READ OTHER OBITUARIES: A number of other obituaries for Diana have been written, all around the world, in a number of languages, and some in major publications. Links to some of them are posted on this page below the remembrances of Diana's friends, and others have been retweeted at Diana's Twitter account. More will be added as they are published.
The beautiful art above honors Diana’s legacy perfectly. It is by Birdy Rose.
Prints are available here for £10 ($13.07 US) with 10% of each print sold going to Nia, a UK charity that delivers services to help end violence against women and children.
STATEMENTS FROM DIANA RUSSELL'S FRIENDS, FAMILY & COLLEAGUES
(These were sent to Diana's close friend Esther in response to an email announcing Diana's death. The email also shared Diana's obituary, informed everyone of an upcoming online memorial, and requested statements from those who wished to offer them.)
So sorry to hear of her death. We were comrades in arms for a long time.
— Susan Brownmiller
I hope you are well and I share your grief with the passing of my Aunt Diana (I knew her as Nan). My late Dad was her twin brother and was very close to her in the living years, personally, and in their activist struggle.
— Matthew Russell
My sincere condolences on the loss of Diana .She was a remarkable womyn and had a profound impact on my life. She saved it and then gave it a meaning that I had never imagined would be possible.
Aside from my personal grief her loss to the broader feminist community is incalculable. What I know is that her legacy will outlast us all.
— Tracey Saunders
When Diana wrote the two books researched in South Africa, Lives of Courage and Behind Closed Doors in White South Africa, she interviewed 27 women. She benefited us all by the way she conducted these interviews, because it was with such respect for our courage. We were all fighting the life threatening oppression of apartheid and some of us had survived devastating sexual abuse. Her radical feminist analysis caused her to take us very seriously and to validate us in ways that nobody else had done. She really did value us and she admired our work and ability to survive under very oppressive conditions. I know for a fact that she saved the life of one woman who had been through devastating sexual abuse, by recognising her intelligence and courage. She inspired, supported and energised all of us. She had so much courage and determination herself and she was scrupulously honest and ethical in her work. We feel a great loss.
— Anne Mayne
I am so saddened to hear of Diana’s death. I was a colleague in her field of research for many years. We periodically had phone chats and I, like so many others, learned many things from her. Our most recent chat partly dealt with getting her archives ready for Harvard. Again she taught me something new. It had never occurred to me that those of us who were pioneers in survey research on violence against women should probably preserve documents from that era. Then I wondered where I would send mine because I didn’t go to Harvard.
My most treasured memory is that starting in 1991 a horrible man named Neil Gilbert from Berkeley started attacking me in the mass media. Diana supported me, and ultimately took Neil on in a series of very contentious, abusive debates followed by media flaming. I couldn’t do that for myself and it shows Diana’s generosity to her colleagues, her huge intelligence that allowed her to come up with the perfect comebacks at the moment, not three days later. Most importantly it showed her ability to stand up to bullies and fight for women.
She sent me a copy of one of her books in which I was in the acknowledgements in a very flattering way. I have never cherished the opinion of anyone else about my work as I did Diana’s.
I am saddened and at the same time supremely grateful for Diana’s well-lived life.
— Mary Koss
I'm horrified to learn that Diana died. I knew Diana in grad school. We were in the same program at Harvard (Social Relations). I'm not a South African, but had lived there for 10 years before coming back to the US to go to grad school, so we had that in common too.
When she came to Mills, I'd see her when we came up to Oakland, where our children and grandchildren were living at the time. I'd see her once a year around Xmas. But we stopped doing that quite a while ago and I lost complete touch with her for a number of years.
Her career, as described in the Obit, was extremely impressive. She clearly accomplished a great deal, both academically and politically. Hers was a life well-led.
— Edna Bonacich
I was deeply saddened to learn of Diana's passing. Thank-you for passing the news. I somehow thought of her as an inexhaustible source of energy that would go on forever.
She and I were good friends in graduate school at Harvard, where we shared a number of interests in the study of revolution and social movements.
In addition to all her well-known accomplishments as detailed in the obituary, people may want to know that the book that she developed out of her doctoral thesis, Rebellion, Revolution and Armed Force (Academic Press, 1974) is still regarded as an important contribution to that literature.
