In memorium: Stephanie M. H. Camp, 1967-2014

scampStephanie Camp died two weeks ago.  I know many of my readers know this already, as a few notices have appeared on Twitter and other blogs as well as everywhere on Facebook.  I wanted to wait to post a notice until I could link to a formal obituary and also pass along information for those of you who might want to write to her family members or to donate to the causes she supported in her lifetime.  Here’s the obituary last week from the Seattle Times:

She was a well-known feminist historian who wrote a groundbreaking book on enslaved women in the antebellum South, and a social-justice activist who dared to take controversial stands. But Stephanie Camp was also known for her love of popular culture and her sense of adventure and for hosting great parties.

The University of Washington history professor died April 2 of cancer at the age of 46.

Professor Camp’s book, “Closer to Freedom: Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South,” which is in its second printing, led to a new understanding of how enslaved women resisted their captivity in the 19th century. It was cited not only for the quality of its scholarship but also for the beauty of the writing.

The book “transformed the field of American social history,” said Chandan Reddy, an associate professor of English at the UW.

That’s not hyperbole.  It’s a book that every time I recommended it to a graduate student or assigned it in class was a revelation to my students.  They raved about Closer to Freedom because of the ways in which it challenged our traditional understandings of slave resistance and made convincing arguments about how women’s lives and work in slavery demanded that we take a broader view of what “counted” as resistance to enslavement.

Stephanie was a friend of mine–we didn’t keep up regularly, but she was the kind of friend who if I were coming to Seattle or if we would be at the same conference, we’d try to get together for a meal or a cup of coffee.  I have known her since she came to Penn to begin her Ph.D. work in 1991.  Even then, she seemed so cool–so tall, lovely, trim, and smart.  She and I enjoyed playing fashionista together–I remember her taking me to her favorite consignment shop in Seattle when I was there for the 2009 OAH meeting.  (Associate Professor fashionistas have to operate on a budget, natch!)  We fell out of touch after I left Philadelphia to write my dissertation, and she moved to Seattle after finishing hers in 1998.  We reconnected when she agreed to serve on a sub-committee for me for the  2008 Berkshire Conference.

I heard that she was sick last spring.  Stephanie and I were supposed to serve on a program committee together, but I was informed by the program committee chair that she and I would be working alone together on the program because of Stephanie’s illness.  I never wrote to her because I was uncertain about the etiquette of illness and thought it might be presumptuous to write a “get well soon” if I hadn’t been informed by her about her condition.  I got the impression that she was keeping her health information pretty private.  Of course, I feel like a jerk now, but people in their 40s get treatment for cancer all the time and survive.  Why would she be any different?  There would be other conferences to work on together and other times to see her and catch up.

Something that breaks my heart twice over about her death is the fact that she leaves behind an 8-year old son, Luc.  Considering that she wrote about women in slavery, mothers in slavery, and all of the enslaved children left motherless by slavery, it’s just too sad.

The following is from an email a correspondent sent me from Lynn Thomas, Chair of the History Department at the University of Washington:

I’m writing with information about where people may send condolence cards to Stephanie Camp’s family and to which funds people may contribute in memory of Stephanie’s rich life as a mother, friend, citizen, and scholar.  Condolence cards may be sent to:  Chandan Reddy, 2205 E. Terrace St., Seattle, WA 98122.  Please indicate on the back of the envelope, if the card is for the Camp family (parents Don and Marie Camp, sister Dottie Camp, and son Luc Mariani) or just Luc.  Chandan will then see that they get forwarded accordingly.

The following funds welcome contributions in honor of Stephanie’s life:

  1. College Fund for Luc:  Checks may be made out to Luc Mariani and mailed to Chandan Reddy at 2205 E. Terrace St, Seattle, WA, 98122.
  2. Friends of the Children – King County:  Stephanie formerly served on the board of this terrific organization that provides long-term mentoring for some of the most vulnerable kids in the greater Seattle area. To make a donation in her honor, please go to their donation page at In the “Dedication” field simply write “Stephanie Camp.”
  You may also call 206-328-3535 to make a donation over the phone or mail it to PO Box 22801, Seattle, WA 98122.
  3. Stephanie M. H. Camp Lecture Fund for the History of Race & Gender:  This fund will support the University of Washington Department of History to offer an annual lecture on the history of race and gender in honor of Stephanie’s innovative and important contributions to this field of scholarship. To contribute, please go to  Alternatively, you can make a check out to “University of Washington” (with “Stephanie Camp” in the “for” line) and mail it to the UW Department of History (attn: Lynn Thomas), Box 353560, Seattle, WA 98195-3560.

