Deaths: Sandra Lee Bartky

Sandra Bartky

Sandra Lee Bartky

Sandra Lee Bartky, 81, professor emerita of philosophy and gender and women’s studies, died Oct. 17 at her home in Saugatuck, Michigan.

Bartky established herself as a pioneer in feminist philosophy during her UIC tenure, which spanned three decades from Navy Pier through Circle Campus to the modern-day UIC. Her main areas of interest included existential philosophy, phenomenology, critical theory, Heidegger, Marxism, postmodernism and feminist theory.

“She described and analyzed the effects of microaggressions 30 years before the idea came into vogue,” said Anthony Laden, professor and chair of philosophy.

She authored numerous articles, essays and books, including Femininity and Domination: Studies in the Phenomenology of Oppression (1990) and Sympathy and Solidarity and Other Essays (2002).

The former book title is one of her most influential and cited publications.

“With a novelist’s eye for the telling detail, Bartky’s essays in this collection offer a composite portrait of what it is like to be a woman in a sexist society, analyzing those features to reveal the inner workings of an oppressive system,”
Laden said.

Bartky was a founder of the Society for Women in Philosophy and Hypatia, a leading journal in both philosophy and feminist studies.

She was initially hired at UIC as an instructor in the department of philosophy in 1963 and became an assistant professor the following year. She was promoted to associate professor in 1970 and professor in 1990. She continued to teach until her retirement in December 2003.

She was a founding member of UIC’s philosophy department and a key contributor in the planning of UIC’s first courses on women and women’s issues.

In collaboration with Judith Kegan Gardiner, professor emerita of English and gender and women’s studies, and others in the mid-1970s, Bartky helped to establish the women’s studies program at UIC, now known as the gender and women’s studies program.

She was “an inspiring and much beloved teacher, and a persistent fighter against sexism and for broad intellectual inquiry,” recalled Gardiner. “Her essays are still landmarks in feminist philosophy.”

Bartky’s legacy in the philosophy department continues today through courses such as “Philosophy of Love and Sex” and “Gender Roles,” both of which were her creations.

The department’s commitment to feminism as a central and uncontroversial way to approach philosophical questions, as well as its democratic culture, are a credit to her, according to Laden.

“She was a firm believer in the power of philosophy to effect justice in the world and the importance of supporting intellectual community, and her work and her writing managed to do both,” he said. “Among the many reasons I counted myself lucky when I was hired by UIC was that she was to become my colleague.”

Her work in the classroom at UIC was recognized with the Silver Circle Teaching Award in 1985 and the Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1991.

The philosophy and gender and women’s studies departments will host a  gathering to reflect on Bartky’s life from 2:10 to 3 p.m. Wednesday in 1450 University Hall.

Bartky earned three degrees from UIUC: bachelor’s in 1955, master’s in 1959 and Ph.D. in 1963. She was awarded an honorary doctorate by New England College in 1997.

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