— James Rule
Thank you, for letting me know. I am sorry for the loss of your good friend. I always loved your Diana stories.
It seems only like the other day, must’ve been when Diana turned 70?, when she exhibited all kinds of mind boggling yoga positions on video (on her website?). I was impressed. I mean “at her age!” (I thought then. Now I’m way past that myself).
Thank you, also, for sending me Marnie’s wonderful obit text. She mentions many things I did not know about Diana. For example, her involvement in the armed struggle against apartheid.
I went through, what you might call a Diana Russell phase, long before I met her in person. She did amazing things for the advancement of women’s liberation and the international movement against violence and femicide (autocorrect wouldn’t let me type it and kept changing it to genocide). I am glad that I got to hang out with her over dinner a few times. I liked her eccentricity. And her amazing mind. Getting a ride with her in the old Volvo was always a thrill of sorts.
— Tineke Ritmeester
Thanks for passing on the sad news of Diana Russell’s death. She was very influential in helping me fashion the right way to ask questions about rape and especially marital rape in my original study on battered woman syndrome in the late 1970s and early 1980s. We spoke at a number of conferences in those days shedding light on the tremendous toll men’s violence towards women took on all of us.
Her passion, courage, intelligence, and clear understanding of feminist sisterhood made her one of my SheHeroes and certainly influenced my work on understanding and advocating for safety for battered women.
— Lenore Walker
Diana Russell was a larger than life, brave (and kind) feminist always ahead of her time when it came to defending girls and women against men‘s violence as in murder, pornography and incest. She coined the term ‘Femicide‘ which we should all use more. May she rest in peace.
— Dr Renate Klein
Publisher of Spinifex Press which published Diana‘s work
I'm very saddened by the news of Diana's passing. I know she was struggling and not well the last couple of months (I saw her last in November 2019) so I hope she is at peace, but what a loss! I have known Diana for the past 20 years through anti-pornography/prostitution activism we did in the Bay Area, through editing and publishing articles in Rain and Thunder: A Radical Feminist Journal of Discussion and Activism (which I'm a co-editor/collective member of), and working together and providing editing assistance on her political memoir over the last couple of years.
We last emailed in late April of this year about her memoir and her trying to finish up the various elements she needed to send a proposal to Seal Press. I hope there are plans to continue in the efforts to get her political memoir published.
— Garine' Roubinian
Dearest Diana: And now, at 81, you too, are gone from us, too soon, and forever. But not your work. We will always have that. Your work on sexual violence towards women was prescient, powerful, and peerless, as was your activism. You fought against apartheid in South Africa so nobly that you had to flee your birthplace; you were the only feminist professor who managed to get herself arrested many times in the United States. I was so excited when you organized the International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women in Brussels and then co-edited and published the Proceedings in 1976. There, there, was the beginning of our feminist government in exile. There, too, was a woeful example of feminist women behaving badly.
But it was a beginning.
Oh, how your work shone, in academic book after book, about marital rape (1982), child sexual abuse, sexual harassment at work (1984), incest (1986), as well as books about pornography (all through the 1990s) which you had a hard time getting published. That did not stop you. When necessary, you self-published. And then, you wrote about South African women in the anti-Apartheid movement (1989). You wrote increasingly about “femicide” and wanted others to use this word; you were overjoyed when I used “femicide” to describe the honor killings I was studying. You believed that using this word was crucial.
Tall, patrician (your mother was a British aristocrat, something you mentioned only casually long into our relationship), you studied in London and at Harvard, and then became a professor at Mills College. You were working on your Memoirs when you died. You sent me bits and pieces of it and I treasured you trusting me.
Diana: You were mistreated, both at Mills College, in publishing, and in our movement. You suffered from a crippling depression impervious to all medications. And still you soldiered on. You struggled financially. And still you soldiered on. My heart broke for you, again and again.
You had a dry wit, were stoical in the face of adversity—but still, like all mere mortals, you had a hard time accepting the ravages of aging.
I feel guilty, no I feel that I’ve failed you and cheated myself by not calling you more often, especially in this last year. So many beloved feminists have died but somehow, with your passing, I feel my own mortality upon me in a new way.
Know that you were greatly admired by your peers. May you finally rest in peace.
— Phyllis Chesler
Thank you for delivering this hard news, and for organizing her memorial. I would very much like to attend her online memorial service. I worked as Diana's personal assistant for a few years (around 2013-2016ish) and remember my time with her very fondly.
— Sam Inoue-Alexander
Diana was not simply a dear friend. She was my mentor and guide. She helped to shape my world view on the work that I was thrust into, assessment and intervention with perpetrators and violent men. No judgement from her but she committed herself to my development and growth, linking me to the most appropriate people and resources to shape me as a feminist scholar working in this area with very limited support.
My fondest memory is when I invited her to accompany me to an event where I was the keynote speaker (I was invited because as a woman of color who worked in the area of child abuse, I could not possibly cause any damage to the attendees.) The event was organized by a rather powerful (but conservative), racist lobby group and the unspoken expectation was that I should regale them with stories of woe about 'them' - the children of color, the impoverished etc. I introduced Diana as the real expert on csa and violence against women. She graciously sat in the 'well heeled audience with their cashmere outfits and expensive jewelry' biding her time. Then an attendee asked a question from the floor... she wanted to know whether the violence in South Africa was simply a 'result of black folk carrying traditional weapons'.
Diana rose up in a very swift movement, wearing her tee 'Castrate a rapist, have a ball' (Guerrilla women against patriarchy). Her retort was that the only traditional weapon that was a danger to women and children was that ‘between the legs of men.’ The entire conference was turned upside down as Diana had also alerted other activists to the event held in one of Cape Town's top hotels.
Needless to say, our invitation to the gala dinner for guests was revoked. And Diana had organized a group of very powerful African feminists to take up a protest position at the entrance to the ballroom where the gala dinner was hosted.
I also remember being educated into the ways of civil disobedience... accompanying her in the middle of the night to exact her particular brand of graffiti in Cape Town, or simply taking our chewing gum and forcing it into the keyholes of those shops who refused to take their Hustlers and other pornographic material from their shelves.
Of course, we also shared a great love for our dogs, Her loved Flicka, our Sam & Perdie and then of course, Lovies, the only pooch I know who received suspended sentences and incarceration for showing her teeth to some folk on her walk. I feel the emptiness and the special brand of feminism she brought into my world of work, my personal journey of political awareness and my academic career.
— Dr Marcel Londt
Head of Department
Department of Social Work (CHS Faculty)
University of the Western Cape
Ahh Diana. She was a force of nature; one of the truest pioneers in our field - not just because she was an insistent and articulate voice for children & women but because she worked hard to put science behind her advocacy. I worked with her when she was at Mills College when she was crafting her ground-breaking survey on incidence of child sexual abuse & incest at a time when most information was either anecdotal or based on scant criminal statistics and small clinical programs like Parents United.
I followed her around for two days and learned more than I had ever known in my sheltered little life. I told everyone who had influence over funding about her. And later, she and I would stay up all night over a bottle of wine and plot the future plans & funding of child abuse research. She was always generous with her time and wisdom. Because she was so smart and fierce, I was intimidated by her until I saw how funny and charming she also was.
I remember to this day her stories about sending out her intrepid data collectors to scary neighborhoods where they climbed over chained fences and dodged pit bulls to knock on the doors of strangers to ask them if they’d be willing to talk about something they had never told anyone before.
Whenever our paths crossed, I always knew I was in the presence of a completely unique person; braver and more determined than me or any of my crusader-rabbit friends. (I had no idea of just how much until I read her obituary.) She leaves this world a better place for kids and women, that’s for sure. She gave it her all.
— Kee MacFarlane, MSW
The world has just lost a great defender of humanity. Diana Russell was not only a defender of humanity, but of our whole ecosystem. Her life was dedicated to stopping the sadism and callousness expressed in human trafficking, pornography, apartheid, and femicide, which are among the most brutal manifestations of sexism and misogyny that poison the wellsprings of global culture. The repercussions of this misogyny seep into every corner of our lives and pollute every social, political and environmental sphere.
I met Diana at an anti-pornography conference and during my decades of protecting the lives of women victims of male violence I observed Diana as a stalwart who dedicated her life to help stem this tide of destruction. She will be gravely missed by all of us who’ve been touched by her work and who’ve shouldered this burden along with her.
— Betsy Warrior
Author of The Battered Women’s Directory, The Houseworker’s Handbook, Slavery or a Labor of Love, Battered Lives and Posters on Global Women’s Rights Activists
July 29th 2020
I am so distraught to hear about Diana. I first heard about Diana when I read the book she wrote with Rebecca Bolen about the Epidemic of Rape and Child Sexual Abuse in the United States. It was the first time I saw in writing what I felt was true about the research pertaining to violence against women and children – sexual violence in particular. She not only validated what I was feeling, but also gave me the skills I needed to be able to better assess “research” in general. I am a lawyer, not a scientist, and lawyers are not trained to analyze data, but as an activist lawyer/impact litigator, I needed to be able to tell judges why they should disregard a study even if it was from a reputable source. Diana taught me to be a critical consumer of science, and she empowered me to say the truth out loud even as judges were slamming their gavels at me, insisting that I stop talking.
I had the pleasure of meeting and presenting with Diana a few times at the IVAT conference in San Diego. I will never forget the steady confidence she showed, and the unapologetic way she talked about the need for major reforms in law and society. She was fearless. She helped me to feel comfortable in my fearlessness. I don’t think anyone today comes close to Diana’s force, single-minded commitment, and intellect. She reminds me of Alice Paul. Maybe we need to establish an award in her name, to be given annually to ANY feminist with guts as we don’t seem to have many these days. I will miss her but I will continue to be inspired, and work hard to make sure her legacy lives on in my students.
— Wendy Murphy
I would be honored to attend her service. I was her research assistant when I was in graduate school, circa 1995-1998. I helped edit, do background research, and assist with statistical analyses for several of her books, including the trade publication version of Against Pornography: The Evidence of Harm, The Epidemic of Rape and Child Sexual Abuse in the United States, and Femicide in Global Perspective. She mentored me in so many different ways, and I still reflect upon and follow advice that she shared with me so many years ago. She helped me see the value of research, the importance of grassroots activism, and the power of feminist voices.
Rest in peace, Diana, with your beloved Flicka at your side forever.
— Gayle Pitman
We are in that period of losing some of the founding mothers of the movement.
As I read her obituary, I was reminded of how radical feminism was “intersectional” from the beginning. Her activism against apartheid/racism and militarism went hand-in-hand with her critique of patriarchy and men’s violence against women. It’s a reminder that there is no coherent “single-issue politics.” No one person can work on every issue, but our analysis should always connect to the complex system of hierarchies.
— Bob Jensen
I was very sad to learn of Diana's death. She and I collaborated on some studies back in the late '70's and early '80's and published it in the American Journal of Psychiatry, back when my field was utterly clueless and worse about sexual abuse. We became friendly, and I visited her on the rare occasions when I traveled to the Bay Area. We lost touch in recent years.
— Judith Herman
I was overcome when you informed me of Diana’s passing and that you knew (how?) to send me her magnificent obituary. Please accept my condolences and pass these on to her sister Jill.
Diana had a worthy and amazing life. I thought she was older than 81. She did so many things and was brave and ideologically motivated.
Upon reading her obituary, I realise that I have many things in common with her:
• I am also a graduate of LSE ( a decade later)
• I briefly taught at UCT and was offered to stay on but declined since I live in Israel
• I adopted her word ‘femicide’ and headed the COST EU Action on Femicide across Europe when all the scholars opposed the use of the term (now it has been accepted after I spoke 3 times in the UN)
• I like to think that I also fight for justice
I never had the privilege of meeting Diana but in 2015, I organised a conference in Zaragoza, Spain, on femicide, where I also spoke in the Parliament on the subject: the first-ever discussion of such a subject in a European parliament (since then, there have been others). I had invited Diana to be keynote at the conference but it didn’t work out since she had broken an arm or something and the EU would not finance more than economy class. So we held a skype call with her. She equated femicide with genocide, to which I objected, but we were all in awe of her fiery spirit and acknowledged her as our leader and the pioneer in the field.
