Canadian Feminist philosopher Anne Minas died last week at the age of 78.
Minas completed her doctorate at Harvard in 1967. Her first job in Canada was at Wilfrid Laurier University, but she soon moved down the street to a post the in Waterloo Philosophy Department. She taught at Waterloo from 1966 until 2002. She published in various sub-disciplines in philosophy, including philosophy of language and philosophy of religion, but is best known for her work in feminist philosophy which included publications in venues such as Ethics (where, in 1977, she wrote on what was in those days quaintly called “reverse discrimination”).
Her main claim to fame as a scholar, though, is her important edited collection Gender Basics: Feminist Perspectives on Women and Men (Wadsworth, 1993, with a second edition from Wadsworth in 2000). This book became a standard introductory textbook in the field, and is still widely used.
Anne Minas made a lasting mark on the University of Waterloo with her endowment of the Humphrey Professorship in Feminist Philosophy. This professorship allows the Department to bring distinguished feminist philosophers to the University of Waterloo for a term. Christine Overall, Marilyn Frye, Janna Thompson, Lisa Schwartzman, Ann Garry, and Anita Superson have all held the professorship.
Upon learning of Minas’s death, Overall wrote:
I first knew of Anne Minas in her capacity as the editor of the textbook, Gender Basics: Feminist Perspectives on Women and Men, an anthology of diverse readings first published in 1993, and reissued in a second edition in 2000. But I met her in person in 2003, when I had the honour of being appointed as the Inaugural Humphrey Professor of Feminist Philosophy at the University of Waterloo, a position that she endowed. I have fond memories, while at Waterloo, of sharing her office, where we both spent productive days reading and writing. Dr. Minas had a deep commitment to supporting research and teaching in feminist philosophy. Her generosity in funding the Humphrey Professorship was a concrete expression of her dedication to ensuring that feminist philosophy would both survive and thrive in Canadian academia.
Superson too praised Minas’s contribution to feminist scholarship:
It is often said that philosophy is not practical. Feminist philosophy flies in the face of this charge. The seminar on Bodily Autonomy that I taught at the University of Waterloo, made possible by Ann Minas’s generous donation, is one stark example. We studied the issues of the role our bodies play in making us who we are, the freedoms and legitimate prohibitions on how we can use our bodies, and how others can legitimately treat our own bodies. My wonderful students, drawn from Philosophy and from Women’s Studies, shared my thirst for answers to these questions, as they affect our lives in a most fundamental way. Their enthusiasm goes unmatched. My colleagues at the University of Waterloo showed me how feminist philosophy was not only welcome, but strongly encouraged in their department. They excitedly came to my talks and gave me very beneficial feedback. At these same talks was Anne Minas. Little did I know, two decades ago when I reviewed her anthology, Gender Basics, that I would have the pleasure and honor of holding the Humphrey Professorship in Feminist Philosophy which was endowed through Anne’s generosity. I had reviewed her book very favorably, believing it to be the best of its kind on the market, and to this day I still cite articles from it. I am glad that I had the opportunity to meet Anne and tell her in person what I thought about her book. I think she was happy to hear this — she was soft-spoken and a quiet person, certainly not one to brag. I do know that she enjoyed the lunches and dinners we had during my visit, and I do know that she was deeply committed to the advancement of women, and of feminism, in the profession. If I help to fulfill her commitment through my teaching, my research, and my service, I will have honored her memory.
Both personally and by endowing the Humphrey Professorship, Anne Minas was part of a significant evolution in Philosophy at University of Waterloo. She was the first feminist philosopher in a department that now prides itself on having a range of excellent scholars doing specifically feminist work, and many others whose work is informed by and sympathetic to feminist scholarship. She will be greatly missed.