay history event, he was highly entertained. I didn’t know it was all that funny—and funny’s not the right word. That’s not fair to John.

So, yes. Again, somewhat inadvertently, like the Spanish Civil War, it came up in my family. Because the man to whom I was then married, Ken Bowling, is a very, very, very, very close friend of mine. And we have a son. And we are now, just incidentally, on our way, first of June, to go visit with Dick [Richard] and Lynn Kohn. And Dick’s a very, very renowned historian who retired from Chapel Hill, UNC. And his wife and he have always had a place up north in Wisconsin. So that’s just been fun.

Reeves: So I want to make sure, even though the recorder obviously would pick it up. I want to make sure I heard you right. So, your husband, was it your husband who came out while you were married?

Newman: Mm hmm. Yes.

Reeves: Did you have an inkling that he was going to do that?

Newman: Let’s see. How would I say this? That was also a time of, how do I want to say? I’ve done recovery from everything except caffeine, which I will not be giving up. 00:15:00 So we were in a space of less clear lines of relationships that I think was somewhat the case at that time. So, by the time he came out, it didn’t have much to do with me. We lived in a commune together. Our son was in it, the Steinhart kids were in it, other people were in it. So, I can’t say that I didn’t know. It was more, I think through the friendship with Chuck and Dale, and there was a third man living in that collective, David Bryant, who’s passed and also Ron Labraska. Let’s see. Yeah, I’m mixing him up. Lebraska was, no, he was straight. Let me get that clear. I’m thinking of somebody—it’s Ron McCrea who was in that gay collective. Lebraska was a man who’s also passed, and he was involved with the, whatever the strike version of the State Journal was, but that’s another story.

Reeves: The Madison Press Connection.

Newman: The Press Connection and Union Cab used to do benefits together at the Cardinal, so that’s where the knitting together. And the Cardinal then belonged to Ricardo Gonzales? I don’t think so, but maybe. And Ricardo was huge in gay Madison. So, I think by the time Ken came out, we were all, one of the ways I’ve talked about it is we were all gay men. I obviously am not a gay man. But the familial connection, which is really what it is, I mean, Chuck Thruow is one of my best friends in the universe right now. And we’re in the three-week phase we’re the same age, and then I get older. But part of what holds us together are all the dead people we’re carrying who we love incredibly. And certainly some of them of AIDS. And some from natural causes. You know, you get to be in your seventies, that’s what happened. Yeah, so I was involved in gay liberation. I hadn’t thought of it so much that way because I was very much in the feminist side.

And I also worked with, now that I think of it, a feminist newspaper whose name I’m not going to remember. And a lot of the women working on that with me were openly gay. There was a wonderful occasion where this one lesbian who was working with me on the newspaper wanted to know if I was miserable. I said no, I wasn’t miserable. Well, she couldn’t be my friend. (laughter) Which I think is just sort of a classic commentary on that particular point in time, because one should be miserable, not necessarily.

Reeves: Thank you for all that.

Newman: You’re welcome.

Reeves: You mentioned earlier, 00:18:00 I’m going to take us in a different direction here. Well, maybe. You mentioned earlier you knew the music of the Lincoln Brigade.

Newman: Right.

Reeves: As a person who’s become interested—you know, I wasn’t of the [19]60s and [19]70s, but a lot of the music I listen to is of the [19]60s and [19]70s.

Newman: Right.

Reeves: So I’m wondering what role the music of that era has for you?

Newman: It’s huge. And I was really, really glad for the question. And then of course I went into well is what I loved then the right stuff? (laughter) But then falling asleep last night I got Credence Clearwater Revival and “Proud Mary.” My second husband, and I can’t quite figure out where he fits into all this. I met him at Checker when I started to work at Checker Cab. And we’re divorced and not friends, but he was a Vietnam veteran. So I associate “Proud Mary” very much with the war. And I listened, the point in my life where I listened the most to the music. I mean, I loved The Beatles. My brother and I went to see Joan Baez when she was playing in Connecticut. And my mother gave me her ticket. And Bob Dylan appeared in the middle of the concert. And my mother was always regretful that she’d given me her ticket. And my brother and I were the only ones in the audience—this was a little open-air theater outside New Haven—who knew the words to “We Shall Overcome” and sang along. So, dates that one.

And Ken Bowling and I went to see The Beatles in Milwaukee, which would have been right after we were married, so probably the fall of [19]63. I listened to the Moody Blues and loved them. I went to see Grace Slick and The Jefferson Airplane. I went to see Janis Joplin, Judy Collins, of course. I loved concerts.

There was a local band called The Oz. And I would listen to them. I’m trying to think who else. The Stones, oh my gosh, yes. And Steinhart was doing a lot with multiple tracks of music, which was brand new, in the introductory courses of IES. So we all thought that was infinitely cool.

So, who are the bands that you like from the [19]60s and [19]70s?

Reeves: Well, all those you mentioned. I also, [19]70s, get into Stevie Wonder. Let’s see, now you’re throwing this question back on me.

Newman: That’s okay. 00:21:00 I’ll take it back. I’ll take it back.

Reeves: No, it’s, so, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. With or without Young.

Newman: That was huge. I mean, absolutely huge with us. I mean, we lived the music all the time. It’s one of the reasons I’m really enjoying the question. Because I haven’t gotten back to that yet. I’ve got headphones, I just haven’t gotten used to using them. Another one that was huge even then was Leonard Cohen because I remember I had a huge fight with Chuck Thruow about whether or not Leonard Cohen could sing. And my current partner, whom I’ve been with for over twenty years, just over twenty years, can’t abide Dylan. And as a side note, Bob Dylan and I are twins. So, in addition to being Geminis, we were born on the same day, the same year. And my ex-husband with whom I’m friends just corrected a friend who said Dylan’s going to be 73. He said, “Nope, he’s going to be 74. Just like my ex-wife.”

Reeves: Others would be, for me, anyway, would be Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor.

Newman: Yes. Yes.

Reeves: Carole King.

Newman: Yes. And there was a gay bar at the corner of Regent and Park. And at one point or another in my life, I was hanging out with a gay family but dating a guy named Roger. And Roger and I would go dancing. I can’t think of the name of the bar, but it was all “Tapestry.” No, it wasn’t “Tapestry.” It was “You’re So Vain.” That was just an anthem at the time. And Crosby, Stills & Nash, oh my gosh, yes. And then Neil Young, also kind of a little heavier. But wonderful music.

Reeves: Well, if any others jump out at you while we’re continuing this, don’t hesitate just to throw random—

Newman: Okay. Random great music at you.

Reeves: Random great music at me, yes. So the first couple of times, I don’t remember whether it was the first or second session or maybe a little of both, and you talked about George Mosse.

Newman: Oh, yes.

Reeves: And so Mosse’s sort of counterpoint during this time is Goldberg. So I’m wondering if you have stories or memories of Goldberg.

Newman: Oh my God, yes. And thank you for asking. Harvey and I didn’t make friends until just before he died. And I was friends with a woman whose last name I can’t remember who had been Harvey’s student—I think this is the way it went—and fell in love with Meisner. Or maybe she was, no, she was Meisner’s student, fell in love with Meisner, became Harvey’s student. And Harvey and I just as I remember it, just hung out. And I’m pretty sure I went to see him when he was in the hospital. And I remember we talked a lot about if he was ready to retire because he hadn’t really put that through until he knew he was dying. 00:24:00 And I just loved him, I just loved him. But I didn’t know him when everybody was filling up the halls with being his students so much. And I was aware of him when I was the undergrad advisor in terms of whether he got good TAs or he didn’t get good TAs, all of that sort of thing. But interpersonally, it was very much close to the end.

And I don’t know if I would have told you when we talked about Gerda how kind she was to my mom, and how much fun they had talking politics together before my mom died. And George was wonderfully kind to both my parents. He was, George along with Steve and Florencia, Stern and Mallon. Stern and Mallon are friends now. But when I was in the department, George was really and truly just a wonderful, wonderful friend. And so me of my undergrads were his students and went on—Andy Bachman went on to become a rabbi. And I think did George’s funeral. And he was one of my very close students. And then a woman named Rachel Sabath went on and became a rabbi. And when Andy was a rabbi and Rachel was a rabbi, Andy was a little skeptical of Rachel’s ministering only to wealthy congregations, as he put it. I didn’t double check. I didn’t check his data.

And George, as I may have mentioned, gave wonderful, wonderful Christmas parties. So, they were just the best food and everybody was there. And George was very, very devoted to both Stan Payne and his wife Julie. So, they would be there and lots of other people from the department.

And I was with my partner when George was still alive. And we did a couple of things with George and John. George was just amazing. I mean, this has been so much fun just making all those historians alive again, but especially George.

Reeves: Mm hmm. And I don’t think you mentioned, if you did, I don’t remember, in either of the previous interviews, Gerda Lerner—

Newman: Okay.

Reeves: —who I think you just referenced.

Newman: Right.

Reeves: So I wonder if you would talk a little bit about her.

Newman: Well, she arrived like nothing else ever. And I was close enough to Linda Gordon and Judy [Judith Walzer] Leavitt and some of the women’s history people because as a feminist I felt like I sort of belonged, even though I wasn’t a scholar. So, they had mixed feelings. She’d gone back to get her degree later. She’s a very powerful 00:27:00 presence. When we were, well, history had been in the humanities building for a long time. So, I remember standing in the corridor. There was the office where the classified staff worked. And off that, a room with machines and so forth. And Gerda walked in and handed me a pile of papers and said, “Xerox these.” I’d never seen her before in my life. And I thought well, by location I must be a clerical person.

Another time, I was putting something in her office, and she discovered me in her office and just took my head off for invading her property. It was fine, it’s okay.

And I grew to love her very much. She would give a Christmas party for the Jews. And one of my complexities, one could say, my dad was Jewish, my mother wasn’t. As I tell the story now, I never was, but I passed. I didn’t see it that way at the time, because my father was so anti-Christian. But there were perks, too. And I’m not exactly proud of it, but I don’t think that’s the right way to think of it. So, I would get to go to the Christmas party for the Jews at Gerda’s for a while.

And one of my partner’s favorite stories, Steve and Florencia would include us at the seder sometimes. And Florencia has said to me upon occasion, “You know, it was harder for you to come out to me as a Christian than it was as a lesbian.”

I said, “I know. I know.” But Gerda was there, my partner who was not Jewish. And Gerda asked her how they had done seders at her house when she was growing up. And I don’t think Gerda ever noticed that she wasn’t Jewish. That was Gerda.

But she had me and my mom over when she was still living on Hammersley Road. And my mom, having been a communist, and Gerda and Carl having been in New York and then Hollywood, Gerda loved telling the stories but also finding the overlap with my mom.

And Gerda and George had so much in common. And then because I had been at dinner at Steve and Florencia’s? when Gerda was taking about doing a race wisdom workshop for the dean of students office, I got invited to listen to that. And that was very powerful. And one of the things she taught us was you can’t teach anybody anything by yelling at them. Which I have taken very much to heart. My father was great for yelling at you to explain what was true in the world.

But there were also me and another woman at that training, education, whatever, who knew ourselves to be gay. Never said a word about it. And a couple of the straight women there explained to all of us that they knew what it was like to be a lesbian. So, I thought well, no, you don’t, but I don’t feel comfortable enlightening you, which is evidence to me that you don’t know. But that’s okay because you’re straight.

But like, not exactly like, but being betwixt and between 00:30:00 Judaism and Christianity from heritage, and that’s partly my partner teaching me that I don’t have to choose. And of course she’s not a person of faith. So yes of course, I have chosen, but it doesn’t mean I’m not Jewish, if that makes sense.

