Stephanie 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:
- 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.
- 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 friendskc.org. 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.
- 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 giving.uw.edu/stephaniecamp. 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.