— Shalva Weil
I'm so sorry to hear this sad news. Diana's work on violence against women, and in particular, on pornography, was very influential in the direction of my own research. Her work inspired me to address the deeply embedded misogyny of which pornography is but one expression and influence.
When I returned to live in Berkeley, Diana and I organized several anti-pornography events together, including hosting Larry Flynt's daughter to speak, and protesting against the screening of the movie about Flynt.
Regarding our friendship: Diana and I had dinner together on a regular basis for years, but after several ruptures in our friendship, we remained more distant as colleagues. I continued to admire her and care about her, but had little contact over the past 5 years or so.
I would very much like to be able to attend the zoom memorial service.
I have attached a flyer that Diana composed describing our action against the screening of the Flynt film. Here is a brief excerpt:
"FEMINIST DEMONSTRATION IN SAN FRANCISCO TO PROTEST THE PEOPLE VS. LARRY FLYNT
Wendy Stock and I organized a feminist demonstration outside the Kabuki Theater in San Francisco to protest The People vs. Larry Flynt on its opening night -- Friday, December 27, 1996, at 6:30 p.m. Tonya Flynt-Vega, Larry's 31-year-old daughter, had flown in from Florida to be our main speaker."
Also found here: http://www.nostatusquo.com/ACLU/Porn/rusflynt.html
— Wendy Stock
I knew Diana well during her time at Mills and for several years after she retired to devote herself to her writing and her political work. Diana was the most passionately principled person I have ever known. She not only devoted her life to exploring the most painful aspects of racial and gender oppression, she also lived her personal life with extreme attention to living by her ideals. For her the personal really was political, and vice versa.
While she was a shy person by nature, she forced herself to become a highly effective public speaker, largely so she could raise money from speaking fees to support her research and her political activism. Even when she was living almost completely on her tiny Mills pension, I remember that she devoted a substantial portion of her income to financing the first International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women.
She was equally willing to make personal sacrifices for her research, forcing herself to master quantitative methods so that she could conduct and analyze her path-breaking survey on rape and sexual abuse of women and girls.
She had a lovely sense of humor and a warm relationship with her friends, but she also could face the devastating truths about crimes against women and persist in making other people hear, and pay attention, to brutal realities that others wanted to hide or dismiss. That fearlessness and that determination to follow the truth wherever it led is what I will remember most.
— Ann Swidler
I'm glad and grateful that I was able to meet her for dinner relatively regularly after I moved to Berkeley in 2012. She was a dear friend of my dear (departed) friend, Lilly Moed, whom I met in Los Angeles, when I was a member of the history department at UCLA. That mutual love of Lil Moed was a bond between Diana and me. As a historian of American women and as a feminist I very much appreciated Diana's work in promoting crucial and unique changes that benefitted women worldwide. I am grateful for the opportunity to post online in a database that I edited about 60 of her interviews of South African women activists in the anti-apartheid movement.
She generously welcomed me into her home and we located the 1987 cassette tapes in her vast records of a lifetime of scholarship. She came to my home to hear the tapes online, a memorable occasion that pleased her very much and that I now regret I did not photograph.
Diana and I often spoke of the disposition of her papers. I last saw her about a year ago —before the death of Lovies. So I don't know whether she was able to get the help that she needed to organize the archival donation of her papers. Do you know what is happening with her papers?
I will send the obituary to friends who know Diana's work.
— Kathryn Sklar
I appreciate being informed and feel deeply sad that I was unable to see Diana; it has been about ten years, I think. I retired and stopped being able to travel myself. I met Diana many years ago when she spoke at a domestic violence conference in a psychiatric hospital in near New York City. We became good friends over the years, shared information, I sold her books at conferences, including at NCADV, (where I served several terms on the board, two years as the president).
I cherish a photo she sent me on her 60th birthday of herself; she was in a headstand... amazing! I met her little dog at one visit to her apartment... so long ago.
Diana was so encouraging of my activism and work on behalf of victims of men's violence, pornography, prostitution, etc.
