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Noted Women's Studies Professor Dies

Noted Women's Studies Professor Dies

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Sharon L. Sievers, a professor who helped start the women's studies program at California State University, Long Beach, and fought a legal battle to preserve it, has died at age 71.

Sievers died April 5 at her home in Long Beach after a long illness, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday. Survivors include her partner, Eugenia Odell.

Sievers, an expert in Japanese history, joined the faculty of Cal State Long Beach in 1968 and spent her entire 40-year academic career there. She is credited with pioneering the study of women's history in Japan. In 1983 she published Flowers in Salt, which deals with the evolution of feminist consciousness in that nation.

She helped develop the university's women's studies program over the objections of some colleagues, who thought the topic not worthy of academic inquiry. Then in 1982 a student complained that the recommended reading for one course encouraged lesbianism. That led to a lawsuit by conservative activists who wanted the school to abolish women's studies, and the program's director and some other staffers were fired. Sievers joined the fired director and others in a sex discrimination suit that helped preserve the program.

Sievers, who chaired the history department for 12 years and twice chaired the women's studies program, was named the campus's outstanding professor in 1999. "She was extraordinarily bright, stunningly brilliant," Nancy Quam-Wickham, who succeeded her as chair of the history department, told the Times. "She was really devoted to the student body and to nurturing young scholars."

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