And one of the wonderful moments for me was when George had written what he wanted—how did this work? No. It was what Gerda wrote to say about George when we did a memorial at the union, at Memorial Union. She wasn’t in town and she told me to read it for her, which I took as a huge, huge tribute. And George did that biography, memoir, kind of, later in life. And the comments that I made on Gerda’s behalf, George said that he had been talked out of entitling his book Curious George. But that’s what he had wanted, and it would have been accurate. She was a force to be reckoned with, Gerda Lerner.

Reeves: So, Mosse, Goldberg, Gerda Lerner. Any other professors from that time period, [19]60s, [19]70s?

Newman: Well, Williams, but he was early in that period. Michael MacDonald. I don’t know that I said to you, I had what I called the baby caucus because the department was divided into caucuses. And Ken[neth] Sacks and Michael MacDonald and I can’t remember if Steve Stern or Chuck Cohen, and Chuck Cohen, also. I mean, Chuck Cohen is a very dear friend now. And Stan Kutler, I was just out to dinner with Chuck and his wife. And Stan Kutler was chair of the search committee that brought Cohen. Which is a fact I didn’t pick up on. It was right when I was working in the department. Oh, and John Dower (b. 1938). I would say in some ways, and Steve Feierman were both very good friends while I was working in the department. And I went and took, I sat in on Steve Feierman’s history of East Africa course. And I thought and still think John Dower, historian of Japan, was the finest, probably the finest historian I ever met. And got very, very interested in graphic work, video work. And worked with a beautifully illustrated book about the aftermath of the bomb. And I think met the author and did film work and then went on to teach at MIT.

Reeves: What was it called the baby caucus?

Newman: Oh, that’s what I called them. Because they were new assistant professors after I became, I’ve always had a somewhat of a mother hen 00:33:00 response to people who are ten and a half minutes younger than I am. So I just adopted them. Michael, Ken. I’m not sure who was the third one.

Reeves: So those are all folks who came in when you were working there. So, ‘78 to ‘86?

Newman: Right. Right. I started with Peter Smith. And Suzanne Desan came in then, and I’m crazy about her, but she was not in the baby caucus. And I was crazy about Sella. I mean, I loved a lot of them. Domenico Sella (1926-2012) was utterly remarkable. And such good citizens of the university. And I was, when Stan Kutler just passed, I was devastated. I didn’t quite realize that he was so important to me. But he was and is. And was an incredible historian.

Reeves: So, I jumped ahead a little bit when I asked about driving cab.

Newman: Right.

Reeves: But maybe if you wouldn’t mind, sort of a follow-up to that is just sort of a general overview of what you did from when again you decided that getting a PhD was not in your interest.

Newman: Oh, okay.

Reeves: And then getting the job in the history department.

Newman: Okay. What I came to understand, and I don’t know that I could put it in a timeframe, was that I wasn’t a scholar, that I loved research and I just felt that when I went over, I found the ladies room, I almost didn’t come back. I thought I’ll just sit here and soak this up. But I didn’t want to explain it to anybody. And sometimes when my historian friends give me their books, I don’t want to read them. Because it’s like well—I mean, it’s so tedious to have to explain it all. And what my friend, Ken Bowling, to whom I was married, said to me almost at the time, “People matter to you too much.” Okay, but that’s absolutely true.

And I was having lunch with a friend yesterday reminiscing about how much I loved the carrel I had in the historical society. And she said, “You need a place to sit and read because nobody should be nostalgic for a carrel.”

I said, “Well, writing my prelims up there was wonderful. What are you talking about?” And she’s a retired professor.

So, and partly through this process, I have come to understand how profoundly I love being an historian. And the pastor, I have a very powerful church I just started being part of a couple of years ago and it’s just amazingly wonderful. 00:36:00 But my pastor also said to me, “You’re a trained historian.”

I said, “Well, I guess I am.” It’s one of those things where you don’t realize how other people see things. I was teasing about everybody’s father fought in Spain and everybody’s a Brooklyn Dodger fan. Well no, not exactly. And almost nobody is a historian. Again, to exaggerate, but it makes such a difference. And it’s so fascinating.

And my current sort of passion is race relations. I was reading a book by a Black theologian historian who’s got a most incredible beginning of a narrative, which is he describes the Africans walking to the coast and the ships coming. And where all the men who are on the ships come from. And where all the men walking to the coast come from to bring them to the US, or to the New World as we thought of it then, or as we describe it in the aftermath. I don’t know what we called it then, or they called it. But Black history is amazing. And I was friends with Tom Shick (1947-1987), who was in Afro-American studies and a historian, and killed himself. Drowned himself in Lake Monona. No, Lake Wingra, Lake Wingra. And that was devastating, oh my gosh. And that was just about when I left history to move up the hill. And I was very good friends with Nellie McKay (1930-2006), and sat in on her course, Black Women Writers. And then in the School of Ed, I sat in on a qualitative research methods course with Mary [Haywood] Metz. So I took advantage of the faculty as much as I could. And I was very good friends with Sterling Fishman (1932-1997), because he was such a wonderful friend of George’s. So, you just didn’t get to love George if you didn’t also love Sterling.

Reeves: So, you come to this moment where you don’t want to be PhD.

Newman: Right.

Reeves: So where do you go?

Newman: Then I went and drove a cab. And my decision making around that was I wanted some more money because I wanted to buy clothes. It was very, very clear. And at that point, Ken and I and our son Andrew were all living in a funky little house—funky is really funky—on the railroad tracks on South Baldwin. And across the railroad tracks was Checker Cab. So I just walked over and got hired. But it was very much lord, I can’t live on nothing. And I’ve never, ever liked the idea of being supported by anybody. 00:39:00 A couple of times there would be some guy in the cab saying, “Can’t you marry somebody who will support you?” I didn’t say anything.

Reeves: So it’s there that obviously something happens in your relationship with Checker Cab and that leads to Union Cab.

Newman: We went on strike.

Reeves: And all that’s still happening again in the sort of interim period. So I wonder if you could talk about why you went on strike.

Newman: Oh. That’s a good question. I think we were negotiating. I mean, by the time we went on strike, I was a phone person, because I never was much good at driving cab. And we were at odds with Ray[mond] Veloff (1944-2020), who owned Checker. He went on to own the Madison Inn, doesn’t anymore. And so we met this Union guy, I think in our search for how do we organize and sort of how do we have any leverage with Veloff because we didn’t like the way he was running the company. So I remember a bunch of meetings. There’s a labor building over on Willy Street, almost to Atwood and that’s where we would meet, I was remembering that. And better working conditions is what I remember, but exactly the specifics of that, I’m not so sure. And the man I married was the dispatcher. And I’m not quite sure sort of at what point that happened in relationship to the establishing Union Cab. But I think we got Union going before he and I got married, I think that’s the way it worked. Because we were Checker Cab out of that little building on South Baldwin. And then when we became Union, we were first in the building on East Washington, on the south side of the street. And that’s where I was filling in in the summertime. And I don’t think I was married yet at that point. So I think must have started at marine studies out of Checker. And then moved on to the history department. But kept driving in the summertime. Which might have been both with Checker and then with Union. I’m just not sure. 00:42:00 And I remember the nights at the Cardinal raising the money for us, our strike fund. And then Press Connection, too.

Reeves: So you were off campus then, it sounds like, when you found out about the position at marine studies.

Newman: Right.

Reeves: But you said it was because of your connection—

Newman: With—

Reeves: —with IES?

Newman: Steinhart, yeah Because the, I think I got this chronology right. His appointment was in poli sci and marine studies. And the support person for marine studies, and it was Bob Ragotzkie, too, who was in marine studies, when they were still in meteorology and space sciences. So, I mean, IES now is in Science Hall. But some subset of that in terms of the sciences represented is at, I think it’s still, no, maybe not, was at 1800 University. I think that’s right, but that was later. So, I’m not sure what it was that took me to apply for the job in Marine Studies. I’m not sure how the chronology exactly works because we were, in the commune we were living on campus. And then I was living on Baldwin Street. And I think that’s right. I mean, I think the collective was before the house on Baldwin Street. And then I went to work for the university. And then I worked, I moved over to Dunning Street, but still off campus, very much so.

Reeves: And then that led us to what we actually started with the first interview, which was you getting the job.

Newman: In history. Right. Right.

Reeves: You know, we may or may not get to your College of Education work experience this time. I know you said you have a very brief answer sort of, of why you retired when you did. And so I’d like to make sure we get that on this session. So we’re going to sort of skip over the College of Ed stuff and get to the why retire question.

Newman: Right. Well, I had been talking about it with Jeff Hamm. By that time, I was working for Jeff Hamm. There had been some ups and downs. 00:45:00 And I kept thinking I was ready to retire but I wasn’t, so I didn’t. And he was wonderful about okay, so don’t. And at the same time, I was keenly aware that you don’t stay forever. And I was, I did undergraduate advising. And I also did a tremendous amount with the SOAR program. But I was aging out. I mean, many things change. But 18 to 22 is about the age of undergraduates. So the overlap was receding. And even then, which it was [20]07? I think that may have been when I retired. I don’t know, because I retired—

Reeves: I think we have it as [20]08.

Newman: Okay.

Reeves: So it might have been end of ‘07.

Newman: Okay. No, it was January. So it would have been January of [20]08 then.

Reeves: Nope, nope, 2007. You retired then, and then emeritus status was granted later.

Newman: Yeah, right. That took a little while.

Reeves: All right. So anyway, 2007.

Newman: But the Social Security Administration wrote and said if you’re born in [19]41, then you want to wait eight months after you turn 65. And that basically hit January. So, I was very, very clear, and have become ferocious about this since then, that you can’t stay because there’s only just so many jobs. And because I hadn’t, as it happened, I had not yet died, didn’t mean that I had any business staying in the job. Because by no stretch of the imagination could you say—well, let me put it positively. To work on this campus is one of the finest places you can work in the world, because of the care with which most of its history, Wisconsin, the care with which Wisconsin has attended to benefits and to the rights of the employed. Not so much lately. But I just couldn’t see it. Staying. Now, after the fact, it turns out it was an infinitely wiser decision than I realized because I obviously had some inkling. But when you do the same thing over and over and over again, you lose something. I mean, the difference in what it means to be alive today and what it meant in [20]07, is staggering.

And I say to people all the time, 00:48:00 this is the best day of my life. And there’s a gorgeous actress who was in Chocolat, and she’s just coming out in a new movie with Kristen Stewart, French. And she said, “Of course I’m older. I love the present.” And that’s exactly the way I feel. But I learned most of that since I retired which is nothing negative about the university. And I retired just before the School of Ed administration got exiled over to Orchard Street. And then got to move back into that magnificent, I hope you’ve spent time in that building.

Reeves: Mm hmm.

Newman: Because that’s an extraordinary restoration and remodeling.

Reeves: You know, I think I want to wrap it up here.

Newman: Good.

Reeves: It’s a little shorter than an hour, but—

Newman: Good.

Reeves: So this concludes the third session with Linda Newman. Linda, thank you for your time.

Newman: You’re welcome.


 End 12May 2015 Session.


26 May 2015


Reeves: All right. Today is May 26th, 2015. This is the fourth interview with Linda Newman. We are here in Steenbock Memorial Library up in the university archives, and my name is Troy Reeves. Linda, to help us out here with sound quality, could you say your name and spell your last name?

Newman: Certainly. This is Linda Newman. And my last name is spelled N-E-W-M-A-N.

Reeves: Okay. All right. I’m going to get a little closer to you and then I’m going to project a little bit. So, I’m not yelling at you, I’m just making sure my questions get on the record, so to speak.

Newman: Okay.

Reeves: Linda, we just talked about the topics. So, let’s hit the first topic by asking you to reiterate, because I’m sure you said in the first session, why move from the history department to the job that you took in the School of Education.