On Saturday [April 5] , family and close friends held a small memorial service that was a heartfelt celebration of Stephanie’s life.  Later this spring, a larger public memorial service will be held on the University of Washington campus.  I will be in touch again as soon as the date and time for that event has been set.

I know many of you must have memories of Stephanie you’d like to share–many of you must know her work, and that many of you were also friends of hers.  I’d really like to hear your thoughts about Stephanie, her scholarship, and her friendship.

17 thoughts on “In memorium: Stephanie M. H. Camp, 1967-2014

  1. A wonderful tribute, Historiann: I was in so many locations at OAH Atlanta where our colleagues shared their memories of Stephanie, who had a reputation for fine scholarship and colleagueship that was disproportionate to her time on earth with us. We will miss her.

    And of course you are right — cancer is a survivable (if sometimes chronic) illness now, and it is shocking when it kills, just the way it always has.


  2. I met her 20 years ago (almost) at Rutgers. Later, we joked that we couldn’t remember this meeting.

    We met again at Rice, six years ago. I was there as a fellow and she was there as faculty. I was so intimidated, because her work is so good. When they tried to recruit me, we shared bar-b-que while our kids played with plastic dinosaurs. And talked. We shared work – including her new stuff on the black body, beauty, and history – and she read the introductions to my last two books. And we shared bad coffee at the Berks, talking for what seemed like hours. A year ago, I spoke to her about a writing retreat she’d taken on an island, and we laughed about having too much solitude. We dwelled on cancer, too.

    We weren’t best friends. We were just colleagues, you know? Or friends-in-the-making. Or something. But even so, on opposite sides of the continent, I knew she was one of the great ones. I will miss her. She was a great soul.


  3. What a loss. I’m not in the same field but knew her from Berks work. She was one of the good citizens of the profession–not always the same people as the great scholars, but in this case it looks like they coincided.

    We lost another one today to cancer too, Remie Constable, a medieval historian at Notre Dame. She was older than Stephanie but not by much; way, way too young to die. I’ll miss her, and I’ll miss the books she would have written.


  4. Thank you for such a lovely tribute. Since she’s not in my field, I just knew her from the Berks. But your tribute, and then Ruth’s comment about Remie Constable made me think that with mid-career scholars, there is a combination of personal loss and intellectual loss that makes death seem particularly cruel.


  5. What a loss, indeed.

    Over the span of just a few years, three friends and colleagues of mine died of obscure cancers, all in the prime of their careers. Another friend turned 40, went for her first mammogram as they used to advise, found the tiniest shadow of a particularly aggressive cancer, got treated, and is thriving today. Cancer sucks, no matter what.

    My MS adviser died of a cancer in his head. As I understand it, the university wanted to terminate his health care plan because after a while he could not meet his teaching responsibilities and had to go on disability. Cancer sucks, but so does the health care financing system in the US.

    Not a week goes by that I don’t think about how my working style and approach to problem solving is a (good, I think) reflection of my old adviser. When I talk with students about picking a graduate program, I tell them about that relationship and how it stays with me. It matters a lot.


  6. Oh Ann, I’m so sorry to hear this. What an incredible loss- most especially for her son. I remember being really impressed by her at the Berks…she was approachable, smart, funny, beautiful, and warm.


  7. I did not know her, or her work, but should, and have just bought her book, which I look forward to reading this summer. Not a bad way to memorialize a scholar, I suppose.


  8. I didn’t know her, even though I was around Penn during at least some of her time there–albeit at most on the outer edge of the History Department’s orbit there. That’s sad. At her age, I was just barely getting started at university-level teaching, and I pretty much thought I still had most of forever left to do it in.


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  11. I remember Stephanie from West Philly. I was in grad school at Temple; she was at Penn. She was always so sharp and funny. As a fellow historian, I always admired her work. RIP Stephanie.


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