Preferred Citation: Krieger, Susan. The Family Silver: Essays on Relationships among Women. Berkeley, Calif:  University of California Press,  c1996 1996.



I HAD NOT INITIALLY planned to write a book called The Family Silver , nor expected, at the start, to be discussing my life in such an intimate way. I had thought that I would be writing about women and organizations, and that I would present insights about female gender that I had learned from teaching feminist classes. The rest evolved gradually. I often felt I was writing what I could not avoid writing, or simply what I was able to do at the time. There were welcome surprises. For instance, my interest in female gender soon led to chapters about my women relatives and my first lesbian love. It led to a sense that my struggles in academia had to do with my being a woman, and with my having roots in a private female world that is all too often forgotten when one enters the male world of a university. In a previous work, Social Science and the Self , I spoke of my father and of men who had influenced me. I am now glad to speak of my mother and of intimacies with women, no matter how complex and difficult our relationships have been at times.

In writing these essays, I sought to come to terms with my own feelings on sensitive issues of gender, status, family, lesbianism, and my place in the academic world. I worked a great deal on the wording of each essay and I worried a great deal about how they would feel to others.


Fortunately, as I wrote, I had friends who were willing to reassure me that my work was worthwhile. For their good humor and encouragement in reading drafts of each essay as soon as each was written, I want to thank Laura Carstensen, Estelle Freedman, Paola Gianturco, Carolyn Hallowell, and Martin Krieger.

Other readers, also friends, provided encouragement and helpful responses to selected essays and to the work as a whole. I want to thank Kenneth Arnold, Susan Christopher, Jane Collier, Norman Denzin, Marjorie DeVault, Julie Duff, Ilene Levitt, Linda Long, Sue Lynn, James G. March, Laurel Richardson, Judith Stacey, Nancy Stoller, and John Van Maanen. For insightful comments on the collection at a critical final preparation stage, I am indebted to Sorca O'Connor and Verta Taylor. I thank Peggy Pascoe for her exceptionally valuable suggestions for revisions. I am grateful to Naomi Schneider for her bravery in taking the book for the University of California Press.

Students in my classes on feminist research and on women and organizations have provided encouragement for this work and have generously shared their experiences with me. Their voices and concerns appear in many of the essays. I deeply thank these students for giving so much to me and for teaching me.

For sharing important experiences that appear in these essays, I am grateful to Nancy Martin, Nicole Raeburn, and Sylvia Yanagisako; to my friends, both from the past and in the present; and to Barrie Thorne, Barbara Laslett, and the group of feminist sociologists who met together one long winter's weekend providing an occasion that encouraged two of these essays, "Hurts of the System" and "Lesbian in Academe," which were hard to write because of their subject matter.

For family experiences, I am grateful to my mother, Rhoda Cahn; my sister, Kathe Cahn Morse, and her family; and to my aunt Minnie Wasserman, who died too soon, at age eighty-five, and before ever reading the essays in which she appears. I am indebted to another aunt, Estelle Freedman's aunt Ann Braker, whom I met when I sorted through her clothes after her death, and to Martha Freedman, Estelle's mother, who gave me my title quite by accident. My mother, of course, told me how to take care of family silver and what it meant sentimentally in terms of relationships with female relatives. "You'll remember me every time you


clean these," her mother told her upon handing down a set of ornate silver candlesticks with a bold floral pattern. Those candlesticks, which tarnish easily, now sit on my kitchen table and I think of both my mother and her mother when I see them.

My female relatives and others who appear in these essays appear with pseudonyms or anonymously, as if I could thus protect them from any hurt that might result from my very purposeful stories. My use of others in the service of my feminist sociology, or of my own self-expression, is, I hope, forgivable by those close to me, who may not be comfortable with parts of what I have written.

I want to thank Carolyn Hallowell for her abiding commitment to me. Finally, I want to thank Estelle Freedman, who understood the importance of seeing gender long before I did, and whose commitment to feminist teaching and scholarship, and to the softer side of our joint life, means so much to me. I always knew this book would be for Estelle.


Preferred Citation: Krieger, Susan. The Family Silver: Essays on Relationships among Women. Berkeley, Calif:  University of California Press,  c1996 1996.