I was raised in a large, loud Greek-American family in the San Francisco Bay Area, smack in the midst of all the cultural and political turbulence of the Sixties. Like any stereotypic Californian, I grew up hiking, biking, swimming, and sailing. I was fairly clueless about my future, my career trajectories being either professional potter or marine biologist. I earned my bachelors’ degree in History at the University of California at Berkeley. I wrote a 96-page undergraduate honors thesis on Woodrow Wilson and the Russian Civil War that I sometimes still use to demonstrate to students how not to write a long History paper. I entered graduate school at UCLA in the midst of a recession. At orientation, the graduate adviser cheerfully warned us that there were no jobs in History. I persisted through the twists and turns of a graduate degree, loving a process a lot of people find difficult or tedious or just too long. I also loved the intellectual stimulation and the lifestyle; plus, at UCLA I met and married Michael Fitzgerald. My dissertation looked at radical intellectuals of the 1930s. When I graduated, I had a new spouse, a decent resumé, a modest amount of student debt, and no job.
I followed Michael Fitzgerald to St. Olaf College and, eventually, we both got full-time tenured jobs here. I published a revised version of my dissertation in 1995 as The Long War: The Intellectual People’s Front and Anti-Stalinism, 1930-1940 and a second book, The American Civil Liberties Union and the Making of Modern Liberalismin 2006. I have also published essays, mostly on gender and popular culture, in Impossible to Hold: Women and Culture in the 1960s, Disco Divas: Women and Popular Culture in the 1970s, and The Sitcom Reader. My book on 1970s popular culture, After Aquarius Dawned, was published in the spring of 2017. Promoting the book has taken me everywhere from a BBC documentary on Carly Simon to a Sirius radio interview. My latest effort looks at the history of women’s athletics at St. Olaf, “What Do You Do with Your Leisure Time?” I also have an essay on Friends– yes, the TV show – coming to The Journal of Popular Culturein the near future.
I teach in the History Department and the American Studies program, along with American Conversations. Most of my classes overlap into gender issues and count for toward the Women’s & Gender Studies major/concentration. I also teach a lot of media-related courses, so some of what I teach verges into the territory of the Media & Film Studies concentrations. The newest addition to my portfolio is that I am the Boldt Family Distinguished Teaching Chair in the Humanities, charged with helping to revitalize humanities teaching and learning at the college. It is a big and awesome responsibility.
In my spare time I am still wife to Michael Fitzgerald and mother to two adult sons, Alex and Nate, both of whom, I am happy to say, are gainfully employed. In my free time, I can be found on a potter’s wheel at the Northfield Arts Guild, where I am also a member of the board of directors, cooking in my newly-remodeled kitchen, or, if I’m lucky, traveling. I also indulge in “cultural research,” which other people might call watching TV and films, reading magazines, and listening to music. I believe that our culture is one big research opportunity that everyone should consider critically and thoughtfully and that is a viewpoint I always try to bring into each course I teach.