The New Mexico Commission on the Status of Women notified Gail Turley Houston, professor and chair, UNM Department of English, that she is one of 20 women chosen for the 26th Annual Governor's Award for Outstanding New Mexico Woman. A banquet to honor the awardees is set for Friday, May 6 at the Hotel Albuquerque in Old Town.

Houston was nominated by a group of UNM faculty including Political Science Professor Deborah McFarlane, Communication & Journalism Professor Karen Foss, Professor of English Helen Damico and Jim Burbank, lecturer, Department of English, and others.

The nomination reads, "Gail Turley Houston is a tireless advocate for New Mexico women. Through her scholarship, she has enhanced our understanding of women's lives. As a university administrator, she has steadfastly supported existing programs and developed new educational opportunities for the women of New Mexico. As a faculty leader, she has served as a voice for women on this campus and in the broader community. As a citizen, she has demonstrated incredible empathy and resolved to counteract violence toward women in this state."

Houston earned a doctorate in English at the University of California at Los Angeles in 1990. Her dissertation focused on gender, class, and hunger in Charles Dickens' novels. Since then she has published three books focused on the role of women in Victorian literature and numerous articles and chapters that elucidate women's lives. Her latest book, From Dickens to Dracula: Economics, Gothic, and Victorian Fiction (Cambridge University Press, 2005) is a central scholarly reference for women's literature of the period.

Houston doesn't just write about women, "she works for women's opportunities every day," the nominators wrote.

Houston served as director of Women Studies (2003-2007). "She not only ran the program, but she extended women studies into graduate work and partnered with colleagues across campus and throughout the community. Her legacy in that position was to increase the visibility of and scholarship of the study of women at the University of New Mexico. She also served as an effective voice for women's issues, ranging from campus safety to parental leave to classroom respect," the nomination reads.

Houston serves as the first woman chair of the Department of English, one of the largest units at UNM. During her first year in this position, a tragedy struck when English Professor Hector Torres and graduate student Stefania Gray were stalked and murdered.

The nominators wrote, "In light of the Gray-Torres tragedy, Gail again showed her desire to learn from this terrible situation. Domestic and partner violence is a prevalent and difficult problem in this state. In an effort to thwart domestic violence in New Mexico, Gail became a key leader and organizer of the Gray-Torres Domestic Violence Conference that took place in September 2010. She was joined by the Albuquerque District Attorney's office, the Legal Aid Society, women's shelters, the Albuquerque Police Department, and UNM's Emergency Medicine to speak out against domestic violence and prevent future tragedies."

They added, "Dr. Gail Houston is a truly exceptional advocate for, scholar of, and supporter of New Mexico women. She works this hard because she believes in understanding, creating opportunities for and supporting women. I hope that she can be recognized for her important contributions.

Others being honored are:

Dr. Christine Anderson-Cook
Sister Marianella Domenici
Linda Enis
Tina Godby-Ware
Consuelo Hernandez
Bernadette Lauritzen
Carolyn Margolies
Corinne Martinez
Dr. Celia Merrill
Carolyn Metzler
Irene S. Mirabal-Counts
Lenore G. Pena
Dr. Sharon Phelan
Lynne Pitcaithley
Jude Quintana
Annabelle Romero
Dr. Melanie Royce
lrene Silentman
Anne Haines Yatskowitz

Media contact: Carolyn Gonzales, 277-5920; e-mail: