When in 2003, President Bush bestowed a National Humanities Medal on Elizabeth (Betsey) Fox-Genovese, citing her as "a defender of reason and servant of faith," he recognized the achievements of a uniquely accomplished American intellectual.
Long a Marxist and briefly a feminist, Betsey converted to Catholicism in 1994 and became an exceptionally strong voice for the culture of life and the rights of the unborn. A Harvard-trained historian and acclaimed teacher, she wrote extensively on literature, religion, politics, education, and related subjects. Her numerous books and articles on French history, the American South, and women’s history, literature, and politics provoked extensive discussion, winning her an appreciative national audience — and subjecting her to bitter and increasingly vicious hostility. When she died in January 2007 at age sixty-five, she was Eléanore Raoul Professor of the Humanities at Emory University, where she had founded the Women’s Studies Program and trained a record number of Ph.D.s in several departments.
In Miss Betsey
, Eugene Genovese — Betsey’s husband of thirty-seven years and an equally accomplished scholar — movingly tells the story of their courtship, life together, and professional and political collaboration. Betsey is shown to have been a woman of uncommon strength of character who refused to feel sorry for herself in the face of lifelong illnesses. Even in her last dozen years, crippled and wracked by constant pain, she devoted herself to her husband, students, many friends—and God. Eugene Genovese confesses that "time does not heal all things," but he also affirms that is was on the day of his "improbable blind date" with Elizabeth Fox that "the Holy Ghost pronounced my sinful soul worth saving."
What They're Saying...
"Gene Genovese’s tribute to his late wife moved me deeply not only because of the touching beauty of his prose but also because he and Betsey are figures who shaped my life. It is impossible for me to read this work without recalling my first meeting with this remarkable couple many decades ago and about how deeply they impressed me even then. Gene’s recollections about Betsey ring true even for someone like me, who was merely her distant admirer. Like her husband, she had many such devotees, all of whom she fully deserved.”
— Paul Gottfried Raffensperger Professor of Humanities Elizabethtown College
“Eugene Genovese has written a beautiful memoir of the life of his late wife Betsey Fox-Genovese and has given a compelling portrait of the strong tie of marriage between two renowned historians—the son of a Sicilian American worker and the daughter of a university professor from an old American family. We see Betsey as a young Marxist professor demanding fair treatment for striking service workers at her university and Betsey as a mature and deeply spiritual Catholic, assisting the priest in administering Communion. We see her as an influential scholar, a contentious political writer, and devoted teacher, reading a student's doctoral dissertation in the pain of her last days. Passionate, partisan, humorous, and self-mocking, Eugene Genovese's book is a paean of love for a remarkable woman.”
— Natalie Zemon Davis
“In this beautifully written memoir of a marriage, Eugene Genovese captures his beloved wife for all those who knew her and, as well, those who did not but here discover her for the first time. We see the devoted and witty wife; the brilliant scholar; the dedicated teacher; and, finally, the unbeliever whose spiritual journey led her home to Catholicism. The seriousness of that journey is a wonder to behold as one contrasts it to the superficial features of our age.”
— Jean Bethke Elshtain Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics University of Chicago
“Gene Genovese's beautiful evocation of life with his beloved Betsey is the quintessential labor of love. In it and through it, we see what the marriage of true minds looks like. For them, it meant sharing extraordinary joys and griefs, amused forbearance in small things and passionate unity in large ones, always sustained by the sheer irreplaceable pleasure of one another's conversation and company. Their improbable tale will make you laugh and weep, often at the same time. But above all it will remind you that an intense and exhilarating love that lasts a lifetime, and more, is no sentimental myth.”
— Wilfred McClay SunTrust Chair in the Humanities University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
"We hear a lot of grim reports about marriage these days, and a lot of vapid cheerleading. This memoir is neither, and it brings good news. It would make a fine gift for a bookish young couple just starting a lifetime together, or an old pair looking back with gratitude."
— Christianity Today
"Genovese's book takes a measured look at academia---that wondrous world of flexible schedules, professional autonomy, travel opportunities, job security, innumeralbe perks, and prestige---instructive to individuals distanced from the ivory tower."
— New Oxford Review