Nancy Dean

July 19, 1930 — October 6, 2017

Will living with you always be so eventful?
And life with Nancy was filled with action.

Nancy Dean’s family was a very active family. She began riding horses at age 4. The National Horse Show in Madison Square Garden had stopped during WWII, and started again shortly after the end of the war. Nancy at age 14 (1944) won the two highest awards: the ASPCA Maclay and the Good Hands Equitation Championship.

Nancy Dean was a full professor at Hunter College, where she taught for 28 years. A Vassar BA (’52) with Honors, Senior Thesis with Distinction, and a Masters from Harvard (’53), she received her Ph.D. from New York University in Medieval Studies (’63). Before teaching at Hunter she taught at the American College for Girls in Turkey for three years. Her central field of specialization at Hunter was Chaucer and Medieval Studies.

She also taught Short Story Writing, Introduction to Literature, Women Centered Literature and Women Studies courses. Her Women Centered Literature course was lesbian literature, but the word “Lesbian” could not be in the course name as at that time it would not be accepted on a transcript.

Author of articles on Chaucer, published in Hunter Studies Comparative Literature, and Medium Aevum, she wrote In the Mind of the Writer (Canfield Press, 1973), a book for students to teach themselves writing, and co-edited with Myra Stark an anthology of contemporary feminist short stories by women, entitled In the Looking Glass (Putnam’s 1977). Her short stories were published in Room with a View and IKON. Her lesbian novel, entitled Anna’s Country, was written and published under the pseudonym “Elizabeth Lang” (Naiad Press, 1981), translated into German and published as Anna (Daphne Verlag publishers, 1984).

Since 1983 she has written 14 plays, including her translation, update, and switch of genders of Moliere’ s Misanthrope. She was Playwright in Residence for The Actors’ Alliance for three years (1989-2002). Her plays had performances throughout the country, and women were moved to continue the process of change in the vital feminist work for equality.
Nancy wrote a libretto of Chaucer’s poem, Troilus and Criseyde, scenes of which were done at the New York City Opera VOX festival for new operas. In November, 1995, Sisters on Stage honored her with an award for playwriting and support for other lesbian playwrights. She co-edited with M.G. Soares: Intimate Acts: Eight Contemporary Lesbian Plays, Brito and Lair, 1997.

In addition, in 1977, learning that women received less than 1% of foundation grants, she founded ASTRAEA Lesbian Foundation for Justice funding lesbian- and trans-led organizations and cultural media projects that directly address the depth and complexities of lesbian and trans issues. After leaving Astraea, she and her partner, Beva Eastman, founded the Open Meadows Foundation in 1986 funding projects that are led by and benefit women and girls, particularly those from vulnerable communities.

As Lucille Goodman said: “I am flooded with memories of Nancy and they are so welcome and so filled with joy. What good times we had changing the world and changing our lives. (We’re not done) Magical, Sweet, Hard to change the world — oh yes.

My mind is so filled with snapshots of memories of us, vignettes of joy and fury that the times were not changing fast enough. Nancy was so wise, her words were so Wise and Beautiful and Smart, oh so intelligent. A gift, her words.”