Newman: The reason that I took the job in the School of Education was because an academic staff position in a department can be, or was at that point, a very lonely position. So, although there were academic staff working in the history department, we were not sort of natural colleagues. They were involved in research projects. So in some sense, the people that I knew best were the classified staff. And I made wonderful friends among the classified staff. I knew the faculty from having been a grad student and also because I worked with them every day. But in retrospect, I would say the status difference was significant. There was only one faculty person—and I must say, I was deeply shocked—who said to me that somebody or other shouldn’t be asking you questions, because you’re only academic staff. For the most part, the history department is—was, and I believe is—extremely egalitarian as the faculty saw it. But egalitarianism from those in a status far higher than one’s one isn’t the same. So I was very interested in, partly through my work at SOAR, having more responsibility at a level beyond the department. At the same time, in all of my time working at the university, I have felt profoundly what it means to belong to an academic department. And I have some skepticism about staff who have never had an academic department home. Just in terms of how do you understand the whole if you weren’t part of that kind of a part 00:03:00 because the university is still, thanks be to God, faculty-driven, which I believe is as it should be, and discipline-driven. But that said, it’s an enormously complicated institution. And the job description appealed to me. I liked the people that I met when I went across, up the hill a little bit from the humanities building. And the dean there, then John Palmer, was a historian. And when they did hire me, he was very frank in saying I was their absolutely definite second choice. And the first choice was somebody who was really, I think he said, it was some time ago, that she really wanted her home job to appreciate her more, which I guess they did after she got an offer. So she stayed there.

Reeves: So, I think you talked about this on the record in the first session. And I don’t know if we’ve talked about it sort of off the record, per se. But in our notes here, I have in quotes sort of tumult of the job there.

Newman: Oh, yes. Okay.

Reeves: So maybe the next question is, I hope there was a honeymoon period before some of this other stuff started.

Newman: Oh. Emphatically. Emphatically.

Reeves: So maybe if you could sort of talk about maybe the honeymoon period first.

Newman: Sure. It was very congenial. When you interviewed, when I interviewed, I was on the first floor and the student academic services was in the basement. So, it was a little bit of a shock to be in the basement. But, as compared to humanities, and John Palmer dean then was, as I said, a historian, very gracious. The focus was teacher education. And I gradually learned about the other disciplines in the School of Ed. And I went in in charge of a staff of about nine people, unfamiliar with administration. And I had very good people working with me and could hire more. So, it came to be maybe five academic staff and three or four classified staff.

And I learned over time that my, the classified staff whom I supervised were somewhat idiosyncratic in the whole institution. So, one of the things when I had accepted the job was that the dean, I met with the dean. He explained that we would not be invited to his Christmas party, which I very much took in stride. It wasn’t something I had thought about one way or the other. But apparently under the previous dean of student services, the classified staff had been more than generous with themselves at the bar. 00:06:00

And the other issue that came up immediately was that the classified staff were very, very committed to crocheting on the noon hour and closing the office. So, one of my very first directives was that we were going to be open all eight hours, which made perfect sense to me. And I had a very, very steep learning curve, having taught liberal arts students and now teaching teacher preparation students. My very first impression was the teacher preparation students dressed with far more care and sensitivity than liberal arts students did. And I needed to kind of conform a little bit there myself.

And I loved working there. I loved the interaction with faculty who spent a fair amount of their time in schools. So that one way to describe leaving history in L&S, coming over to the School of Ed, is that faculty did applied work. And when I got to know rehab psych, and special ed faculty as well as curriculum faculty, the same held true. The School of Ed is quite a different place now, as is the whole university.

And I got campuswide responsibilities in addition to SOAR, looking at how registration impacts students, how we manage enrollment. I was one of many across campus who would gather to discuss the kinds of issues, such issues as how do you persuade faculty to offer courses three times a week instead of two times a week at least some of the time.

And I also, and I don’t have the chronology of this particularly, took advantage of being in the School of Ed and was able to sit in on, as I had done in the history department a few times, sit in on one or two education courses. One on qualitative research that was fascinating. And I also got involved with the campuswide efforts around quality improvement. Quality improvement started so far as I know here on campus in the statistics department. But there very quickly came to be an understanding that that kind of approach to organizations where you were listening really carefully to the people actually doing the work had a lot of promise for those who believed in it. And I can remember that one of the assistant deans, Hank [Henry] Lufler (1944-2018), at that time was extremely skeptical 00:09:00 that anything could be accomplished by so to say allowing academic staff with administrative responsibilities to step away from their desk during the day to learn things. Well, different ways of thinking about things.

So, it was very positive. I had a very good staff. A tremendous focus on the wellbeing of students. One of the ongoing concerns in the School of Ed right up today is within the teacher preparation programs. The expense of educating a teacher meant that the classes we could admit were small. And the university was struggling with how do you education incoming freshmen who are admitted in terms of their desired major, which is a very young point in time to be focusing on a major. So I had quibbles with that, but that was the way we did it. And then within the first two or three years educating those same students that in order to get into the program that would prepare you to teach social studies, you needed to have a pretty high GPA and a certain amount of courses along the way.

So we worked with pre-categories. I helped to move the pre-categories out of the College of Letters & Science over to the School of Ed, so that the students intending to be secondary teachers would be working with advisors in the School of Ed right off the bat. The campus also at that point, at least, was very flexible for students to change directions. The students did not invariably know that. So, part of our task as I saw it, was to encourage them in the direction they were moving, talk to them about what was required for that direction, and then step back from that focus to say the university itself offers a variety of majors in a variety of schools and colleges. They are all open to you. But how the pieces you’ve done so far will line up in terms of a desired major is different depending on how you define the goal.

And I was then and am fascinated now with how best to teach people one person at a time so that they feel comfortable elaborating the questions they have about the process and the alternatives which attract them when there can be pressure generated that you need to start at A and proceed directly to Z, sort of with no side visits. And I’m all about side visits. 00:12:00 I think the traditional 18 to 22, 18 to 24 time in a person’s life at a place like UW-Madison needs to be a time for the combination of accomplishing the sort of task for a given semester. But always recognizing that you could take the same bundle of credits and go in a different direction. Or, as I would sometimes advise students, take time away and come back.

And over the time that I was here, the pressure from the students themselves, and family, increased many, many fold. So, that the freshman were much more anxious entering. Not to waste any time was one of the ways that they would approach it which I knew was a translation for how hard they had worked to get here, how stringent the academic standards had been in order that they could get in. And, from my perspective, how mistaken the notion was that there wasn’t any room to wonder and think about stuff. So, there was a little tension with that.

And after a certain amount of time, John Palmer retired. And at that time, Donna Shalala was the chancellor. And she hired a very accomplished academician and administrator from, who had grown up in Mexico. I don’t know what his job previous coming into the School of Ed was. And his notions about the place of teacher education in comparison to the arts and kinesiology, which were all majors in the School of Ed, was very different from what Palmer’s was. And perhaps unrelated to that, I’m not sure, but at that time, the School of Ed had a student services office, which I directed, and a field experiences office, which was directed by Emily Comstock. And sort of before I knew really what was happening, Dean Trueba had decided that the two offices needed to be merged and that Emily Comstock needed to become the director. And I was then demoted to being senior student services coordinator, which in retrospect was probably a very good decision, given that he was putting the two units together. My strength is very much working person-to-person. And in groups of people, I’m not such a great administrator if there is a contradiction. And I am such a weak administrator 00:15:00 that I don’t necessarily see the contradiction from this distance. But it was very hard. And there was a certain amount of negative energy directed at me by Emily’s staff. So, it was a little bit as if they thought maybe they had won, which I think is a shortsighted way to look at it.

I kept SOAR and kept my campuswide role with SOAR, and I saw more students, which I loved. And the question of whether or not that was a fair disposal of my time perhaps contributed to my getting very involved in academic staff governance. Because I think it was after that transition that I was invited first to be president of MASA, and from having been president of MASA went on to be a member of ASEC and then became chair of ASEC.

But at the time that I got demoted, I went to see, probably by that time associate dean Hank Lufler. And his name is coming up negatively right here. I thought the world of Hank and still do. He wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea. He was a very powerful man. And I thought wonderfully charming. And I went to see him and I said, “Hank, is there any point,” because that’s really what I meant, “is there any point in my making a fuss about this shift?”

And he looked at me. He said, “I hope not, because it would make work for me.” Well, I took that advice in the sense that I also knew by then that people who complain about—it sounds a little harsh—but academic staff who are unhappy in their jobs often get tagged as misfits. And you have to work very hard to sort of dig yourself out of that hole. Perhaps more realistically, I really do not believe I was cut out to be an administrator of a larger unit than the one I administered. And when I went into the unit, it suffered from qualities which I actually cherish. Meaning that we were very idiosyncratic—no, I’m not in favor of drinking too much at a campus party but it happens from time to time, I don’t think it’s an enormous sin, but, you know, to each his or her own. And I thought maybe, I mean, I learned later that the office of human resources development knit every lunch hour and that Jane Dymond, a great friend of mine, was known as the knitting guru of Bascom. Which is by way of saying there are different cultures all over the campus. The School of Ed suited me enormously, not necessarily as an administrator. 00:18:00

 So, it was difficult to make the transition. And in retrospect, I’m very proud of having done it with as much grace as I could muster when I had my feelings hurt, which I did. Which is a very, very different way to describe it from saying that they’d actually made a poor administrative decision. I will go on to say, however, that both Dean Trueba and Assistant Dean Comstock left, to the general joy of those who were left behind. Not that I was reinstated. That was the job that Jeff Hamm took and still does with tremendous skill and grace.

So, academic staff, governance, I loved being part of that. I’m a very, very, very strong believer in the value of talking to one another. And in the context of MASA and ASEC, I came to be passionately opposed to the kind of thing that had happened to me. But the remedy would have been conversations and ways of talking from leadership with power to the people whose situation was going to change. The whole time I was in governance, one of our ferocious wishes, and it remained the case when I went on to become an ombuds, which was very congruent with my work in academic staff governance. When leaders know things are going to change, it is absolutely their responsibility to share that information in as neutral a way as they can until they actually know who may or may not be laid off. And it’s my firm conviction that any person can manage change with dignity if he or she isn’t blindsided.

And I remember the associate dean who got to tell me that I wasn’t going to be assistant dean anymore. And she said, “Well, we had to make a choice and we didn’t choose you.” I thought well, in your place, lady, I would have done that a little differently. But let me just gather my tattered dignity and leave your office. Again, not to say the decision was wrong.

I think right up to today, the campus is not careful to, on the one hand, integrate new staff into the glories of the university and the complexity of the university. But then at that point when a staff person, academic staff, classified staff or faculty takes on management of even one other person, that there’s training. And training that you cannot get 00:21:00 by reading a whole bunch of stuff on a computer and checking off that you’ve read it. Because at least thus far, management means managing people. And I, in my time as an ombuds, I had an argument at an ASEC meeting with a man when I said that it isn’t effective to manage people who aren’t in the same building and he wondered what in the world I was talking about. Why in the world couldn’t you manage effectively from another building? Well, he obviously was managing from another building.

And I think it’s impressive, very impressive, looking at what was accomplished having started, not myself, but academic staff, starting with the Madison Academic Staff Association, to have created the Academic Staff Assembly, which in terms of shared governance is understood to have an equal role with faculty in the faculty senate and the students through Associated Students of Madison. And some of these terms may be out of date. And we are looking right now at language about changing tenure that was unthinkable during the time that academic staff and faculty and administration and students were working out and getting state legislation to support academic staff governance. So, I think the campus is very healthy in those regards, independent of the budget crunch. And in my role on governance in ASEC and as chair of ASEC, I was in the statewide meetings that happened at the top of Van Vleck, of Van Hise, on the top of Van Hise, when my counterparts from all over the states would come. And one of my friends now is effectively chair of the appeals committee, the academic staff appeals committee. And she reports that some of the attorneys for the university speak to how much more effectively academic staff at the UW campus manage and implement and do governance than at any of the other institutions around the state, which speaks to how effectively we have been supported by central administration and by school and college administration.

