Anne Fausto-Sterling, Faculty


An assistant professor of Anthropology and the only woman in her department when she was hired in 1968, Louise Lamphere was denied tenure in 1974. The Anthropology Department claimed that her scholarship was theoretically weak. Lamphere claimed she was the victim of sex discrimination and argued that the small number of women on the Brown faculty was evidence of a larger pattern of discrimination. After unsuccessfully pursuing an internal appeals process, on May 10, 1975 Lamphere filed a lawsuit in United States District Court.

Under the leadership of a new President, Howard Swearer, the University settled the case before trial, entering in September 1977 into an historic consent decree designed “to achieve on behalf of women full representativeness with respect to faculty employment at Brown.” Brown agreed to set up an Affirmative Action Monitoring Committee charged with overseeing the processes departments used to hire, promote, and tenure faculty in order to ensure fairness; evaluating searches for inclusivity; and monitoring progress toward full representation of women on the faculty. The Affirmative Action Monitoring Committee was in existence from 1978 to 1992 when by mutual consent the consent decree was vacated.

Conducted in 2014 as part of the Pembroke Center’s Louise Lamphere vs. Brown University exhibit for Brown’s 250th anniversary, this interview focuses on Anne Fausto-Sterling, a faculty member at Brown before, during, and after the case. She begins by explaining her experiences as a female scholar of biology and elaborates on the tenure evaluation process and her support for Lamphere throughout the case. She recalls creating the first women’s studies course with Lamphere and other feminist scholars, and considers how the case impacts Brown today.


Recorded on May 3, 2014 at Brown University, Providence, RI
Interviewed by Nancy L. Buc

Suggested Chicago style citation: Fausto-Sterling, Anne. Interview. By Nancy L. Buc. Pembroke Center Oral History Project, Brown University. May 3, 2014.


Anne Fausto-Sterling is the Nancy Duke Lewis Professor Emerita of Biology and Gender Studies in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology and Biochemistry at Brown University, and founder and former director of the Science & Technology Studies Program at Brown University. The author of three books that are referenced widely in feminist and scientific inquiry and over 60 scholarly articles, she is also a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and has received grants and fellowships in both the sciences and the humanities.

Fausto-Sterling has achieved recognition for works that challenge entrenched scientific beliefs while engaging with the general public. She is currently focused on applying dynamic systems theory to the study of gender differentiation in early childhood. Her ambition is to restructure dichotomous conversations — inside the academy, in public discourse, and ultimately in the framing of social policy — in order to enable an understanding of the inseparability of nature/nurture. She asserts that Dynamic Systems Theory permits us to understand how cultural difference becomes bodily difference.