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Professor Vicky Randall, In Memoriam
Vicky Randall, who died on 22 November 2019 was a pioneering feminist political scientist whose work reflected a continuing interest in how members of marginalised groups engaged in politics. A committed feminist, she brought a consciously gendered perspective not only to her work on politics, but also to her studies of childcare policy, child prostitution, third world politics and the political behaviour of aged people.
Born Mary Victoria Madge, in April 1945 Vicky was the daughter of poet and sociologist Charles Madge and novelist Inez Pearn (who published under the name of Elizabeth Lake.) She studied at King Edwards’ School in Birmingham. She read history at Newnham College, Cambridge from 1964 to 1967 went on to LSE to study for a masters in Russian and Soviet Politics. She continued at LSE to a doctorate on decision making in local government.
While still working on her PhD she began teaching at the Polytechnic of Central London (now the University of Westminster) She moved to Essex University in the late 1980s, becoming Professor of Politics in 1996. She retired as Professor Emerita in 2010. Late promotion by their universities was typical for women of her generation.
Her first book, Women and Politics, was published in 1982 with a second edition in 1987. More than a text book, it quickly became a standard work on the reading lists for the growing curriculums on gender and society. It offers a thoughtful reflection on women’s political roles. In this book Vicky raised most of the questions that were explored in gender and politics research over the next three decades. Her 1991 essay (in Political Studies) on Feminism and Political Analysis is a recognised classic, widely cited and routinely included in collections of key articles in political science methods and on gender and politics course reading lists. It is here that she makes the important argument that feminist political science is good political science, a case that, once made, must be addressed in any serious scholarly analysis of politics. Her commitment to good, feminist political science is evident in her contributions to our Contemporary Feminist Politics (1993) and throughout her The Politics of Child Daycare in Britain (2000).
In addition, her body of work reflects the range and variety of her interests. She co authored (with Robin Theobald) Political Change and Underdevelopment: A Critical Introduction to Third World Politics (1985, 1998). She also edited and co-edited important collections of essays on such diverse topics as political parties, the media, the Middle East, foreign aid, gender and the state and development politics. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vicky_Randall for a full list.) Her most recent publication was an Afterward to the novel Spanish Portrait by Elizabeth Lake, published in 2019.
Vicky’s academic publications were characterised by methodological rigour, the imaginative selection of issues, a serious basis in research, and a fair consideration of the state of the field, all presented in clear, accessible well-crafted prose. Her research and writing came from a deep personal commitment to political and social equality and an unwavering professional commitment to intellectual rigour and scholarship.
Early in her academic career Vicky became involved in the emerging movement for the study and advancement of women in universities. In the second half of the 1970s, in the Political Studies Association, a few of us got together to organise on behalf of women who were then a tiny minority of political scientists in the UK …or anywhere. That experience resulted in the foundation, against some resistance, of the PSA Women and Politics Group, a successful and lasting organisation that continues to support and highlight the work of women political scientists. The experience also made a friendship that lasted more than 40 years during which we frequently travelled together for work, met socially and shared many meals in restaurants around North London. She was excellent company, sharp, witty, kind, as well as being a shrewd judge of character.
From those days onward, Vicky was a committed supporter of the PSA serving several terms on its executive committee and later chair of the Board of Trustees between 2008 and 2011. She continued her advocacy for women political scientists throughout her career. She also used her period as chair to support ethnic diversity in the profession. She was a reliable and effective mentor to younger generations of scholars both at Essex University and in national and international political science organisations and communities
Her work was recognised with election to the Academy of Social Sciences Fellowship in 2009. In 2012 she received the PSA Special Recognition Award for her ‘services to the promotion of political studies as well as her contributions to both the Political Studies Association and to gender and politics scholarship.’
Vicky died of cancer in North London Hospice on 22 November 2019. She is survived by her husband Paul Long and her son and daughter.
Joni Lovenduski is the Anniversary Professor of Politics at Birkbeck College, University of London. This obituary will be published in the upcoming issue of PSA News. The obituary published in January 2020 edition of PSA News was not written by Professor Lovenduski and published in error.