If there is any way for me to be on the zoom memorial I would appreciate it.
Thanks so much, and I am sending warm condolences to you and others close to dear Diana.
— Rose Garrity
I’m so sorry. I hadn’t seen Diana in some years and am saddened by this news. I got to know Diana at the Y, where we both exercised. I am a retired professor of political science at Berkeley, so we had some social science in common.
— Ruth Collier
I am saddened by the news of Diana's death. It's been years since we saw each other. I would very much like to attend her memorial service. Here are a few words:
I met Diana in Berkeley in the 1990s after my book Rape Warfare: The Hidden Genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia, had come out. I called her out of the blue, and she immediately asked me to have dinner with her. I'm one of the beneficiaries of the word she coined, "femicide," though I didn't get it until that book had come out.
In reading her obituary, I am stunned to learn of her consistent activism, in particular, as our meeting was framed a bit academically. But it makes so much sense as I remember her now. She was a determined, fierce, and brilliant warrior who was also gentle and loving. The paths she cleared were early ways toward a changing world. Rest in peace, dear Diana. And thanks.
— Beverly Allen
I met Diana when I was on the National Board of NOW back in the early seventies. When I was president of S.F. NOW I founded the first shelter for battered women in the U.S. la casa de las Madres which is still going. Diana invited me to give testimony at the International Tribunal in Belgium which is included in the book. Our friendship was strong. She was a brilliant and caring woman and we worked many causes together. I am so sorry to hear about her death. She was one of the most vibrant and important members of the women’s community.
I talked via phone with her a couple of months ago. She was happy to hear of my work in India setting up judo and self defense classes in 15 schools over the past 6 years for girls and women of the untouchable caste. She also enjoyed watching the film documentary Mrs. Judo on Prime Video. She will be missed.
— Dr. Shelley Fernandez
I appreciated your sad email last night informing that Diana had passed away. I immediately forwarded on to a number of feminists on the East Coast. Ironically, I had left Diana a telephone message, just about 20 minutes before your notice arrived.
I am a Women’s Studies professor at Brooklyn, and have been a close professional colleague of Diana’s for many years. She has long been my primary role model. On pornography, prostitution, and feminism, we have actively collaborated and worked together. She was kind enough to credit me for having a major influence on her definitions of pornography, erotica, and the related issues. I have written several glowing accounts of her many-dimensioned career, all published in the feminist journal Dignity, and I am now discussing with Editor Donna Hughes a special Issue of Dignity devoted to Diana. I have begun a new article on “The Best Research by Feminist Social Scientists,” which would ultimately give the #1 Honor to Diana’s early empirical survey research on rape prevalence in a random female population.
In the long and honorable listing of “Feminist Social Scientists,” Diana Russell was virtually unique. Not only was she a brilliant and wide-ranging theorist, but very early in her long career she conducted an empirical scientific study of the rape experiences of women, in a rigorous random sample of hundreds of women of all ages. Incredibly, her survey study of rape prevalence is still, now after 50 years, the best and most rigorous scientific study of rape that was ever conducted. If one wishes to read any one of her many important books, “Sexual Exploitation” (Sage, 1984) is the detailed account of this brilliant scientific tour-de-force.
As a wide-ranging theorist, she explored the complex and harmful effects of pornography on women and girls (and even men), at a level of sophistication and depth unequaled by any other author. Her bold analyses of why men do and do not rape (in her first book in 1975), of sexual child-abuse, rape in marriage, S/M sexuality, the stark failures of prominent male scientists who studied pornography’s effects on men, and even the dynamics of the spread of AIDS in Africa, are all important, ground-breaking works. Diana Russell has been my own primary role-model for over 40 years, showing me and others what it truly means to be a feminist social scientist, and what such work over many years can accomplish.
Diana Russell was a unique, brilliant and accomplished scientist, whose equal we may never see again. But her many outstanding publications will insure that her name and contributions will never be forgotten.
— Dr. Robert Brannon
Social psychologist and Women’s Studies professor at Brooklyn College C.U.N.Y. who studies the sex-industry and violence against women generally.
