In memory of Freda Friedman Salzman
May 12, 1927 - April 1, 1981

this, the opening page of this memorial folder, is at
the website homepage is at

Freda Friedman Salzman, January 1980

      So far the material on Freda is mostly concerned with the final phase of her life, beginning with her association with the Univ of Massachusetts-Boston (UMB) in the spring of 1965 and ending 16 years later with her death in the spring of 1981. The immediate impetus for adding this folder to my website was a so-called gala celebration of the 35th anniversary of UMB, in the spring of 1999. Allegedly the purpose was to honor the founding faculty and staff and the first graduating class, that of 1969. Freda was one of the founding faculty in physics. Her time at UMB began, as described by Marvin Antonoff, another founding faculty member in physics, with great enthusiasm and dedication to the project. But as a senior faculty member, her principled positions on various academic issues gained her the animosity of several UMB administrators. By early summer of 1967 they were actively scheming to get rid of her. At the start of the 1968-69 academic year she got notice that she was fired as of Aug 31, 1969. Her struggle, first to retain, and later to regain her position was lengthy and damaging. Those who acted unconscionably towards her, inflicting on her much pain and anguish, and undermining her health, deserve to have their sordid deeds remembered. Freda ought to be remembered and honored for her contribution to the university. And we all need to think about the nature of institutions that allow some people to gain power, and to then use it in ways that hurt other people.

      Freda was 38 when she started at UMB. Her first 38 years also deserve an accounting. However, I touch on them here only lightly; my initial focus is on documenting the final phase of her life. A somewhat more comprehensive collection documenting Freda's life is in the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, thanks to the initiative and dedication of Eva S. Moseley, then Curator of Manuscripts. It was she who, after learning of Freda's death, contacted me, seeking to house the documentary collection at the Schlesinger. I subsequently added additional materials to the Schlesinger archive. A partial collection of documents is also housed in the Labadie Collection of Radical History Special Collections Library of the Hatcher Graduate Library at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, thanks to Julie Herrada, Curator of the Labadie.

      Freda Friedman Salzman received her doctorate twelve years before UMB opened, at the Champaign-Urbana campus of the University of Illinois. She arrived at UMB the mother of two daughters, Amy, 11 and Erica, 7. She also came as a principal investigator of a National Science Foundation grant for research in the physics of elementary particles. As a recognized researcher, she had been a National Science Foundation Senior Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Rome in the academic year 1961-62.

      Freda thus looked forward to a mature period in her professional life that would be marked by stability, a time to benefit from the rich offering of physics seminars and colloquia at MIT, Harvard, Brandeis, and the other Boston-area institutions. We rented a house in Brookline, with its reputation for excellent schools. The children walked to the nearby public school, the Edward Devotion school. Later they attended Brookline High. The earlier part of our postdoctoral careers had been one of frequent moves: from the Univ of Illinois via the Univ of Wisconsin at Madison to the Univ of Rochester to the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva to the Univ of Colorado at Boulder to the Univ of Rome to Northeastern Univ to UMass/Boston. In contrast to these earlier years, the time in Boston was one of geographical stability.

      Stability of place was but one part of the stablity Freda wished for. She wanted a settled life, both professional and personal. These she was not to find. Her active participation, as a senior faculty member, in debates on educational policy (curriculum, required courses, etc.) led her early on to recognize unsavory efforts to manipulate educational policy in order to gain internal political power in the university. Her principled opposition to, for example, a plan to require every single student to take a full year (or was it two?) of The History of Western Civilization, gained the enmity of the reactionary aspirants to power who were promoting it. Vindictive and unprincipled, they conspired to get rid of Freda. The first acting dean (Paul Gagnon), the first chancellor (John W. Ryan), the first head of the division of social sciences (Richard Powers), and other unscrupulous founding reactionaries, conspired to fire Freda, who was not, as I was, protected by tenure. In a calculated act, one of pure cowardness, the first chancellor, on his very last day at UMB issued a notice of non-reappointment, to take effect one year later. A partial account is in my article, listed below.

