Margaret Jane Slaughter, Professor Emerita at The University of New Mexico, died June 4. She was 82. Slaughter was a celebrated founding mother of the international and interdisciplinary field of Women’s and Gender Studies, a scholar of women in the Italian Resistance, and a longtime pillar of the Department of History and academic leader at UNM.

A celebration of her life will be held at the University of New Mexico Alumni Memorial Chapel in August.

Known as Jane by friends and family, she was born Sept. 5, 1941, at the Moravian missionary hospital in the city of Bilwaskarma, Nicaragua, to Winifred Mildred Whaley Slaughter and Thomas Nolan Slaughter.

After graduating from high school, Slaughter attended Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, as was the tradition for many of the Whaley women in her mother’s generation.

Slaughter earned her master’s degree and Ph.D. in History from UNM, specializing in modern European history. After teaching for several years at Nassau Community College in New York and the University of Utah, she returned to her alma mater as an assistant professor of History in 1975. She taught core courses including Western Civilization, Historiography, and graduate research methods, as well as developing a full array of courses on women and gender.

Over her career, hundreds of students praised Slaughter as a visionary and compassionate teacher and mentor and tireless champion of their interests. Her graduate students have gone on to illustrious careers in and outside academia, many maintaining close ties. She won teaching awards, including the Burlington Northern Outstanding Teaching Award and the UNM Presidential Teaching Award, the highest honor the University bestowed for lifetime teaching achievement.

After co-editing with UNM Professor Robert Kern European Women on the Left: Socialism, Feminism, and the Problems Faced by Political Women, 1880 to the Present (1983), she published her pathbreaking monograph, Women in the Italian Resistance, 1943-1945 in 1997, selected as a “Choice Outstanding Book.” In 2003, Slaughter co-authored with UNM Professor Melissa Bokovoy the innovative two-volume textbook Sharing the Stage: Biography and Gender in Western Civilization and followed up with the two-volume Sharing the World Stage: Women and Gender in World Civilization, co-authored with Bokovoy, Ping Yao, UNM Professor Emerita Patricia Risso, and Patricia Romero.

Slaughter was a fierce feminist and a lifelong advocate for social justice and equity. In the academic world, she facilitated the development and advancement of the fields of international women’s history and women’s and gender studies. She was an early participant in the Berkshire Conference on Women’s History and a co-founding convener of the now nearly 40-year-old Teaching Workshop on Women’s History held annually at UCLA. At UNM, she served as acting director of Women’s Studies, founding director of the Feminist Research Institute, and co-editor with Distinguished Professor of Anthropology Emerita Louise Lamphere of Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies.

Over her more than 40 years at UNM, Slaughter served as a faculty leader, as well as visionary administrator. She chaired the University Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure several times, as well as twice chairing searches for the UNM presidency. She served as department chair, senior associate dean of Arts and Sciences, and associate provost. Both savvy and relentless, Slaughter was widely admired across the University as an original institutional thinker and an effective administrator, as well as a strong advocate for equity in hiring and personnel policies.

Slaughter maintained a lifelong involvement in political and civic causes. Friends and adversaries alike came to respect her devotion to service, policy expertise, and willingness to search for common ground.

Slaughter loved sports of all kinds and was a disciplined athlete. She maintained a lifelong passion for horses and riding. After retiring from UNM in 2011, she volunteered her time at Walkin N Circles Ranch, a horse rescue operation in the mountains east of Albuquerque, and cared for her own horses, Wild Angel and Billy. This second life as a cowgirl introduced her to a wide community of horse lovers and equestrians. She rode Billy until the very end of her life, even through the fog of Alzheimer’s.

In addition to her family members, Slaughter is survived in the UNM community by her goddaughter Katherine Bokovoy, dear friends Melissa Bokovoy, Natasha Kolchevska, Yolanda and Frank Martinez, Virginia Scharff and Chris Wilson, along with their families and a vast international community of colleagues, political collaborators, students, and admirers.

A celebration of her life will be held at the University of New Mexico Alumni Memorial Chapel on Aug. 24 from 3-5 p.m. with reception to follow. For more details on Slaughter’s life, see her obituary in the Albuquerque Journal.

Professor Chaouki Abdallah, former provost of the UNM and acting president from 2017 and 2018
“Dr. Slaughter lived life to the fullest. She was the moral compass of the Academic Affairs office, and you always knew where she stood on all university issues. She possessed a sharp mind and a sharp tongue and was not afraid to use both. She cared deeply about the students and her colleagues and was incredibly generous with her time and intellect. She made UNM a better university and me a better provost.”

