The History Department regrets to inform the university community that our colleague Deborah (Debby) Gorham passed away on the 17th of April 2023 in Canmore, Alberta. Debby Gorham was a professor emerita with a long and distinguished career. Born in New York City in 1937, she grew up in a household of ideas and political engagement. She obtained an undergraduate degree in philosophy at McGill, began graduate studies in philosophy at Harvard, then switched to the study of British labour history at the University of Wisconsin (Madison). She earned her Ph.D. in History at the University of Ottawa. Her road to that doctorate was not straight or straightforward, but in 1971, she began to teach at what was then St. Patrick’s College (now part of Carleton University), where she pioneered the study of women’s history and women’s studies in Canada.
Her first book, The Victorian Girl and the Feminine Ideal, published in 1982, opened pathways for the examination of gender and youth; it was an international influence in the emerging field of women’s history. She continued to write about women with a study of British writer and pacifist Vera Brittain (1996) and an award-winning biography of Ottawa politician and activist Marion Dewar (2016). In recent years, she had been working on a study of the life of American writer Ursula Le Guin.
Throughout, she also maintained an active interest in the peace movement and progressive education and was a generous mentor to many of her younger colleagues. Besides her work in the wider Ottawa community, she was active in building intellectual communities with her role in the founding of Carleton’s Feminist Institute for Social Transformation (formerly the Pauline Jewett Institute of Women’s and Gender Studies) and Joint Chair in Women’s History.