In Memoriam: Charlotte Furth, 1934-2022

Charlotte Furth, professor emerita of history at the University of Southern California, died earlier this summer in Los Angeles. She was 88 years old.

Dr. Furth was born in Charlottesville, Virginia. The family moved to New York, where she met her future husband while in the third grade. She earned a bachelor’s degree in French literature from the University of North Carolina and then began studying for a Ph.D. in French history at Stanford University but switched her field to Chinese history.

Dr. Furth began her academic career at California State University, Long Beach. She remained there for 23 years until 1989, when she moved to the history department at the University of Southern California. She remained on the faculty at USC until her retirement in 2008.

Her groundbreaking book A Flourishing Yin: Gender in China’s Medical History 960-1665 (University of California Press, 1999), a history of women’s reproductive medicine in China that took nearly 20 years to complete, was one of the first scholarly works to take gender into consideration in the study of Chinese medicine. Using medical texts, case studies, letters and handbooks, Furth outlined 400 years of medical care for conditions like pregnancy and menstruation, treatment that was often done in the home and by female midwives.

In 1981, Professor Furth was one of the first scholars to enter China on a Fulbright Scholarship since the program’s disbandment after the 1949 communist revolution. Dr. Furth taught American studies to worker-peasant-soldier students, the children of peasants and soldiers, at Beijing University.

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