Lynn Avery Hunt (1974-1987)

When I was promoted to Full Professor in the Berkeley history department in 1984 I was the only woman among more than 40 full professors, not to mention the only lesbian. Although my solitude as a female among the full professors did not last long, it was a striking moment, but equally dramatic was the complete absence of anyone of color. It is perhaps difficult for younger faculty now to imagine this state of affairs and the resistance that some clearly felt to changing it. But change it did, one new appointment and promotion at a time, often after intense conflict. But my memory of those days is not overshadowed by isolation or struggle. What struck me most at the time and ever since was my incredible good fortune at being hired in a department filled with fabulously interesting and accomplished historians who from the first day encouraged me to consider myself just as interesting and potentially just as accomplished. Foremost among them was Natalie Zemon Davis who left early in my pre-tenure days but who left me with an indelible sense that intellectually and socially just about anything could be achieved with the help of your friends. Without many friends among my cohort of young scholars at Berkeley and among the older historians in the department, too, I would never have been able to pursue the career I was so lucky and privileged to have. Nothing seemed preordained, for we still had to prove ourselves each step along the way, but nothing seemed impossible either. To me this ethos was crucial to making Berkeley’s history department one of the truly great departments in the world.  

 

Lynn Avery Hunt
Lynn Avery Hunt