When in 2003, President Bush bestowed a National Humanities Medal on Elizabeth (Betsey) Fox-Genovese, citing her as “a defender of reason and servant of faith,” he recognized the achievements of a uniquely accomplished American intellectual.
Long a Marxist and briefly a feminist, Betsey converted to Catholicism in 1994 and became an exceptionally strong voice for the culture of life and the rights of the unborn. A Harvard-trained historian and acclaimed teacher, she wrote extensively on literature, religion, politics, education, and related subjects. Her numerous books and articles on French history, the American South, and women’s history, literature, and politics provoked extensive discussion, winning her an appreciative national audience — and subjecting her to bitter and increasingly vicious hostility. When she died in January 2007 at age sixty-five, she was Eléanore Raoul Professor of the Humanities at Emory University, where she had founded the Women’s Studies Program and trained a record number of Ph.D.s in several departments.
In Miss Betsey, Eugene Genovese — Betsey’s husband of thirty-seven years and an equally accomplished scholar — movingly tells the story of their courtship, life together, and professional and political collaboration. Betsey is shown to have been a woman of uncommon strength of character who refused to feel sorry for herself in the face of lifelong illnesses. Even in her last dozen years, crippled and wracked by constant pain, she devoted herself to her husband, students, many friends—and God. Eugene Genovese confesses that “time does not heal all things,” but he also affirms that is was on the day of his “improbable blind date” with Elizabeth Fox that “the Holy Ghost pronounced my sinful soul worth saving.”