Today I learned that our dear Joan Acker died this past June. I knew it through an Email from another dear feminist from Oregon, Kari Norgaard. I left Eugene in August 2008 and I have not been back since then. That was the last time I saw Joan: during my PhD Dissertation defense and the celebration party that Lara, Linda, and Joan, among others, organized for me after the defense.
I have not talked much to any of my friends and colleagues from Oregon since I moved back to Barcelona. However, I have thought quite a bit about many of them. I have also wondered often about Joan. Her dedication, support, and inspiration were undoubtedly some of the main gifts I took with me when I headed back home. Free from all the pressures, burdens and overwork that the younger feminist professors had to put up with, during the years I was in Oregon (2001-2008) Joan had among her priorities to spend time with the upcoming generations of feminist researchers: discussing with us, advising us, encouraging us, empowering us. She would come to spend time with us in our wonderful and historic SSFN retreats at the Oregonian coast to talk and practice feminism; she would have us in her home discussing books, authors, articles; she would tell jokes that made our experience of young feminist scholars a little bit less lonely; she would also make voracious criticisms to the university hierarchies whenever she felt she had to.
Joan was a pioneer but, far from being content with that, she made sure she spent her whole life helping younger women to start new paths and to walk the old ones in good company. Joan was struggle, she was compassion, she was camaraderie.
When I learned about her death this morning I told my partner, Jordi, that I felt sad for not having been more in touch with Joan during these eight years. He replied that my way of keeping in touch with her may have been feeling her intellectual and political heiress, inspiring my scholarly work and my activism in hers. I think Jordi is right. Joan’s guidance, mentorship, and friendship is one of the precious gifts I will always treasure from my time in Oregon. In exchange, our gift to her and to her memory should be the continuation of our uncompromising feminist struggle, our stubborn choice to keep pushing toward social chance, and our sweet pride of having had her in our lives.