And when I was working in governance is when we adopted the committees on academic staff issues within schools and colleges and administrative units. And we were never 100% 00:24:00 effective, meaning we didn’t get them implemented in every school and college. But again, the deans or the dean’s representative would meet on a monthly basis with academic staff leaders to talk about current issues in that school, college or administrative unit, and that kept the information fresh and going back and forth.

Reeves: Where to go? So, maybe I’ll ask it this way. We’ve segued from School of Ed to academic staff, although it’s tied together because you were academic staff while you were working there. When you were in governance, who were some of the folks that were working with you?

Newman: When I went into, let’s see, Char Tortorice called me, or either she or, I’m not going to remember his name. Oh, yeah, Rick Daluge. Either Char or Rick called to say, “You need to be president of MASA.” And we knew each other, Char and I knew each other very well, from SOAR because of the testing, and also from my then being in the School of Ed.

And I said, “Sure. I’ll be president of MASA. No problem.”

And when I joined ASEC, I’m pretty sure Barry Robinson, who passed, which was a great loss. But I’m pretty sure Barry Robinson was chair of ASEC. He certainly was while I was chair of ASEC. And Colleen McCabe was secretary of the academic staff. And Barry Robinson was academic staff in the theater department. And ambitious to be at a higher level within academic staff roles, but that didn’t happen. And I think I succeeded him as chair of ASEC. Let’s see. I think Gail Snowden was on ASEC for a time. There’s a dean from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences who was on for a time. Ann Wallace came to the meetings but never ran for ASEC. Let’s see. Belinda Velazquez was on ASEC. I said Wilt Sanders. Bill [William] Steffenhagen 00:27:00 was on ASEC. And oh, boy. The woman from the Synchrotron radiation laboratory was the ASBRO representative. Because ASBRO’s the lobbying arm, or the lobbying organization on behalf of academic staff downtown with the legislature. I can see her. I can’t remember her name. And then Donna Cole came on before I left ASEC. That’s as many names as I remember.

And I think I’ve mentioned earlier that we collectively had a huge push on professorial titles for academic staff. And that seems not to have gone very far. And through that effort we learned more about sort of differences and approaches to academic staff prestige, recognition. School of Ed really under Palmer, but then when Trueba left and Chuck Read came in, the School of Ed was exemplary in its support for academic staff. Rights, we are exemplary in the grievance, which isn’t the way you start. But the recognition that there can be unhappiness with everything from how you got graded to how the School of Ed is run. And there was the equity and diversity, I lose track of which names went where. But the, I think it was equity and diversity committee was first in the School of Ed. And then the rules and regulations they developed were adopted at central administration, but I wasn’t in that directly. I just recognized it as a sign of the respect within the School of Ed for academic staff.

Reeves: So, Linda, we talked about why you retired last time. But I wonder if you could talk about your job and any changes in it as school transitioned from, well, transitioned to Chuck Read as dean.

Newman: Well, that’s a good question. The, under Trueba, 00:30:00 when the two offices were put together, there was a lot of remodeling. And all of this happened before the building was remodeled. So the two floors became one office. And I don’t know, I guess the way I would describe Read in my own encounters with him is that he’s really a statesman. I mean, I think that would be the way I would describe him. So that he always represented the interests of the School of Ed in all its disparate parts as a significant part of the university as a whole which was completely missing with Trueba. He never did. This is a complicated place, and he wasn’t a student of that complexity.

And one of the characteristics of Chuck Read is that he knew everybody’s name. Everybody. So, when he walked through the halls, he greeted everybody. And you had a very strong sense that you were welcome to stop in, but also that he was in no way, shape or form a schmoozer. That he was very busy himself. And I got him to come talk to students about the research he had done when he was working in prisons as part of his study of the English language and literacy. And discovered that when you designed exercises for people who are incarcerated, to the extent that you controlled how much that exercise matched their experiences in school, they were less interested. And the more you could create it, so it did not match anything they’d experienced in school, they were able to perform successfully with it which I thought was fascinating.

I think Read also brought in very, very good associate deans. I think under Palmer, the associate deans were not as, were not necessarily strong scholars. And that’s very much my bias. So, my memory is that [John Michael] Jack Kean (1938-2004) became dean of teacher certification, associate dean, under Read. I think that’s right. And Mariamne H. Whatley was the associate dean for issues of equity and diversity. And people, she would see anybody who was distressed by a sense that they hadn’t been treated fairly. And as I said, we were a model from which the university worked.

So 00:33:00 I would say the difference for me personally was that I just felt better. And he got Emily Comstock out of there. And particularly apart from her having taken a position that might have been mine, she was a dreadful—really dreadful—administrator. And I know of no other situation where a bad administrator was just let go. And she went back and had a career in the schools, because she was licensed and all that. So it wasn’t personal. But she was just gratuitously unkind to staff, no doubt out of some personal unhappiness.

Reeves: So, there’s probably more I could ask about both of those things, but I’m going to completely switch gears.

Newman: Okay.

Reeves: And go to our, sort of our third major topic.

Newman: Right.

Reeves: Which was, last time we talked about finding out in the [19]70s that your, or your husband came out to you as gay. And you talked about you didn’t know you were a lesbian at the time, but you are. So, I wonder if we have, as much as you can or want to talk about it, your journey to identifying as a lesbian.

Newman: Sure. And I have been thinking about this one, because it’s not something that I think about very much. I think graduating from college as I did in [19]62, 1962, and being profoundly naïve—my statement, but other people have said the same—that ranges of sexuality were just something I knew nothing about. And I was quite, from a feminist perspective, wholly and entirely persuaded by heterosexuality unnamed. And I don’t know if last time I quoted the joy I experience still when I remember somewhere on State Street a graffiti or a poster that said, “And when did you figure out you were heterosexual?” So that kind of—well, of course, is anybody anything else? I mean, I wouldn’t even have known to form the question. And feminism. Because I was just as soon as I began to read, and I bumped into the name Shulamith Firestone (1945-2012) the other day, who was a wonderful feminist writer. I just hadn’t thought of the name. Germaine Greer (b. 1939). 00:36:00 I mean, lots and lots of women I read. And hitchhiked to California and came back. And some of this is not at all chronological. But was encountering questions on the one hand about patriarchy, which became almost overwhelming. Precisely because I hadn’t thought about it. And the exclusion, I mean, you look at Supreme Court justices, you look at photographs. You look at the walls anywhere on the campus when all the portraits were still up. Moving into the new chair’s office in the history department, and it would have been the chairman’s office and all the past chairmen, that covered it. That’s who they were.

So that I was drawn to lots and lots of activities that were women-centered. Women-only never resonated for me at all. And again, it’s hard to know where my understanding came in. But patriarchy, like slavery, but you can push this way too hard, is damaging to the masters and the slaves is damaging to men and women. Differentially, I would have to say, with some fervor.

So, the friendship out of which a partnership has emerged and is the partnership I’m still in, was ongoing as the most important relationship in my life. But started during my second marriage. And that marriage came apart, again, without reference to an identity question. But I can remember I was busy reading Evelyn Beck’s (b. 1933) anthology Nice Jewish Girls: A Lesbian Anthology (1982) about Jewish lesbians while still unhappily married. But not seeing any cause and effect there. And I still don’t. Well, who knows? I mean, (sighs) part of the puzzle with all of this is who are we as human beings? And to what extent do we, would we, is there 00:39:00 a natural state? Of course, there isn’t. And then how much sort of where is the beginning point in the conversation between the self and the culture. Well, you can’t pull it apart. And at this point in my life, faith is just, you know, it grew to be larger than anything which doesn’t give you any answers to culture or individual, either. So, my primary relationship, my committed relationship, my sexual relationship, is with one woman. And I identify as a lesbian. My partner’s a lifelong lesbian and not particularly, what would I want to say? She’s not a public person. So, we don’t make a lot of noise about it. And she’s personally horrified that any two people get up in front of other people and get married. So, I tease her. I just asked if she wanted to go to Ireland and get married. “No!” Just checking. Just checking.

So, our social life is both of us are very involved in nonprofit activities, very different ones. So, a tremendous amount of our social life has to do with dogs, on the one hand and people incarcerated, on the other hand, depending on which nonprofit you’re looking at. And then lots of our close friends are lesbian couples. Lots of them are very much into being lesbian parents. We’re not so excited about that. I’m a parent. My partner’s not particularly excited about my kids and grandkids and that’s fine with me.

So, I’ve done a fair amount of reading in feminist theory. Not so much lesbian theory specifically. As I said earlier, I don’t hold with separation of the genders. I’m very much a believer that the variation within a gender is as great as between. And of course now, you know, you think you’ve learned—I don’t know, this isn’t actually true—but I’ve learned about the value of women and I’ve learned to question patriarchy and I’ve identified as a lesbian. And now, 00:42:00 there’s transgender. And one of the people I have worked with writes about people, and I’ve heard about people, who don’t want to be assigned to either gender. And I utterly believe the validity of what they’re saying. And to go all the way back to we learn from one another by listening to one another, the damage done by external imposition of standards is horrendous when it’s done with force. So, racism, sexism. But if it were possible—and it’s always possible in an argument, or a conversation to say okay, if you lift off the oppressive piece, it remains complicated because we are so social. And we are so socially and culturally situated that it’s a struggle for the variance to emerge. And people with great courage do emerge. And the sort of practical pieces of the transgender part of it, I guess, I don’t know.

When I was working as an ombud, one of our visitors was somebody who really needed the campus to create more single-person locked bathrooms which makes sense. And so the person working with that visitor could help to create a kind of survey. And I remember when there were going to be women faculty and there were going to need to be more bathrooms. Or the history professor, woman history professor who said, you know, all the tenure decisions get made in the men’s room. Meaning none of it is trivial. And the extent of social management growing out of values that haven’t been examined is enormous, which is a long way from being a lesbian, I know or can be.

And it’s not, how do I want to say? I’m also very private. So, it’s not necessarily something I talk about easily. Partly because my partner doesn’t. And I’d say the longest standing puzzle as we’ve been together almost twenty-two years is her mom. And neither she nor her mother says anything. 00:45:00 So her mother and I are very fond of each other. I mean, this is not exactly late. But my mom utterly adored and was adored by my partner. And when it was time for her memorial service, my first ex-husband, who’s a very, very dear friend, was going to come and eulogize my mother and talk a fair amount about my mother’s openness to gayness. And I had to stop him and say, “Honey, you can’t talk about us.” My partner’s mom was there. Okay. And just at that point, there had been some issue with a Green Bay Packer where people had been very supportive of the gay side of things. So Ken—and that was Ken Bowling, who was in the history department here, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, anyway—he whipped through his talk. But there were some of Barbara’s and my friends sitting there. (laughs) God forbid anybody should say anything in front of her mother, but nobody did.

And I think that’s how people make their lives. I mean, I am not, I don’t necessarily think in-laws on both sides, sons-in-law and mothers-in-law of each other necessarily share everything. And I have gay friends who won’t go to bar mitzvahs and won’t go to straight weddings because they’re so angry. Well, I’m not angry. And where do you put the blame? I think if you’re wise, you don’t blame anybody. Which is not intended for—I’m a great believer in consequences. But and the personal is political. I mean, I read books that were about the personal is political. Well, yes, that’s quite obvious, but I don’t think it gets us anywhere. So.

