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In Memoriam: Peggy Pascoe

Peggy Pascoe was the Beekman Professor of Northwest and Pacific History and Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Oregon. With family and friends at her side, she died from ovarian cancer on July 23, 2010, at home in Eugene, Oregon. She was 55. Peggy is survived by her life-partner of 30 years, Linda Long, and their two daughters, Ellie and Joie Pascoe-Long. She will be profoundly missed by her colleagues and the many scholars and students who were deeply influenced by her pioneering research and teaching on the history of race, gender, and sexuality.

Peggy Pascoe’s book, What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America (Oxford University Press, 2009), won five major national awards: the Ellis W. Hawley Prize (for the best book-length historical study of the political economy, politics, or institutions of the United States) and the Lawrence W. Levine Prize (for the best book in American cultural history) from the Organization of American Historians; the John H. Dunning Prize (for best book in United States history) and the Joan Kelley Memorial Prize in Women's History from the American Historical Association; and the J. Willard Hurst Prize from the Law and Society Association for best book in socioloegal history. Pascoe was also the author of Relations of Rescue: The Search for Female Moral Authority in the American West, 1874-1939 (Oxford University Press, 1990). All of her work explored themes related to the multicultural past, especially but not only in the U.S. West, and women’s complex place in that past. Her prize-winning book on miscegenation law posed challenging questions about why and how relations of race, gender, and sexuality in marriage had been historically structured as questions of self-evident nature rather than social power.

Peggy was a consummate professional who gave unstintingly of her time and talent to such organizations as the American Studies Association, the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, the Western History Association, and the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians. She served as co-president of the Coordinating Council for Women in History from 1997 to 2000. She was a co-editor of the American Crossroads series at the University of California Press from 1996 until her death. In 2009, she was awarded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Award for fostering diversity at the University of Oregon. She took particular pride in promoting the work of graduate students and mentoring junior faculty members and she took every opportunity to do both. The encouragement she offered to young scholars was legendary, and her ability to go to the heart of every problem, with diplomatic skill and calm, will be sorely missed by her university and professional colleagues.

Born in Butte, Montana, Pascoe said that the remarkable past of this struggling mining town spurred her interest in the history of the U.S. West. She graduated from Montana State University with a B.A. in history in 1977 and earned her M.A. in Women’s History at Sarah Lawrence College in 1980 and a Ph.D. in American history at Stanford University in 1986. She taught at the University of Utah for ten years before moving to the University of Oregon in 1996.

A fund in Peggy’s honor has been established through the University of Oregon Foundation to support graduate student research in the UO Department of History. Contributions can be made to the UO Foundation: University of Oregon Foundation, 360 E. 10th Avenue, Suite 202, Eugene, OR 97401-3273 or online at https://supportuo.uofoundation.org/ with a note designating gift to the Peggy Pascoe Graduate Student Fund in History.