Remembering Carol Louise Nagy (Jacklin), Founding Member of the Clayman Institute

Carol Louise Nagy (formerly Carol Jacklin), a pioneering gender scholar, women’s rights activist, and founding member of the Center for Research on Women at Stanford University, now the Clayman Institute, died on August 8th, 2011 from cancer. She was 72.

“A born leader, Carol was charismatic, magnetic, vibrant, and giving, with a joie de vivre often missing from academic life,” wrote her family. “As a scholar,” added her family, “Carol had a magnetism that drew other professionals to her for advice and unique insights…She treated students as colleagues and infected them with her optimism and belief in their abilities to achieve…She will live on through her work and in the generations of young women academics for whom she was an emotional wellspring, pragmatic life coach, and model scholar.”

Born in Chicago, Carol was raised by parents who mistakenly believed, she wrote in her memoir, “that education would open any doors for their children.” Despite receiving a master’s degree in psychology from the University of Connecticut and a Ph.D. in developmental psychology from Brown University in 1972, Carol found that many doors were closed to her simply because she was a woman. In response to the sexism and discrimination she experienced, she dedicated her professional life to removing the second-class status for women.

In the early 1970s, Carol came to Stanford University and worked as a researcher in the psychology department. While at Stanford, she collaborated with psychology professor, Eleanor Maccoby. Together they wrote the influential book, The Psychology of Sex Differences (1974), which critically assessed empirical research on differences and similarities between boys and girls. The book concluded that there were more differences within females as a group and within males as a group than there were differences between females and males.

The book was featured on the cover of the New York Times Book Review, and was a best-seller for Stanford University Press. It became required reading in many courses and helped to establish the intellectual legitimacy of women’s studies and gender studies programs, which were just being created at universities across America.

While at Stanford, Carol said that she developed a reputation as, “the local feminist,” because of her research interests and her vocal support of the Equal Rights Amendment, not to mention her “liberation” of the men’s swimming pool, which was much nicer than the small, crowded pool reserved for women at Stanford.

Always a champion of women’s causes, Carol was an early supporter of Stanford professor Myra Strober’s efforts to start the Center for Research on Women (CROW), which is now the Clayman Institute. CROW was established in 1974 and was one of the first research institutes of its kind in the country. Carol also helped start the feminist studies program at Stanford. According to Stanford history professor Estelle Freedman, Carol “brought critical insight and welcome humor” to the feminist studies planning meetings.

Describing Carol’s involvement in CROW professor Strober said, “Carol was my enthusiastic and supportive advisor from the first moment I thought about founding CROW.” During her time at Stanford, Carol served in various capacities at CROW. She was a lecturer, a member of the faculty CROW group, and an associate editor of the feminist journal SIGNS after CROW brought the journal to Stanford.

In 1983, Carol left Stanford for USC where she continued to make her mark. At USC, she became the first woman tenured professor of psychology, the first woman chair of the psychology department, the first paid chair of the Program for the Study of Women and Men in Society, and the first woman Dean of Social Sciences.

In 1995, she left USC to become Dean of the University at the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

Carol’s work for the advancement of women went beyond the academic institutions where she worked. According to her memoir, her most significant contribution to gender equity was her participation in sex bias cases. As an expert on gender issues, Carol testified on behalf of defendants in sexual discrimination cases against companies such as AT&T, and for women seeking admission to the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) and the Citadel (in South Carolina), who were denied entry because of their gender. “She spoke out and spoke up on behalf of the disadvantaged at significant trials, some of which reached the Supreme Court,” her family wrote.

Despite witnessing tremendous gains for women in her lifetime, Carol remained outspoken about the work still left to be done. In her 2009 memoir she wrote that in 1983 she wore a 59 cent pin, saying that, “At the time…women who were their male colleagues’ equals by every possible measure, earned 59 cents for every dollar men earned…Now in 2009, a woman earns 78 cents to a man’s dollar. One can be elated or enraged by this number. I am still enraged.”

In retirement, she moved to Julian, California with her husband, Rich Caputo, whom she married in 1993.

She is survived by her husband, her daughter, Beth Nagy, and her son, Phillip Jacklin.
In lieu of flowers, donations in honor of Carol Nagy may be made to the National Organization of Women, Feed America, the American Friends Service Committee or Amnesty International.