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Roe: Telling the Tale

In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled that the right to an abortion was Constitutional. Almost 50 years later, in 2022, the Supreme Court overruled the Roe decision, stripping millions of a right long since assumed guaranteed. As writer and reproductive-rights activist Joyce Avrech Berkman points out, the journey between these two events is marked by a long history of misogyny, legal barrages, and a narrow view of religion and American history. Looking back at her experiences in academia during the late 1960s and early 1970s, and rigorously analyzing religious pluralism and the work of other activists such as Bill Baird, Berkman reveals the greater, despicable truths that have led to a breaking down of democracy, and the work being done to mend it.

Joyce Avrech Berkman is professor of History Emerita at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she taught from 1965 to 2014. She taught as well at Mount Holyoke College, and in Canada and Germany, earning the University’s Distinguished Teaching Award and its Distinguished Academic Outreach Award, and a US Fulbright, among other awards. She was a founding member of the University and Five College Women’s Studies programs, and launched courses at the University and in the Five Colleges on US, British, and European women’s history, African American women’s history, and seminars in the history of Reproductive Rights, Oral History, Autobiography, History, and Fiction. Her published scholarship spans multiple disciplines, including philosophy and theology, and focuses primarily on the life and writing of Olive Schreiner, Vera Brittain, and Edith Stein and issues in historical theory and methodology. A public historian, she works with theaters in play development, and co-founded the Valley Women’s History Collaborative. Her leading secondary interests are in music theory, composition, and piano performance.

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