Linda. The Woman. The Myth. The Legend.

I remember my first day of class with Dr. Linda Upham-Bornstein. It was a crisp aired Tuesday of the spring semester of my junior year. The class was in Samuel Reed Hall and I was very lost trying to find the classroom. I found a seat in the middle of the room next to a pair of young girls. At exactly 9:30 a woman I assumed was the professor walked in in a slight tizzy. She was sporting a lovely arm sling and attempting to carry all of her papers and laptop under her other arm. Without any

Dr. Upham-Bornstein at PSU Graduation

hesitation she began to tell us how she got her arm in a sling and how it was really interfering with her boxing workouts. At this moment I wasn’t quite sure if I was even in the correct classroom, but I was for certain, this woman had an amazing story.

If you were wondering how she got into that sling, well she was in a car accident, but she was riding a bike. Dr. UB would keep us posted regularly on her health updates before class would start and throughout the semester we learned a lot about each other.

The class was Women’s US History. Dr. UB would make it come alive! She would not only reflect and teach us about the text and the histories, but she would intertwine her own life’s stories. She would educate us on so many topics that I didn’t even think were history. I was truly inspired by this woman’s greatness and the finesse that she was. And just when you think you knew everything she would tell you about the time she was a cab driver during college.

When the assignment of interviewing a Plymouth State professor came up I knew exactly who I was going to contact. As I composed the email a warm smile came across my face. I missed Dr. UB so much and really regretted not taking her class this past Fall. Within hours we had a meeting date and excitement to see each other. But of course the one day that she comes to campus there is a snow day. Not to worry, we had a plan B!

Dr. UB and I began our catch up… I mean interview Thursday morning. We attempted to FaceTime chat, but technology being itself we had to settle for just a phone call. Our interview was more like two friends talking and sharing stories. We

Linda and her daughter, Alison Janes, with their signs from the Women’s March in LA

started off talking about the Women’s March and how amazing and inspiring it was. Both of us had attended the March, I was in Concord and she was in LA with her daughter. We talking about the clever signs that we saw and the influential speakers we heard. Both of us being feminists we agreed that it was such an honor to be a part of a moment like this one. Dr. UB told me that this was not her first protest, being a active feminist during the second, third and now fourth wave of feminism.

As our conversation continued Dr. UB reflected on what being a woman meant to her. In regards to child birth, menopause, the woman’s “duties”, and her relationship to her breasts in relation to cancer. At the end of semester last spring Dr. UB found out that she had breast cancer right before our class met. She told me that she felt such a connection to our class and felt comfortable and the need to share this life changing event with us. That class was truly an emotional one. That same day our reading was about breast cancer. But Dr. UB pushed through the day and made it such a learning lesson.

Dr. UB shared with me the experiences that she has gone through this past year. When she was younger she contracted polio, which now made it not possible for her to receive chemotherapy. This really had her think about her relationship with her breasts. She had a big decision to make. Why are having breasts make you a woman? This question lead us to the topic of menopause. She said the experience was almost liberating. It finally was socially okay to focus on her career instead of having the pressures of motherhood. Yes, she did have a child, but she was no longer expected to continue to have children. Due to these womanly challenges or changes Dr. UB says “I’m constantly learning on how to look at things differently.”

To get some back story about Dr. Linda Upham-Bornstein she teaches history courses at Plymouth State University, including but not limited to Women’s US History, Legal History, and Public History. She really enjoys Public History because it’s history for everyday people, for all people.  It, in itself,is interdisciplinary. The bridge between academics and the public; making it relatable to the everyday persons life.

In her higher education career she received a masters in Museum Studies and a doctorate in Legal History. She was able to go to college because of affirmative action. She drove a cab and worked on cars in

The day that Linda left her home at age 18.

order to support herself. When she graduated she worked in a museum on a blacksmith exhibit and said she really enjoyed her work and learning about a topic she wasn’t too familiar with.

Today, other than teaching, Dr. UB is working on a book contract regarding legal and tax payers. She was working on some of her research at UCLA when she was visiting her daughter this past winter. She is also working in collaboration with Dr. Rebecca Noel on the evolution of tourism and health. The class works with a client, this year is the Jewish community.

Some of her current focus is the North Country of New Hampshire. Especially the women of the North. She says they are very much stuck in their ways of how a woman should act. “Why do you feel the need to do this?” She asks referring to cooking for their husbands every night. She talks again about breast cancer in respect to the North Country. “There is a lack of support for these women up here. Did you know that 1/8 women will have breast cancer?”

We talked a lot about my major and why I chose Interdisciplinary Studies. “Life is interdisciplinary!” She says to me with excitement over the phone. We have now been talking for over 40 minutes. She tells me how history has always been interdisciplinary. Her focus was in law which she connected to Plymouth State’s clusters approach.

My experience in Dr. UB’s class really shaped me. I learned so much and this class and this professor fostered my growth as an individual and a feminist. I am truly blessed to have met such an amazing and  enlightening woman.

And just for fun here is the link to Linda at her boxing class!!! IMG_0455

 

-A

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3 thoughts on “Linda. The Woman. The Myth. The Legend.

  1. This might be one of my favorite EVER student interview projects. You cover so much ground here, with humor, elegance, intellect, and curiosity. I know Dr. UB a bit and admire her work, but you really make me feel like I get to know her on so many levels here, and she inspired me through the course of your post. You are a gifted writer, with a talent for fitting analysis and detail into a narrative. What an absolute pleasure, and how lucky we are to have you in IDS with us!

  2. Thank you Ayla for your kind and encouraging words! Your class was one of the highlights of my teaching career. You all inspired me and your enthusiasm was infectious during a difficult road in my own life. Ayla, I am confident you will be a force for change!

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