Reeves: So maybe one more thing about that. And that’s, this is me not trying to put words in your mouth, but it’s going to sound like it. So, it sounds like to me what you’re saying is that if any activism—because part of this project we talk about, you know, being active in community.

Newman: Right.

Reeves: Any activism you may have or had was more of being a feminist than being a lesbian.

Newman: Yes. I would say that that’s, my activism was very much feminist. The other piece of it was that I was 00:48:00 very involved with gay men, and with gay men’s activism, before I came out to myself. So, did I talk to you about the picnic poster?

Reeves: Yeah.

Newman: Yeah. And that was when all my friends, almost, were gay men. And that’s of course an exaggeration, but I have always been drawn to gay men. Married one, unbeknownst to me. And occasionally when I get a crush on someone, I’ll go home and my partner will say, “Well, you know, he’s probably gay.” Yeah, probably is. But yes. I was and remain a feminist.

And race. I mean, if I were to say where my activism is now, it’s through church. A white church with a Black pastor. And spending time on a regular basis in a Black church. It’s about the unbelievably, racial disparities. The ways in which Dane County has managed not to provide equal education to Black kids.

Reeves: Thank you for all that.

Newman: Oh, you’re welcome.

Reeves: Something that was not on here, but since this might be our last session, you’ve referred to it a couple of times. I knew about this, and I keep forgetting to ask you about this. But this is about your role as an ombud, ombudsman.

Newman: Right.

Reeves: So I want you to start by how that all started.

Newman: Sure. Sure. Let’s see. When I retired from the university, I went to Edgewood to study religion. And the chronology is not altogether clear. I wanted to minister, with a lower-case “m.” And I got involved with Madison Area Ministry, which really supported that and still does. Call. And I got, the ombuds office on the campus, and this is changing. But at that point were four retired, it’s one FTE, four occupants, each a quarter time for the whole campus except medicine and pharmacy. 00:51:00 And those four people could be retired academic staff, faculty, or classified staff. And the process by which the job search goes on is that you look at the list of retirees—because once I was an ombud, I was doing this—and then you send out the ad. The terms were generally three years. I served for four.

So I got the ad. And I remember sitting in my dining room thinking, I could do this. And I think not irrelevant, two of the standing ombuds at that point—sitting, I guess we’d say—were Richard Ralston, retired faculty, and Kay [Kathryn] Simmons, retired academic staff. Both of whom were the kind of really close friends you make on campus, but the friendship doesn’t particularly extend into your personal life.

So, I applied. And I think it was the best/easiest letter of application I ever wrote because the job so exactly fit me. And by the time I retired, and I probably have said this already, what I came to understand was I was put on this earth to listen. And that the alchemy of listening is beyond magic. And that 99% of the people walking around on campus need to sit down very, very quietly and talk about what’s troubling them right now with someone who will just listen. So that’s what I said in the letter. And I got the job.

Now, I mentioned Rich and Kay because I suspect—and it’s just what it is—that they might have been favorable to me. But that was based on knowing each other. So it’s not the end of the world. Anyway, I took the job and Kay rotated off.

So I started working with Pat[ricia] Wolleat retired faculty from counseling psych and the School of Ed. And she and I knew each other from working in the School of Ed and in governance. And Richard Ralston, a person I truly love and did while I was in the history department, he did African history. And he was in Bascom in administration, perhaps working for [Irving] Shain (1926-2018). I’m not sure. I trust that the archives have interviewed him. Fascinating person. So he and I and Pat Wolleat and then John Mather from the College of Agriculture. And who, as I get to 00:54:00 walk up here from parking, I get to look at the Allen Centennial Gardens and John Mather was central in making that happen.

And what we did was every month one of us took each week and we staffed the phone, which was remote. In other words, we didn’t sit in our office with the phone, but we checked the phone every 24 hours or even more frequently. And then sometimes the person wanted Pat Wolleat, and then I’d pass it along. And if they designated nobody, everybody that I heard from that week was mine. And we talked on the phone. We went and visited. It was entirely confidential, entirely independent, entirely informal and there’s always a fourth one I don’t remember. But what that meant is, we reported to nobody and that is in law all over the country. Because we were less formally trained than a professional ombuds, but we practiced by the same rules. And there is a central U.S., mid-U.S. summer conference that does training every summer on the first day. And the second day, the ombuds all talk ombuds to each other. And so we all went to it. For years and years, it was in Dekalb, Illinois. It’s back there this summer, but that’s just because it’s rotating. So, we hosted that here a couple years before.

I was an ombud from [20]10 to [20]14. And part of the length of tenure had to do with the brief and unremarkable career of Damon Williams. So, Damon Williams came in as an ombuds. Got started here under Peter Spear when he was provost. Because when he was dean of the college, I think at University of Colorado, Boulder, he was very, very impressed with ombuds. So, he brought it here.

And then the physicist who started ethnic studies, a woman, took, and she was, I think, vice provost for maybe faculty and staff, she took the ombuds under her line. But then when Williams came on and was chief diversity officer, it got moved over there which made no sense. And one of the things that we realized going to the trainings is that ombuds are effective, 00:57:00 if they answer only to the chief academic officer. Because the aggregate data we provide—first of all, Damon Williams, I mean you should excuse me but I got to know him fairly well. He didn’t know anything about this campus and never learned anything about this campus. So if we would want to say to him we’re really, really troubled by the Waisman Center, “Hmm? Waisman Center?” Or staff at the Waisman Center.

So, we persuade—not we persuaded, we worked with Eden Inoway-Ronnie, who’s a person who makes this whole campus possible on a daily basis. And then she worked very closely with [Paul] DeLuca. And he said, “This makes no sense,” and took it back. So that we now report to the provost. So that would be Sarah Manglesdorf. And we worked very closely during my tenure with the appeals committee to educate academic staff as fully as we could to what constitutes a probably, what constitutes a viable appeal, because there’s lots and lots and lots of unhappiness in work situations and a sense of unjust things happening. But the standards by which a case is adjudicated are very clear and very specific and we’re trying to prevent—we collectively in academic staff—prevent people from wasting time. And people get themselves in a situation—and these are generalizations, of course—either where they really know, “know,” underlined, that the supervisor needs their help in elucidating to the supervisor how to do that job. And when that’s unappreciated, they got upset or their coworkers are annoying. And I’m getting now more into what comes to the ombuds. But even more so when they’re thinking about appealing that the university itself will be deeply distressed that they’re unhappy in their job. And we have to say to them, the university is indifferent. The university has rules and regulations that apply to faculty, that apply to academic staff, that apply to classified staff. And generally speaking we all hope those rules and regulations are followed. And when they’re not, there’s a general sense that there needs to be a corrective. But nobody, except perhaps the ombuds who’s listening, and we’re supposed to be neutral, that’s the other one. We will give you 1:00:00 all kinds of sympathy. But we will also try to disabuse you of the notion that the university is going to be wringing its hands over your situation. You’re hired to do the job. The first wisdom that comes out of having been an ombuds is read your job description. And nobody is asking you to do anything different. And if the job description changes, it is your responsibility to see to it that the written one reflects what it is your supervisor expects you to do.

And we are simultaneously, which I also alluded to, passionately in favor of supervisor training. And we don’t believe there’s any on this campus that’s effective, even remotely. And anytime, I mean, certainly for academic staff, you ought to have a performance review. Well, swell. And many times somebody comes to the ombuds and has never had a performance review or almost worse, starts to get them at the point at which the supervisor has decided to get rid of them. So.

So ombuds, the piece that I haven’t quite said is that friendships form there. And this has been tested. I mean, you know me well enough to know now, probably, that I have been testifying to it like crazy from practically my second day on the job. But even the most reserved of the foursomes that I worked with, because they changed over time, were self-acknowledged. It’s a transformative experience because of the level of collaboration and the level of commitment, which emerges as you work because we are relatively protected from the ways in which the university isn’t careful. And that’s what we learned about.

And now there is, I’m very pleased to say, one of the four ombuds is Dale Burke, who’s a retired classified staff. So there’s one classified staff, one faculty, and two academic staff at this point. And one of those academic staff, to make it really personal, and the one who is the most miraculous of a friend, is Sandy [Sandra] Guthrie. And she just decided to extend her stay, which is fabulous because her combination of expertise and no nonsense 01:03:00 is just absolutely invaluable. She does more good for everybody she talks to just in knowing what the regulations are, and knowing what the facts are, and pointing them in that direction because a lot of people don’t explore what their benefits are and how they may or may not use them, depending on what they decide to do about their jobs. So.

Reeves: Linda, I always try to leave you with the last word. This might be our final session. So, I want to make sure that you have space her to say anything you feel you need to say before we close.

Newman: No. I think the only thing I would say is, I think it’s an extremely good thing that you’re doing the work that you’re doing and I think you do it amazingly well. I so treasure who and what this place is. And it’s really, really good that individual stories are being collected. There’s no other way to get at, I mean, Donna Shalala was very good at talking about having been astounded every day she was here by how much this institution is loved. And I believe her. Maybe they love Michigan, too. Could be. Seems unlikely to me. But it’s the stories. So, thank you.

Reeves: Well, thank you, Linda. So, this concludes the fourth oral history session with Linda Newman.


End 25 May 2015 session.


16 October 2018

Tortorice: Hello. It’s October 16, 2018. And I’m here in the Mosse office (5231 Mosse Humanities, 455 N. Park St.) with Linda Newman. Linda, what position did you retire from, from the university? You were an associate dean if I remember?

Newman: Assistant dean. I retired from being assistant dean in the School of Education. And returned almost immediately to do four years as an ombud. Which was a quarter-time position with three other retired faculty and/or academic staff working as ombuds with employed people at UW-Madison.

Tortorice: Well, Linda, let’s start from the beginning. Pause here while I turn up the volume. So where were you born?

Newman: I was born in New York City. My parents respectively had come to New York from fighting in Spain, my father, against Franco. And my mother after she graduated from Smith, where she had studied with Merle Curti (1897-1996). Took a year and went to the Soviet Union. And that would have been 1936. And then they met in New York working for the taxi industry. Which famously went on strike. And my parents married July fifth of 1940, and I was born in New York City May twenty-fourth of 1941.

Tortorice: So your parents had a shared interest in radical politics, it sounds like.

Newman: Yes. And that’s really what brought them together. Apart from that, they had very little in common. But that was more than enough to bring them together and keep them together. My dad grew up Jewish in mostly Irish Harlem. And he was a very good hater, would be the way I would say it, beginning with the Irish. My mother grew up in Darian, Connecticut, which was as WASP as it could be. And her older sister, whom I adored, was the one person to vote Democratic. I think it may be in the election when Teddy Roosevelt (1858-1919) was elected, I’m not sure. But they were an interesting combination, to say the least.

Tortorice: To have that shared meaning, the shared, well, ideology—

Newman: Yes.

Tortorice: —seems to have worked for them.

Newman: It worked for them. And in terms of our conversation, very much, what would I want to say, drove my mother’s fascination with meeting George Mosse. And I’m happy to report that she has talked with Troy about being Curti’s student in Northampton, Massachusetts. And then when I came to campus, when I started as a graduate student in 1962, Merle Curti had us over to the house. So I came with a pretty good credential for the UW-Madison History Department. I was very much in ignorance of all that. I had studied English literature at Brown University and didn’t really switch over to history until I realized I hadn’t learned anything, or enough yet. And when I talked to my parents about what to study in graduate school, my mother said very emphatically, “You have to study history. That’s what there is to learn. You’re going to learn it.” Okay.

Tortorice: Period.

Newman: Period.

Tortorice: Well, and their immersion in history and their shared understanding of the importance of politics and engagement—

Newman: And passion.

Tortorice: And passion for that would have indicated that they would want you to do the same thing.

Newman: And I can brag that in 1948 I helped to campaign for Henry Wallace (1888-1965).

