Sheila Tobias

Areas of Achievement: 

Honored By

Honored by: Amazon Foundation
Date submitted: October 24, 2006
Gift: Arch with Seating

Sheila Tobias, a leading feminist activist, is in a unique position to chart the history of the women's movement and to assess its future. In 1971, she helped organize the first women's studies program in the country at Cornell University, and along with Gloria Steinem and Kate Millett, ushered in the "second wave" of feminist activism.

Her activism spans the Congress to Unite Women in 1971, The NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, of which she was a board member in the mid-seventies, "math anxiety" (she coined the term in her best-selling book, Overcoming Math Anxiety, first published in 1978), and "women, militarism, and war." Faces of Feminism: An Activist's Reflections on the Women's Movement is a comprehensive look at feminism and its evolving agenda.

Her contributions to women's studies nationally and in the several universities in which she has taught "Gender and Politics," "Feminist Theory" and "Gender Issues in Education" are legion. She was convener of the first university-wide conference on women at Cornell University in 1969 and co-founder of the first large lecture course in what became women's studies a year later. While associate provost at Wesleyan University from 1970-1978, she initiated a math-anxiety program and organized women administrators at New England universities into a decades-long academic referral and training organization, called HERS.

She came to Tucson, in 1981 to co-author a "people's guide" to national defense, with then State Representative Peter Goudinoff. The resulting volume, What Kinds of Guns are They Buying for Your Butter? was published in 1982. After that, she co-authored Women, Militarism, and War with political theorist, Jean Bethke Elstain.

In 1989, funded by Research Corporation, she embarked on a seven-year research and writing project to understand college students' (women's and men's) reluctance to major in the sciences. The ensuing books were, They're not Dumb, They're Different, Revitalizing Undergraduate Science, Breaking the Science Barrier (co-authored with Carl Tomizuka) and Rethinking Science as a Career. The project brought her into contact with the women-in-science community nationally, and in February 2003, she and three others co-edited a special issue of the Science, Technology, and Society Bulletin called "Women in Science: Gender Issues and Power."

She married Carl Tomizuka, a University of Arizona physicist (now retired) in 1989 and since 1999 has been primarily involved in the setting up of new professional master's degree programs in the sciences and mathematics, a national project funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, of which three professional master's tracks are situated at the University of Arizona.

While only briefly employed by the University in the early 1980s, she has been a valued collaborator and compatriot of the women's studies faculty, a frequent lecturer on feminist topics in and around Tucson, and an indefatigable supporter of Arizona women.