Here is my relationship with Diana. I hope I don't go into too much detail, as is my wont. It is not long, really. The dates that I find in her obituary and a couple of articles I have been looking at don't comport with the trajectory of my life. I will go with my dates.
First an aside: Bob Brannon resurrected an article by Diana and an article he wrote on femicide to submit to Donna Hughes's journal, Dignity. I am editing them, updating Bob's, and joined the correspondence with Donna. I suggested to Donna that they devote a special issue of Dignity to Diana, with articles on incest and pornography as well as femicide. Donna said it is under discussion. She agrees it is a good idea.
I first met Diana when she was sitting in the kitchen of the house that was vaguely a feminist collective in Berkeley. I was in my mid-twenties and Diana was in her early 30's. She was working with Randy Baker proofing what I believe was her first book. It was about 1974. I was very envious and wanted to horn in on Randy's job. They read it line by line, one of them reading out loud, including every punctuation mark and footnote, while the other marked the manuscript.
Next, I met her when I was covering a meeting she called in preparation for the International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women for the Berkeley feminist paper, Plexus. It was a front page story, above the fold. During the meeting, however, I stopped being a reporter and started being one of Diana's recruits to the project.
Diana said during her introduction that one in five women is the victim of incest. I was incredulous. She assigned me to convene that group. I told all the women who had survived incest to go into a corner of the room. One fifth of the women came to my corner. She was right! I had no idea how to do research at the time (I am now a social psychologist and researcher). What I did was lame. I put a notice in the underground paper asking women who had been sexually abused by a family member to contact me. I received a small number of letters. I really didn't know what the hell I was doing, either in collecting information nor dealing with survivors. I wrote a chapter for her book about the International Tribunal, but I wasn't able to attend.
So Diana was formative in my intellectual development as a feminist, maybe as a feminist scholar, but I did not become that for another decade. I saw Diana once when I returned to Berkeley for a visit, after I had begun conducting research on gang rape, and went to her house. It was not clear to me whether she was sharing her house for money or out of principle. At the time, she was distraught about one of the women living there and thinking about asking her to leave. I also did not realize that she rescued dogs. I always did.
After that, I saw Diana at conferences, two that I remember. The first was the New Hampshire conference, where we sat outside and chatted, then David Finkelhor came along and insisted that I leave so he could speak to Diana alone. She explained that they were both incest survivors and needed to talk about that privately. The second, the last time I saw her, was the NOMAS conference in California where she was a keynote speaker and received an award conceived by Bob Brannon. She presented on femicide, querulous about how the term was being misused as simply as a synonym for murder of a woman, but expansive about the adoption and application of the term for South American femicides.
We had dinner with a group that night. She complained that I kept talking about statistics (my presentation was on the misuse of statistics by feminists and feminist organizations that undercut our arguments). She wished we lived closer than 3,000 miles apart so we could have dinner and argue once a month. That would have greatly enhanced my life. I think we talked on the phone from time to time, including after that meeting, but not enough. I had it on my list to call her last week, but was away for the week. Bob asked me a couple of years ago to be her alternate literary executor if he was unable to do it. I said I could help, but definitely was not up to that monumental task.
Shouldn't I have some words to serve as monument? I am not given to grand or deep expressions. Diana was difficult; I was not always comfortable with her. I was amazed she respected me. She was an original, a pioneer, courageous, had the ability to create a field, an area of study, a phenomenon. It is more than being brilliant.
— Chris S. O'Sullivan
I was fortunate to meet Diana randomly at her favorite restaurant, Razan's Organic Kitchen in Berkeley, one lucky evening. We started chatting and became fast friends, and would occasionally have dinner together. I regret to report that I've lost touch within the last few months.
I'd be honored to attend a memorial via Zoom and meet Diana's wonderful friends and colleagues.
Thank you for the beautiful obituary honoring Diana's amazing and inspirational life.
— Debra Marks
In the early or mid 90s, I don't remember, I read “Against Pornography” and called Diana and invited her to speak in Maine. I remember telling her that I'd give my left ovary to bring her to Maine. She came and spoke and we became friends. For years Diana visited me in Santa Fe every Christmas.