Tortorice: Oh, for heaven’s sake.

Newman: So I am also immersed in politics, although I never considered myself to be as much of a radical as they always were. But I loved, especially in retrospect, the friendships that were in and out of the house. And the fascinating people who were friends. My mother and the daughter of friends of theirs have got themselves a great deal of information from the FBI about how closely we were followed when I was growing up in New Haven. I’m not so interested in it, but there it is.

Tortorice: Have you accessed your parents’ files or—


Newman: No.

Tortorice: No.

Newman: My mother did. And this friend Mary Kushner was out here visiting just before my mother passed. And they had a wonderful time comparing notes. It’s redacted but they got out of it what they could.

Tortorice: Mm hmm. Well, we’ve just requested George’s file.

Newman: Wonderful. And good for you.

Tortorice: Because you know, he was fingered to HUAC, House Unamerican Activities Committee, by Daniel Boorstin (1914-2004). Because George was in a Marxist reading group at Harvard with Dirk [Jan] Struik (1894-2000), who was a physics professor at MIT and was a Marxist. Of course, George’s interest in ideology, in Marx, who he admired greatly, would have drawn him to that.

Newman: Of course, of course. But nothing to do with, Boorstin was an idiot anyway.

Tortorice: Yes.

Newman: What a ridiculous thing to have done.

Tortorice: But and you can imagine in those years as a recent exile, émigré, and also a gay man, what that must have meant to George in terms of his sense of security.

Newman: Exactly. Exactly.

Tortorice: So, yes, I think it was a huge thing. And it’s something that he never talked about and I couldn’t get him to include in his memoir. So that tells me that it did have quite an immense impact.

Newman: Oh, it must have. It must have. And as much as most of what I remember of George, I believe he told me. But I have read memoirs. But I knew he was disgusted with the idea of having to come to the United States at all.

Tortorice: He was. (laughs)

Newman: I think at that point, he was in England.

Tortorice: That’s right.

Newman: But he did not want to come here. For so many good reasons. Not that I heard the reasons; I didn’t need to.

Tortorice: I think he was at that point attempting to turn himself into an English gentleman.

Newman: Of course. And a nice fit, potentially.

Tortorice: Yes. Yes.

Newman: Although we would have missed so much.


Tortorice: Well and I think, you know, and this is what his cousin did. Well, his second cousin.

Newman: Right. I didn’t know, I didn’t know that.

Tortorice: Werner Mosse (1918-2001).

Newman: And did he spend his life in England?

Tortorice: He did. And the differences between the two are striking.

Newman: I’m sure they are. And did you know Werner, then?

Tortorice: I met him once.

Newman: Okay. But you knew of him through George.

Tortorice: Yes. Yes. But that’s a whole other story. So we perhaps don’t want to take too much time.

Newman: No, no, no, we won’t go there.

Tortorice: So you had, then, this interest in history.

Newman: Oh, yes. Very much so. And when I walked into Merrill Jensen’s (1905-1980) office in Bascom, when I came to graduate school, he said to me, “What are you interested in?”

And I said, “Well, colonial or revolutionary.”

“Well, which one is it?”

I said, “Colonial.”

He said, “[David S.] Lovejoy (1919-1999). Around the corner.”

Tortorice: (laughs) That was it.


Newman: Which was perfect. I mean, Lovejoy and I got along so well. And I worked in the department, when I was a graduate student, I worked with David but I also worked with Bill Williams. And I also had, was it maybe Gaines Post (1902-1987) but I felt this, especially looking back, that I intersected with so many different phases of the History Department. I was a graduate student. And then I was an undergraduate advisor. And then I was a School of Education assistant dean, but maintaining my contacts. And the friendships were much later than my graduate student days. So that was Suzanne Desan and and Steve [Stern] and Florencia [Mallon]. And George. And then, as you probably know, Steve Feierman was just here for the [Jan] Vansina lecture. And that really brought back to me the layering of the friendships. Because the people that I loved so much when I was working in the department were Feierman and [John W.] Dower (b. 1938). And then the new people were [David] McDonald and [Steve] Stern and [Kenneth] Sacks (b. 1947). And immediately upon becoming the undergraduate advisor, I was friends with George. I had the office across the hall. And he was beyond gracious. Always. And of course, profoundly engaged with undergraduates. And I didn’t think about it. That’s just who he was.

And one gay undergraduate student—I was completely unaware of my own sexuality, not the brightest woman in the crowd—but we both were very devoted to a young man named Marc Bechtal. And he’s out there in the world somewhere. But that was really fun.

Tortorice: I remember Marc.

Newman: Yeah. Yeah.

Tortorice: I drove to Minneapolis with him. Because he, like so many undergraduates and graduates kept contact with George throughout George’s life.

Newman: Right.

Tortorice: This of course was not so typical.

Newman: Not at all. But there was nothing typical about George that I can think of. The other undergraduate who we both adored, and I know you know, is Andy Bachman. And that was an enormously powerful commitment from me to Andy and Andy to George, and not necessarily any kind of circle there. It was just we both absolutely loved and love Andy.


Tortorice: So you came to Madison. Your mother knew Merle—

Newman: Right.

Tortorice: —from when he was—

Newman: At Smith.

Tortorice: Smith.

Newman: And he radicalized her. He taught the Scottsboro Boys 10:54 and that took her right to the left. She tells the story of him, Curti walking across the campus at Smith with my mother’s best friend, Margot Catty Neilson. And saying to Margo, “Miss Nielson is moving to the left.” And that was my mother.

Tortorice: (laughs) Well, there are recordings of Merle from 1943—

Newman: Wow.

Tortorice: —where he speaks out against war.

Newman: Right.

Tortorice: And is very adamant that no war is really justified. And this is quite courageous in the middle of World War Two.

Newman: And my mother lived in their house. She graduated in [19]35. Between that date and when she went to the Soviet Union, she lived with the Curtis. And she worked with Merle on Peace and War. And as she tells the story, she’s the one who said, “You cannot call it War and Peace.” I don’t know, but that’s what she says.

Tortorice: (laughs) So you arrived to Madison in 1962 to this world-famous and very highly recognized and appreciated department. A department that in many ways was the opposite to Harvard and Yale. It was the more radical history.

Newman: And that was part of why I applied. I applied to Brown and I applied to Yale and I applied here. And here’s the only place I got in. So that added to—


Tortorice: Lucky you.

Newman: Oh, I’ll say. Oh, I wouldn’t have liked either of the other two places at all.

Tortorice: The kind of history they were doing in those days in particular would have probably not resonated with you or your family. (laughs)

Newman: And what as very clear as I look back on it is here, also, it was extremely male-dominated.

Tortorice: Yes.

Newman: And I did not know to question that initially. That came, but not initially.

Tortorice: Mm hmm. So you came and you worked with Lovejoy.

Newman: I worked with Lovejoy. I worked for [Leon] Litwack (b. 1929) doing research on, I think Black history. I know it was Black history. And I think it was right after the Civil War. Working in the Historical Society. I also worked in the Historical Society for Nathan Glaab? No, Charles Glaab (1927-2009) and Larry [Lawrence] Larsen, who were in the office that was Alice Smith when she was doing Wisconsin history. So I did research on Menasha working for them. And that’s where I was literally when John Kennedy was killed I was up in that part of the Historical Society. I don’t know, and then I taught history for Larry [Laurence] Vesey and Paul Glad. Just 101 or 102. Before my son was born. So that would have been in 1966.

Tortorice: Okay. So tell me a bit about your impressions of Madison in those years. Your circle. A bit more about the department. And then we’ll move on to your friendship with George.

Newman: Great. The circle I was in, I met Ken[neth Russell] Bowling here, and he’s—


Tortorice: Your former husband.

Newman: Right. And along the way we got married. And he was a [Merrill] Jensen (1905-1980) student. But I think for the most part, my friends were [David] Cronon’s (1924-2006) students. So US history students. And I took a course from Cronon and I didn’t think much of him. I took a course from Taylor—I can’t remember what Taylor’s first name was—I was crazy about him as a historian. And I was very close to Ron Storey and his wife Ellen. His wife Ellen worked for Merrill Jensen. And Ken, whom I married, was Merrill Jensen’s graduate student. And Ron worked for, oh, lord, I’m not going to remember. But that professor left here and went to Stonybrook. And I think he was US culture. But I just don’t remember his name. And Ellen and I and Ron and Ken were very, very close friends. And when Ellen and Ron moved to Amherst, because he taught at U Mass after that, I stayed very close to them.

I know I knew Joan Scott and Don, but I don’t think well. I mean, I think I was at history events with them. I was friends with [John] Frank Cook, who went on to become the archivist. And with [Marian Gibaline?], who became his partner. And she was a graduate student, but I don’t know who she worked with. And Lovejoy’s students, John Raimo, I believe, was one of them. And there was somebody working for Lovejoy who went into the Madison schools to teach history.

And I’m very clear that when I moved here, I lived on, I lived on Langdon Street with Ken after we got married. And I’m trying to think about where I lived before that. Oh, right. I lived on Broom Street with an undergrad who was just finishing up. I’d been friends with a friend of hers at Brown. And then two young women—they didn’t seem young to me, they were my age—but one getting her PhD in Italian and one getting her PhD I think in French. So I knew those people. And I knew Gemaine Brèe, only in the sense that she sort of wafted through the rooms. I didn’t know her well.

And it’s hard to say, well, I didn’t get to know George until I was hired in the history department.


Tortorice: Yes. But you met Chuck [Charles] Thurow and Dale Hillerman. Were you engaged politically? Because that period, when you came in [19]62—

Newman: Oh, yes.

Tortorice: People like Paul Breines were here. I don’t know if you knew Paul.

Newman: I didn’t know Paul at all. And I didn’t know anybody politically in the department. But my son was born in [19]67, Ken’s and my son. And we were up and down State Street constantly. Protesting.

Tortorice: The war?

Newman: The war. Absolutely. And I remember after I was hired as the history department advisor, I was distributing evaluations, which was part of my job. I’m trying to think who this guy was. Whoever it was who went to Stonybrook, we’d hired this guy who was vaguely Southern for history of American ideas, culture. And he was lecturing, saying to them, “There are National Guard troops on the steps of humanities. If you can imagine it!” And the flames were just flying out of my ears. I didn’t say anything. But I thought a little more respect, if you don’t mind? And I was here for the strike.

Tortorice: That would have been [19]69, right?

Newman: Yeah.

Tortorice: When the National Guard did come on campus.

Newman: And also the TAA was on strike.

Tortorice: Exactly.

Newman: And I was very torn. And I remember there was a grad student, again, I don’t remember his name, who told me I was part of management. And I was furious. He in fact was correct. But my political education was minimal. My passions were extreme. So, and somewhere along—

Tortorice: (laughs) Not unusual for young people, right?

Newman: Right. Along the line there, I also drove a cab and went on strike and helped to create Union Cab. But that’s a little later. And was involved with Jess and whoever he was with the alternative newspaper. Ron McCrea.

Tortorice: Oh, Ron McCrea. And Jess Anderson (1935-2001)?


Newman: Yup, yup. But mostly that was through Chuck and Dale and David [Bryant]. So I think—and Ken and I lived with John Steinhart and his family for two years, [19]70 and [19]71, when they were in a commune-like setting across the lake and then in town. Sort of rented mansions. And that’s the point at which Kenneth got involved with David and through Ken and David I met Chuck, Dale, and David. All of whom I love devotedly. And Chuck, we could say, most of all. And Dale was certainly very, very interested in history. I believe that Chuck did his master’s in Urban Planning.

Tortorice: Urban Planning. And Dale was in American history here.

Newman: Right.

