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2006 University Scholar Beth Richie

The relationship between race, class and violence against women

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Beth Richie
Beth Richie: “teaching at an institution like UIC is a privilege.”

Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

The University Scholars Program, now in its 22nd year, honors faculty members for superior research and teaching, along with great promise for future achievement. The award provides $10,000 a year for three years.

Over Beth Richie's career, the scholarly evolution of her work has paralleled her activism.

After earning a master's in social work from Washington University in St. Louis, Richie moved to New York City where she taught at Hunter College of the City University of New York and earned a Ph.D. in sociology.

There she became involved with efforts to reduce violence against women, both as a social worker and community organizer at a neighborhood health center in Harlem.

"I worked with a group of feminists who were community activists dedicated to including gender equality as part of racial justice campaigns," said Richie, professor of African-American studies, criminal justice and gender and women's studies.

"This is unusual because many organizations focus either on gender, sexuality, age, race, national status or other 'identities' instead of looking at how all of these forms of oppression are linked to consolidation of power by elites."

Richie is a nationally respected researcher of the relationships between race, class, incarceration and violence against women.

The significance of her research has been recognized with grants from the Ford Foundation, the National Institute of Corrections, the National Institute of Justice, the McArthur Foundation and the American Foundation for AIDS Research.

Her latest book project is Black Women, Male Violence and the Build-up of a Prison Nation.

"I owe a huge debt to the black women and men in and around my life," she said.  "I draw tremendous courage and strength from the women that I work with who are or have been incarcerated."

Richie is active in local groups such as the Chicago Foundation for Women, the Woods Fund, Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers and INCITE!.

She has been an enthusiastic member of the UIC community since arriving in 1998, mentoring students and junior faculty and serving on several committees for campuswide initiatives.

"I am deeply committed to urban public higher education and, to me, teaching at an institution like UIC is a privilege," she said.

Besides her academic and activist work, spending time with her family is a priority.

Richie and her partner, Cathy Cohen, recently adopted a baby girl, Ella. 

"She serves as a huge inspiration to me to work harder than ever so that she can grow up in a world that celebrates her, our family, other black girls and communities that are desperately trying to support and protect them so that they can flourish."

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