UNM Professor Emerita of American Studies Vera Norwood
“UNM and the State of New Mexico were truly fortunate that Jane devoted her entire academic and political career here. She was an early mentor of mine − and even got me included with a great group of women who played pickup basketball under the tutelage of Kathy Marpe, the first UNM women’s team coach. Over more than 30 years, she was someone I relied on for advice and counsel about pursuing an academic career, being an effective department chair, negotiating campus politics. Near the end of our careers, we served together in the office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences. Wherever we went on office business, whether academic departments, Faculty Senate meetings, Regents meetings, or lobbying at the Roundhouse for UNM priorities, Jane was recognized and respected as someone who had devoted herself to bettering our communities. I am grateful that we knew each other and that, after we both retired, I had the pleasure of watching her train one more student-friend in Billy, her beloved horse.”

Professor Trisha Franzen, professor of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Albion College, and UNM alumna
“Jane was the consummate mentor and friend. As one of the first professors at UNM committed to feminist studies, she drew many of us outside of the History Department into her classes, supported our scholarship, and provided that whole range of opportunities from conferences, advising, co-teaching, and many other types of support, as we were all struggling to change higher education. She introduced us to the larger world of women’s history scholars, allowing us to build our own networks and connections. Her support for what was then called “Women’s Studies” was key to the UNM program’s continuity and growth and ranged from years of committee membership through serving as acting director and building support among the larger academic community.

“As a first-gen college student, for me getting an advanced degree meant moving into uncharted territory. Jane guided me throughout my graduate years. She advised me in developing the concept and methodology for my interdisciplinary dissertation. Her confidence in me assured me that I could do this work. When we worked together in the Women’s Studies Program, she modeled how to be a responsible and effective administrator while also sharing how to negotiate university politics. I have no doubt that without all I learned from Jane inside and outside the classroom, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Yolanda Martinez, department administrator, UNM Department of History
“I was privileged to work with and beside Jane when she was the History Department chair, but mostly to call her one of my dearest friends for four decades. She was always so supportive of me and my family through the years. I learned so much from her as I matured and advanced in my career. She will be greatly missed.”

Connie Beimer, vice president of UNM Alumni Relations and executive director of the UNM Alumni Association
“Jane was a remarkable, beautiful, and wise friend and colleague who was so full of life and kindness. There’s a special place in our hearts for her. She is missed and will always be remembered.”

UNM Professor of History Melissa Bokovoy, History department chair and Regents Lecturer
“Jane prized mentoring and teaching over everything else. She did that inside and outside the classroom and beyond the university. She deeply believed in the power of historical insight and the thrill of historical discovery, and she wanted to share that with her students. She pushed students to explore "uncharted" historical territory and hoped to teach them how to think, not what to think...

“Jane innovated an approach to teaching history that attracted textbook publishers—she often explained complex historical events and ideas by bringing onto the historical stage men and women who were key players in those events. She contended to understand fully an individual's actions regarding historical events, students had to consider the gender of that individual. She stayed away from discussing gender in abstract terms. Instead, she taught that individual actions, opportunities, and expectations are far more illustrative. Jane wished to instill in her students that individuals could alter the conditions of their lives or influence their communities, perhaps changing the course of history. She not only taught it, wrote about it, but she lived it through her community activism and political work across four decades at UNM and in New Mexico. I witnessed this not only as a co-author of the textbooks she conceptualized and brought to fruition but also when we or her other friends would go out and about with her. Former students would immediately recognize her and greet her with enthusiasm, and usually say something like, ‘Dr. Slaughter, I was in your class, and it changed my world.’ I can also say that Jane, as my mentor, colleague, co-author, and friend, changed how I taught, what I wrote about, and how I thought about the past.”

Virginia Scharff, Distinguished Professor of History Emerita, UNM Department of History
"Jane Slaughter was one of my best friends for nearly 40 years. She taught me pretty much everything I know about how to be an effective advocate, ally, and colleague, how to navigate and make use of systems, how to build on victories, and deal with disappointments. She was strong and serious, but what I loved most was when we'd find some absurd thing funny and laugh uncontrollably. She was a cosmopolitan woman with an international community of devoted friends, who never lost her love of the West. I miss her more than I can say.”