Tortorice: But didn’t, I think he didn’t finish his PhD. But I should mention Chuck and Dale came to Madison after meeting on the Freedom Rides.

Newman: Right. Then they were at Tupelo. But I didn’t know about the Freedom Rides.

Tortorice: Yes.

Newman: And another undergraduate that I was very much involved with when I was working with IES, now I’m not going to remember. But a young man everybody fell in love with except me or Chuck. But we both adored him. He died. I mean, there’s Duncan. I knew Duncan Eerlie. And there’s the poster that you had up in the library.

Tortorice: Oh, yes, yes.

Newman: And one of the young men in that poster died.

Tortorice: Yes. And this was, we should say, a group of young gay men at the time that they were coming out, but also really the formative generation for gay rights.

Newman: Yes.

Tortorice: And in those days, it was called gay liberation.

Newman: Yes. Exactly.

Tortorice: And so they had created this community.


Newman: Yes. Very much so. And I was very much a part of it, still not realizing that I’m gay myself. That just came along. But I remember once going out and talking with Dale. And the lesbian hadn’t showed up, so I stood in, so to say. Live and learn.

Tortorice: (laughs) Oh well. So it was an exciting—would you like some water, Linda?

Newman: Oh, sure.

Tortorice: I think we may only have sparkling water.

Newman: Sparkling water is fine.

Tortorice: When you’re talking. [pause] This is one without a flavor. It has cherry. Is that all right?

Newman: Of course.

Tortorice: They’ll hear this, but I don’t think they’ll include it in the transcript. I hope they edited it out. But yes, it certainly was an exciting time. I came in at the tail end. Well, in high school I was involved on campus, and then came here in 1970. But was off and on campus in [19]68 and [19]69.

Newman: So where did you go to high school?

Tortorice: West. So I have some feeling of what it was like. But not only the intense and often very divisive politics, but also the incredible sense of possibility and this idea of changing the world. But also having the, well, courage and sense of empowerment to change the future. And that anything is possible. And I think that is something that is very difficult to convey to young people now because they—

Newman: Oh, I completely agree.

Tortorice: —completely are different.

Newman: Completely different. Yeah. And it was, one of the things that I think about when I think about it, is so completely taken for granted.


Tortorice: Yes.

Newman: That we were changing the world. And at the closest level—the relationships, the friendships, the love—was so powerful. And George was right in the middle of it. And never, he was the least hierarchical person I ever knew. I mean, by far. Just interested. Anywhere you sat him down, he just was interested. And he didn’t have to say anything. And I don’t know that you would remember, but when we did one of the tributes when he passed, Gerda couldn’t be there and gave me her text.

Tortorice: I was there. That was a memorial service.

Newman: And that’s when she said, she told me he couldn’t name that book Curious George. But it’s perfect. It’s just absolutely perfect.

Tortorice: Well, I think that is so striking about George is that he came from such privilege. And yet he was a very modest person. In some ways, even humble.

Newman: Yes.

Tortorice: And he didn’t play this kind of professor game—

Newman: Not at all.

Tortorice: —where he had this arrogance or—

Newman: Nothing.

Tortorice: And that’s I think hard for people to understand who just heard him lecture, where he had that authoritative voice.

Newman: Of course he did.

Tortorice: Because that was very serious business for him. But on a personal level, he was so friendly and didn’t have that kind of, well, sense of grandeur that someone in his position could have had, given his accomplishments.

Newman: Oh my goodness, he was entitled to it. But he never had it. I mean, there were so many stories. But one of the stories I loved was his, wherever he was skiing in Europe, as a very young person, just stopping the elevator so he could talk to a princess. Because he just wanted to know what it was like to be a princess.

Tortorice: (laughs) Yes. That was George. He did have intense curiosity up until the end of his life. And he never lost that.

Newman: Never.

Tortorice: Always was so engaged. Yes, it’s very true.

Newman: And was, then, I think some degree of athlete, and a skier.

Tortorice: That’s right. He was.


Newman: And he loved it. Because I don’t think there’s very much that George did in his life that he didn’t love. I mean, I don’t think that he would have seen any reason or felt the need to do things he didn’t love to do. So most of my friendship with him came from being neighbors around the corner here on the fourth floor.

Tortorice: And you quickly understood how intensely he was engaged with undergraduate education and his students.

Newman: Oh, completely.

Tortorice: How important this was to him.

Newman: Absolutely. And there were various students where, as one of my Jewish students, a woman, and I don’t think I can distinguish her. I had, Andy was one and she was one and they both became rabbis. She a very different order of beast. I don’t think she’s the one I’m thinking of, though. There was one who was in his seminar just arguing with him about everything all the time. And I knew, getting his full respect for the ways in which she was going after him. I don’t remember the content. But we would just visit across the hall. And John Barker (1933-2019) was right there, too. And I would bring my dog, who very eventually bit Courtenay, then I had to keep him at home. But various people thought that was a good choice.

Tortorice: (laughs) He bit [William J.] Courtenay. Okay.

Newman: But I think mostly Boris visited John Barker. I don’t think George was, I mean, George had dogs all the time, but I didn’t know that then. But I think Boris was much more enamored with John Barker, who kept food for him.

Tortorice: Boris the dog. Yes.

Newman: Yep. Absolutely. So I’m trying to think of the, in some ways the biggest event in George’s life that I was part of for years and years and years with various partners. I mean, you knew me with Barbara with George.

Tortorice: Yes.

Newman: But also the Vietnam veteran I married after Kenneth, Perry. Perry and I knew George. But was his holiday party. I mean, we were always, I was always there. And that’s where the French woman and her partner would be. I’m not remembering—


Tortorice: Elaine Marks and Yvonne Ozello?

Newman: Yes. Yep, they would always be there. And then I think Judy came.

Tortorice: Judy Corcoran, yes, the graduate advisor. Yes. And most of George’s friends in his department. It was about forty-five, fifty people. And it was really a wonderful party, wasn’t it?

Newman: Oh, it was so wonderful. And usually catered with people that he knew. The other way that I knew the house is that Charlie and Susie Bolton, and I think even after Conevery [Bolton Valencius] came, the graduate students who lived there when George was, was I assume teaching in Israel. But he may have been teaching other places. And they would have the house. And I may have known some of the other people who lived there, but I don’t remember. So the house was very much, I felt at home there. I liked it much better when George was there. But sometimes he wasn’t, and that was okay, too.

Tortorice: It was a very welcoming home.

Newman: Very.

Tortorice: He had his undergraduate and graduate seminars there for many, many years. Often very pioneering seminars on the history of sexuality for younger, for undergrads. I think for him it was an opportunity to test out ideas and also engage with the students in a very relaxed atmosphere.

Newman: Informal. Yeah, I agree.

Tortorice: But when you mention that woman in his seminar who loved arguing with him, George really particularly enjoyed informed argumentation. And he loved debate. He loved people who had opinions that were different than his—

Newman: Exactly.

Tortorice: —that he could engage with on a certain level. As long as they didn’t just spout slogans.

Newman: Oh, no, no, no, no.

Tortorice: So did he appreciate her argumentation?

Newman: Oh, I’m sure. I mean, I was never present. But she was so caught up with it. And I think some of the time really frustrated with him. And I’m sure he was unmoved. Meaning he was perfectly willing for her to be—and she was as smart as she could be. But he wasn’t going to give in. And I don’t know the content. But I loved him. I love him so much in that encounter because of the respect.

Tortorice: The respect that he gave the student. Yes.


Newman: Absolutely. Which she on some level completely took for granted. And there was no way in the world I was going to point that out to her. I admire George and, how would I want to say, also feel as if I am somewhat like him in being very interested in the other person, whoever it is. And it’s not necessary to try to tell him anything. I mean, she had to do the work because she was doing the seminar. And I’m sure she did a good job. But his accessibility and his respect for everybody was staggering. And one took it for granted. I mean, it was just, of course. That was George. And walking his dog in the cemetery to go pee on the people that he felt needed to be peed on.

Tortorice: (laughs) I always thought perhaps he trained them to do that, because it was uncanny.

Newman: Yes, I think he did.

Tortorice: And he got such a kick out of it.

Newman: And Harvey, I knew Harvey especially close to his death, very well. But I didn’t know them in tandem. I mean, I knew, I think probably even after Harvey died, George’s stories about Harvey. But I didn’t know them at all when I was working in the department. And I was close with the woman who eventually married Maury [Maurice] Meisner (1931-2012) (Lynn Lubkeman). And I think that had to be Harvey’s student. And so I was in that circle, because I was crazy about Maury. I mean, platonically, God help me, but just absolutely loved him. Yeah. There were such wonderful faculty members there. Steve Feierman among others. And I was very close to Liz.

Tortorice: These are, Linda’s talking about various faculty members of that period, which we will look up and include in the transcript. Yes, this question of George’s respect for his students. Undergraduate, graduate students. And sense of responsibility. And I think that came out very much in the [19]60s—

Newman: Yes.

Tortorice: —where, unlike some other professors, he did fully engage. But he didn’t over-engage and he didn’t try to become an advocate.

Newman: Not at all. Not at all. And I think I remember that his, he was one of the faculty members who had a standard for the faculty that was very, very high.

Tortorice: Very high.

Newman: And I think he and I shared—although I couldn’t promise you this—some disappointment with some of the members of the American caucus.

Tortorice: Yes.


Newman: Just in terms of their seriousness about the discipline of history. And also their responsibility to the department and their students. Graduate students and undergraduates.

Tortorice: Mm hmm. I think that was crucial for George.

Newman: I agree.

Tortorice: I think that generation there was probably more of that, perhaps, than there is now.

Newman: Oh, I think so.

Tortorice: That real devotion to the department, to the institution.

Newman: And to Hebrew University. It was his great good fortune to have institutional integration and support in places that were equal to the magnitude of his gifts.

Tortorice: Yes.

Newman: He was utterly and completely extraordinary. And you never had to notice, so long as you didn’t waste his time, but much more importantly, the department’s or the discipline’s time. He had no use for that. At all.

Tortorice: Very high standards.

Newman: Extremely high. And would never have described them that way.

Tortorice: No.

Newman: That was a given.

Tortorice: It was a given. It was the bottom line.

Newman: Exactly.

Tortorice: Exactly. And that is something that is very difficult for some people to understand or to even think of, well, matching.

Newman: Yes. Yes.

Tortorice: It is a huge—

Newman: And it’s almost nineteenth century.


Tortorice: Yes. I agree. It comes, I mean, I do think it comes out of his family background.

Newman: Of course it does.

Tortorice: He’s European, yes. It’s very much a part of that family progressive tradition and belief in Bildung, in the power of education. I think this was their faith.

Newman: Completely. Having to do with ability. And I’m sure on some level, a commitment also to physical effectiveness. Which I think of as the skiing. I love just knowing that.

Tortorice: And he skied well into his sixties.

Newman: Good.

Tortorice: And then had to give it up. But he was on the Cambridge ski team. And I always remember him saying, “Well, you know, these beautiful calves of mine are from my skiing on the Cambridge ski team.” (laughs) Which I was skeptical of. But anyway, but he was—

Newman: But I love that.

Tortorice: Yeah. He had the greatest sense of humor, as you know. George was so funny.

Newman: Oh! And so willing to laugh at himself.

Tortorice: Yes.

Newman: But not invite, I mean, he didn’t ask you to do anything. If he felt like you were true to yourself, then you were welcome. And that was it.

Tortorice: Well, George was very sensitive.

Newman: Oh!

Tortorice: Although you would, he wasn’t in the kind of way that you might think today sensitivity manifests itself. It wasn’t a kind of, well, for lack of a better word, a kind of trigger warning sensitivity or any of that. It was more that he had a real empathic understanding of other people. But he would never tell them what he thought they should do or what—


Newman: Nope.