I unofficially edited for her. I worked on most of her books over the years including “Femicide in Global Perspective” and “Dangerous Relationships.”
Diana, although amazing, was a tough friend to have. We had a falling out years ago and I now very much regret not cleaning that up.
— Tammy Gordon
I know that my dear Grandmother, Diana’s mother Molly was particularly close to Diana and they chatted on the phone every week before she died in 2001. We all saw Diana when she was out for her mother’s funeral, her twin brother’s funeral and when she came out for a Herschel reunion.
I would not want to “cloud” your wonderful memorial with personal memories of her. Suffice it to say that ALL the Hamilton Russells have a lot of literature in our bookshelves authored by her. I also have a VERY touching document of an interview she transcribed of one she did with her mother Molly about her childhood 1908 – 1930. Amazing and we will be eternally grateful to her for putting this down on paper and sharing it.
— Bridgid Hamilton Russell
Thank you for letting me know of our loss of Diana Russell. I never had the honor of meeting Diana in person but we corresponded and spoke on the phone. She contacted me in 2008 because -- thanks to hearing mention of the word "femicide" by a colleague at a conference some years before -- she learned that I had coined that word for the killing of a woman. I came up with it while compiling a never-published anthology concerning the forces that lead to the murders of women. After hearing the word, Diana instantly recognized that it aptly captured the deeper psychological and social constructs that underlie such killings. She knew exactly what I meant.
Over the intervening years following this insight Diana tried to track me down to learn my original definition of the term. By the time she found me, 2008, I no longer had the manuscript -- a project pursued some 30+ years before -- nor my notes, but I was able to re-construct my thinking sufficiently to share it with her.
In the years since then we exchanged e-mails and occasional phone calls. These further clarified the word's import and often marked publications and events showing the growing global acceptance of this word. I was honored to be a witness to her powerful work communicating the conceptual underpinnings of "femicide." In particular we celebrated, in a phone call, the “Resolution adopted by the General Assembly of the UN” entitled “Taking action against gender-related killing of women and girls,” and specifically using the word “femicide.” The final draft of this resolution can be found at
with its official adoption at
(To locate references within the documents, search “femicide.”)
These UN actions would certainly not have happened but for Diana’s work, and although not mentioned in her obituary they are noteworthy.
In short, I was/am a footnote in the multi-volumed achievements of her generous and loving life. We lose John Lewis. We lose Elijah Cummings. We lose Diana Russell. The giants move beyond our reach. May we be inspired and led by their examples and the gifts they gave us.
— Carol Orlock
I am truly sorry for the passing of Diana. My condolences go to all women in this world. A big THANK YOU to Diana for all she has done for us. Diana will be missed.
— Margaritha Tahan
I'm so sorry to hear that my friend and long-ago housemate, Diana Russell, has passed, but glad that I had the opportunity to talk on the phone with her a few weeks ago.
I think I met Diana in 1964, after my first year of graduate school at Harvard. I found a 5 bedroom, furnished house around the corner from the much smaller house I rented during my first year at Harvard Square, and I took on the responsibility of signing the lease and looking for four room-mates (or rather housemates). I considered it a great success for the two years I lived there, with Diana (sociology Ph.D. student at Harvard), Ginny Forman, an administrator at a health facility, Eleanor Rosch (Grad student in Social Psych, and Linda Salzman (a painter). We mostly got along well, and we did our best to remind Diana regularly that we don't have a staff of servants, so she really did need to wash her dishes after she had a meal. She was very beautiful and elegant in those days, and throughout her life.
Later I went to visit her family in South Africa when I was doing anthropological work in the Kalahari desert. And there was a long period in mid-life when we both lived in Berkeley, and I remember lending her some money when she was buying that nice house in Berkeley (which she repaid long ago).
— Nancy Howell
My history with Diana goes back to the early '70's. I lived in the collective on Grant St. and in the late 70's she and I bought the house and I continued to live there with her until the end of the 80's. As you well know, Diana was a remarkable person who had an enormous influence on my life. We did drift apart but I would very much like to be part of a service that acknowledges and recognizes her extraordinary contribution to feminism.
— Pat Loomes