      Her time at UMB was difficult in the extreme, and in the Spring of 1981 she died, two years after she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy. This phase of her life can be divided into several parts, which overlap slightly in time:

1. The first two years, 1965-67, during which she worked intensively on establishing the academic program, both in physics and more generally within the university. Reflections on these early years by Marvin M. Antonoff, also a founding physics faculty member, in his remembrance listed below, convey a sense of the excitement and intensity of that time.

2. Two devastating years, 1967-69, beginning with discovery of the chancellor's memorandum of 7/11/67 with its ominous threat regarding employment of close relatives, and, about a year later, his implementation of the threat with his letter firing her.

3. Four years of intense struggle, 1968-72, from her receipt of the letter firing her until her reappointment without tenure in spring 1972.

4. Three more probationary years, 1972-75, from her reappointment without tenure in spring 1972 until her promotion to full professor with tenure in summer 1975.

5. Four good years of active teaching and research, 1975-79, ending with a malignancy diagnosis and mastectomy in spring 1979.

6. One "good" postoperative year, and one "bad" year, 1979-81, ending with her death on April 1, 1981.

Three statements by colleagues

      A remembrance by Marvin Antonoff, which he gave at a memorial gathering for Freda on April 10, 1981. Marvin was also a UMB founding faculty member in physics.

      An obituary by Donald Lyons, who knew Freda as a colleague in the Physics Department at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. It focussed mainly on her professional work, in physics research, in the department and in the university. It was published in the February 1982 issue of Physics Today.

      An obituary by Patricia Brennan, who knew Freda both as a colleague in the Biology Department at the University of Massachusetts at Boston and from Science for the People. It focussed mainly on Freda's contributions to the group Science for the People. It was published in the May/June 1981 issue of Science for the People magazine.

Various documents from Phase 3. Four years of intense struggle, 1968-1972

      A letter from the Physics Dept Executive Committee to Freda on Feb 19, 1970 informing her of its efforts and its plan to submit a grievance to the Tenure and Grievance Committee.

      The Tenure and Grevience Committee Report, calling for Freda's reappointment to her position as soon as possible, issued Dec 2, 1970.

      A talk by Freda on March 24, 1971 to the University of Massachusetts/Boston faculty, seeking support for her ongoing effort to regain her faculty position.

      An article I wrote, Discrimination at U Mass: Woman Scientist Fights Back, published in the May 1971 issue of Science for the People magazine.

      An article by William A. Henry 3rd in the Boston Globe of Dec. 29, 1971, on the previous day's board of trustees' meeting, reporting adoption of a "new" policy with regard to the hiring of close relatives, and a statement by president Wood that it would not be applied retroactively to Freda.

      An article in the Holyoke (Mass) Transcript-Telegram of Jan 25, 1972, reporting on plans to confront the trustees at their meeting on the 28th.

      An article by Katherine Pais in Boston After Dark of Jan 25, 1972, giving an account of the history of the case and its then-current status,

      A letter to the editor by Amy Salzman in The Brookline Chronicle of Jan 27, 1972, providing background on the struggle and seeking citizen support.

      A statement by Drs. Marian Lowe and Nancy Tooney on January 27, 1972, demanding that Freda be reappointed with tenure.

      A letter to the editor from Freda in The Boston Globe on January 28, 1972, correcting false "information" published on Dec. 29, 1971, which was based on lies by Robert C. Wood, then UMass president.

      A flier for the trustees January 28, 1972 meeting, prepared for and used at the meeting.

      A report by Gena Corea in the Holyoke (Mass) Transcript-Telegram of Feb 1, 1972, on the trustees' Jan 28 meeting and its immediate aftermath.

      Another report by Gena Corea in the Holyoke (Mass) Transcript-Telegram of Feb 2, 1972. Lengthier than the previous day's report, it provides more background and contains a useful chronology of events in the case up to then.

Rekindling old embers of pain, anger and hatred

      An E-mail of March 19, 1999 that shows how the sparks re-ignited.

      An article I wrote for the Mass Media of Apr 8, 1999, with only the most minor modifications. My comments on UMB at 35 Years and the Big Party.

      A report of my thwarted effort to give out flyers to attendees at the Apr 10, 1999 party.

      I'm continuing to work on this folder. As additional items are completed, I will add them and provide links.

*      *      *

Return to the homepage of the website

Last update of this screen: January 9, 2003