Tortorice: —unless it was his graduate students. Then he might sometimes tell them.

Newman: Sure.

Tortorice: But this brings up the other side. And that is that George, because of his high standards, I think sometimes, and also his German background, he sometimes perhaps didn’t give people enough of a chance. In the sense that—

Newman: That might be true.

Tortorice: Yes. It was something that I, especially with graduate students, he kind of decided whether you were worth—

Newman: Sure.

Tortorice: You know, he understood, and he was probably a master at it. Because what he was looking for was intense engagement—

Newman: Exactly.

Tortorice: —in the sense of discipline. And so he didn’t want to take on students—

Newman: And productivity.

Tortorice: Yes. So I think that was wise, in a sense. Because he probably was one of the greatest graduate trainers of his generation—

Newman: Oh, I think so.

Tortorice: —given what happened to his students, their subsequent careers. But I don’t know if that kind of attitude would really work now, in a sense.

Newman: I don’t think so. And I think it’s a huge loss. But it’s, I mean, two or three times now you and I have reached a place where we feel like we know it’s something we could not explain.

Tortorice: Yes. Right.

Newman: And I think this is the same way.

Tortorice: Yes.

Newman: That it was a given. It’s not perfect for him that he would behave that way. And he assumed that the students would find the person who would call that out of them if it wasn’t he.

Tortorice: Yes. I think that’s really the key, that if it wasn’t he, that they would, if they really had the commitment, that they would follow through on it.

Newman: That’s right. Somewhere else.

Tortorice: It was giving the individual a lot of, well, empowerment for their own education.

Newman: Yes. And responsibility. And then I think he was wonderfully, and honest, again, is an inadequate word. But the integrity of the man is extraordinary. And he would not allow you to come if he didn’t recognize something in you that meant he could work with you. But it wasn’t, there was nothing to it except, no. There was no extra energy around it. This one is yes, that one is no. And God keep you and success and so forth, but not with me. Done.

Tortorice: So do you recall any experiences from when you were the undergraduate advisor that related to George’s teaching? In particular, I know you mentioned a few students. But how undergrads in his classes may have responded to him as a teacher. By that time, he was already getting towards the end of his career.


Newman: He was.

Tortorice: Because we forget, he started teaching in [19]44.

Newman: Right. And for me, I don’t even know what kinds of lecture courses he was teaching. What I knew were the seminars. And the undergraduate seminars. Because I was there at the point in which that became a requirement. Now it may have been before I ever showed up. I don’t know. But that was an incredibly important piece for the students as I worked with them to figure out which seminar was going to work for them. And then it was a tremendous excitement when George did the seminar. And he didn’t do it often. He didn’t have to.

And I also think, as I recall, that he was fairly interested in the students who would study abroad at Hebrew University. I mean, I don’t think it was anything like what we got after he passed and left the money. But I think there was some undergraduates would go, and would go because of him. I think that’s accurate.

Tortorice: Yes. I think you’re right. And I think that whole interaction with undergraduates, graduates at the Hebrew University, and then encouraging Israeli students to study with him and get their PhDs here, like Steve Aschheim, Arye Carmon and a few others, was a kind of template for then what he—

Newman: Exactly.

Tortorice: —wanted with his estate gift to happen.

Newman: Exactly.

Tortorice: And, yes. I mean, God only knows what he would think of the current situation in both countries. (laughs)

Newman: Oh, sometimes I really, and thank you for mentioning. Because sometimes I really, really get heartbroken. I mean, Israel and Palestine break my heart every time I think of them. But to think of them in the context of his vision for what was possible. And I absolutely believe it was possible. It didn’t happen. It has not happened. And what has happened is worse than a nightmare. And it’s sort of like I’m glad my mother didn’t live to see 9/11. And for George not to have to put up with the current treatment of Palestine.

Tortorice: Although you know, Linda, I think George knew the direction that politics was going in Israel. And he was so prescient and understood history so well that I don’t think he would be surprised by Trump, either. I think George’s work really in many ways is validated, unfortunately, by the kind of politics that we’re having right now in both places.

Newman: I agree.

Tortorice: But I recall that when [Yitzhak] Rabin (1922-1995) was assassinated, George really, that whole evening, he didn’t speak. And I think he was thinking through what he saw was going to happen. Because right before he died, he really did tell people that he knew in Israel that they had to leave. That he understood that the left was going to become marginalized there.

Newman: Thank God.


Tortorice: But they didn’t. They stayed and the left, you know, it’s just quite extraordinary that they had that commitment.

Newman: And they had his insight.

Tortorice: Yes. And he would have kept going. I mean, I think George would have still been very engaged in Israel.

Newman: Of course he would. Of course he would. No, he couldn’t have. I mean, observer is not a role he ever took, for even a minute.

Tortorice: And you know, I think because of his understanding of the divisions in the Jewish community in the [19]30s, and how that really allowed the Nazis to take such advantage. You know, it’s a weak word. But how they played on those divisions, that he, that he felt that commitment to Israel was so necessary for him, for his generation.

Newman: Right. Personally.

Tortorice: Personally. Yes. And that vision of Zionism with a human face. Because of course he understood the power of nationalism. He understood the power of racism. He saw that all-inclusive unfortunate appeal of these two together.

Newman: Exactly.

Tortorice: Plus religious belief. These are the three things—

Newman: And intolerance.

Tortorice: Yes, intolerance, yes. Well, I don’t want to take up more of your time, because we’ve been speaking for now fifty minutes. And perhaps we could do this again. We’ll think about other—

Newman: I would love it.

Tortorice: Okay. But I just wanted to ask you if you had any—well, one thing is that I recall that strong sense of community that you mentioned earlier in the history department. And that was community of staff and some of the faculty. But I recall that you and Judy Corcoran, who was the graduate advisor, and George, and Sterling Fishman, and others on the faculty, that you were socially engaged with each other. Not just at work, that you—


Newman: Right.

Tortorice: —had a sense of community, a sense of looking out for each other.

Newman: Right.

Tortorice: So tell me a little bit about that and then your personal appreciation out of what you got out of this department and that community.

Newman: Partly it was the babies. The baby caucus. And I was trying to remember precisely. I know McDonald and Sacks were in it.

Tortorice: These were the newer faculty members?

Newman: They were new when I was, on my watch, they were new. And I can’t remember if Stern was one. I don’t think so. But I’m not sure who the third person then would have been. And I know George and I shared—I’m pretty sure I’m accurate about this—a tremendous admiration/love for Chuck Cohen. And Chuck came later than Sacks and McDonald.

Then I was close, very close with Suzanne. Personally. And, as I mentioned, crazy about John Dower. John more for how brilliantly I thought he taught. So I was always encouraging my students to work with him. I wasn’t so much encouraging students around George because he didn’t need it. I mean, it was perfectly obvious that when he was teaching, students would be studying with him. And I would know those students as I knew George. George and I were, you know, if you go to church, love God, love your neighbor. And George was my neighbor in the very finest sense of that, given our respective locations.

And Judy and I were very close. And then there was the whole thing with Ceil [Cecile Henneman]. That was a whole—


Tortorice: Who was Ceil?

Newman: Ceil was Judy’s nemesis. And I got hired by Peter Smith. And I came in the day before or the day after New Year’s. Because I started in January. And I had to understand that there was Ceil then there was Judy. And I think Sharpless was one of Ciel’s faculty members. And then of course Judy was involved with [Stanley] Schultz (1938-2020). I have nothing to say on behalf of either one of them. But I’m just trying to think. Who else on the faculty that I was really friends with? George.

Tortorice: And were you friendly with Sterling?

Newman: Oh, very much so.

Tortorice: Yeah, I thought so.

Newman: Very much so.

Tortorice: Sterling Fishman. Yes.

Newman: And I had known sort of tangentially when I was a graduate student. Well, not so tangentially, really. Let’s see, Sterling divorced—

Tortorice: Nancy? No, no.

Newman: No, he married Nancy.

Tortorice: Right.

Newman: But Nancy had been married to—

Tortorice: God, I can’t think of her name. Krinsky? Bobbie [Roberta] Krinsky (1936-2018)?

Newman: Right. So, Sterling had been married to Bobbie, and Nancy had been married to Krinsky. And I knew Hatch, Harriet Pakula Teweles was a very close friend of mine and Ken’s. And she was very close to Bobbie. And then along the way, I got to know Sterling. And we cared for each other very much. And then I knew him in connection with George. I mean, there was that friendship. And over time, I developed an enormous respect for Sterling. And then, of course, I moved over to the School of Ed. and I got to know [Carl] Kaestle, whom I hadn’t so much known when I was in the history department.


Tortorice: And Sterling was also in the School of Ed.

Newman: Exactly.

Tortorice: And he was one of George’s PhDs.

Newman: Right.

Tortorice: One of his early PhDs who then also taught at Wisconsin for many years and was an excellent teacher.

Newman: Right. And I think was, I understood him to be, and then that shifted some, sort of an acolyte of George’s. and then I kind of got over that to recognize the strength of Sterling in and of himself.

Tortorice: Oh, yes.

Newman: And I also got to know Nancy. And my developing faith, although Christian, made a whole lot of room for Sterling. Because my sense is, he was much more observant than George was.

Tortorice: He became more observant as he got older.

Newman: Yeah. Right. And I think I was real conscious of that. But also, loving George. I mean, you remember that dinner—

Tortorice: Right.

Newman: —at the Kennedy Manor.

Tortorice: Right before—

Newman: We lost—

Tortorice: All of them. Yes, all of them in the last—

Newman: Yes.

Tortorice: So it was Judy Corcoran, Sterling Fishman and George, you and me.

Newman: And Barbara.

Tortorice: And Barbara, yes. And this was 1997, probably.

Newman: Probably. Yeah.


Tortorice: And that was when I really understood that sense of community and connection that was evident in the department of those that were here in those years.

Newman: Right. Right. And Judy was such a force and so much beloved of George.

Tortorice: Oh, yes.

Newman: And that was so much where I understood his absence of class distinction. Where his awareness of class was enormous and very, very finely tuned. Having to do with, I mean, he was an aristocrat. And he was the finest version of aristocrats. All to do with maintaining the standards. But you didn’t talk about them.

Tortorice: You know, it was, I think George’s Quaker education was very, very important—

Newman: I agree.

Tortorice: —in the formation of his attitudes.

Newman: Yep. And that was eleven—

Tortorice: Yes.

Newman: —when he got over here and was at—

Tortorice: Haverford.

Newman: Haverford, yes. That’s where my, my niece went there. And then my mother and George got to talk about it. And of course my mother had a huge crush on George. Huge.

Tortorice: Because I think that’s where some of his, well, egalitarian attitudes, but also his really amazing ethical—

Newman: Exactly right. Exactly right.

Tortorice: I mean certainly that comes from his family, also.

Newman: No, but you’re right. It’s Haverford.

Tortorice: I think it’s the combination of both together that made such a unique person.


Newman: I agree. And I think that was, for that to have happened, because it was exactly what he needed. I mean, he needed to be exactly the young man he was in order for it to take just the way it did. Yes. I think you’re completely right.

Tortorice: Well, I think that our takeaway from our conversation has to be what an extraordinary person George was and how we miss him but also how unique he was.

Newman: Oh, completely!

Tortorice: Yes.

Newman: And this isn’t quite the right word, but available. I mean, if you encountered him, you never were the same. And there was no noise about it. I mean, just none. One of, in Barbara’s and my evolving conversation about why clean is one of our absolute values in terms of another person. And George was as clean in that sense as they come. There was just no static and no, nothing even remotely artificial. Nothing.

Tortorice: Well, thank you, Linda. That was absolutely wonderful.

Newman: Thank you, sweetheart. What an opportunity.


[End Interview.]

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