Remembering Elizabeth Ewen
We sadly note the passing this week of our colleague and collaborator Liz Ewen. She wrote and co-wrote (often with her husband Stuart Ewen) great books of social and cultural history, including Channels of Desire: Mass Images and the Shaping of American Consciousness (1992), Picture Windows: How the Suburbs Happened (2000), Typecasting: On the Arts and Sciences of Human Inequality (2006), and Immigrant Women in the Land of Dollars: Life and Culture on the Lower East Side, 1890-1925 (1985). It was Immigrant Women in the Land of Dollars that inspired us to embark on our 1993 documentary Heaven Will Protect the Working Girl. In her book, Liz chronicled the experiences and captured the voices of Jewish and Italian working-class women in the turn of the century city, evoking a pivotal time and place while also powerfully evaluating the new perceptions, passions, pastimes, and activism those young women engendered. Not only were we inspired by that wonderful book, we then had the golden opportunity to work closely with Liz as one of our historical advisors. Funding wasn’t always dependable, so Heaven was one of our more attenuated projects—but that added up to more time to learn from Liz, who had an innate feel for the perfect illustrative anecdote and a tactile sense of what relationships of work, family, community, and love were like for young women living on the Lower East Side a century ago. And then there was always that warm, wry smile, and throaty laugh. It was lovely to know her, to work with her, and we—and her many students at SUNY, Old Westbury—are the better for it.