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Singer receives Abigail Allen Award
6/04/10

Sandra Singer, professor of German, is this year’s faculty recipient of the Abigail Allen Award for service to the Alfred University community.

The Abigail Allen Award is presented annually to a faculty or staff member who “has contributed greatly to the Alfred University campus and community by improving the quality of women’s lives today.” The award recognizes the legacy of Abigail Allen, a “founding mother of Alfred University [who] dedicated her life’s work to advancing the cause of co-education and encouraging women to pursue higher education.”

Founded in 1836, Alfred University was the first college or university in New York State and, arguably, the first in the nation, to admit and educate women on an equal basis with men, as opposed to placing them in a separate “women’s curriculum.”

In presenting Singer for the award, Karen Porter, professor of sociology and a past recipient of the Abigail Allen Award, said Singer “is a valuable, engaged, supportive member of the Women’s Studies community on every level. She has been a mentor and a model to both students and faculty alike. In particular, I would cite her longstanding work on the Women’s Studies Roundtables as an example of this dedication to our program. From inviting speakers to our roundtables, to writing publicity, to making us great food (!), she has put in a tremendous amount of work on this series, which opens up discussions on compelling issues of sex, gender, and women’s issues to the whole university community and increases the visibility of the women’s studies program.”

Singer has served as the president of Alfred’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa and the chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities Committee.

Singer’s scholarship reflects her interest in women’s roles, said Porter, noting that in her first book, Free Soul, Free Woman?, Singer writes about German women writers of the late 19th and early 20th century, many of whom were radicals in their day fighting to address social issues affecting women and children, while pursuing their professional careers.

“One writer, in particular, studied by Singer was Hedwig Dohm, a woman fearless in her attacks against leading medical experts, who claimed that women could not endure the rigors of university study,” Porter explained.

Singer’s second book, Adventures Abroad, is about women in higher education and inspired by two very famous sisters, Alice and Edith Hamilton, who went to Germany at the turn of the last century to study. These American women became part of a long struggle by German women to open up universities for undergraduate study for women.
Singer has written that she is especially grateful to be at Alfred University, where women have played such a significant role in the development of the University since its inception.

“In her steady, sure, confident way, Sandra challenges all of us to ‘be radical, radical to the core,’” said Porter, citing a quotation attributed to Abigail Allen.