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Portrait of Sandra Harding
Photo courtesy of Sandra Harding

Oral history interview with Sandra Harding

  • 2019-Apr-23 – 2019-Apr-25
  • 2019-Aug-28

Oral history interview with Sandra Harding

  • 2019-Apr-23 – 2019-Apr-25
  • 2019-Aug-28

Sandra Harding was born in San Francisco, California, the first of five children born to Lloyd and Constance Harding. Her father's struggle to find work during the Great Depression led the family to Los Angeles, where they operated a roadside diner until the outbreak of World War II. At that point, her father got a position in the civil service and the family moved once again, this time to the East Coast. Harding recounts experiencing sexism in her elementary and secondary schooling in New Jersey, but recalls a warmly loving family environment which included encouragement for the children—both daughters and son—to pursue their educational aspirations. Earning tuition through summer jobs as a waitress and at the telephone company, Harding attended Douglass College and studied literature.

After graduation, Harding moved to New York City where she worked at ABC and held soirees with her friends at her Greenwich Village apartment. She met and married Harold Morick, at that time a graduate student in philosophy at Columbia University. Morick was writing his dissertation on Wittgenstein, and Harding contributed her efforts as typist. After he completed his PhD, they settled in Albany, where Morick got a position in the philosophy department at the State University of New York. There, they welcomed two daughters, a year apart. With the women's movement gaining momentum, Harding found herself dissatisfied with the role of faculty wife and decided to join the ranks of wives and mothers returning to school for graduate degrees. She began coursework in sociology at SUNY-Albany. When she decided to switch to philosophy, she transferred to New York University, partly in an effort to keep some separation between her budding career and Morick's. She elected to focus her dissertation on the epistemology of Willard Van Orman Quine.

Harding's first faculty appointment was at SUNY-Albany's Allen Center. There she began work on feminist standpoint theory. Following an amicable divorce from Morick, Harding accepted a position at the University of Delaware. She was drawn to the University of Delaware because of its active philosophy department, which included a master's program and a focus area on the philosophy of science. She also appreciated Wilmington's proximity to Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore and Washington, DC, which presented her with many opportunities for networking and for involvement in research and writing work for programs run by the United Nations. Harding recalls some strife within the department, especially in the form of vituperative anti-feminist critique of her work, and recalls that the critical tone of her tenure letter belied the 100 percent vote in favor of tenure for her. While at the University of Delaware, Harding began expanding feminist standpoint theory to incorporate perspectives from the feminisms of Women of Color feminism, and she relished her contact with the Black intellectual community in the Northeast.

After a period of splitting her time between the University of Delaware and the University of California, Los Angeles, she accepted a full-time appointment at UCLA's Graduate School of Education. There she continued her active engagement in professional societies including the American Philosophical Association, the Society for Women in Philosophy and the Society for Social Studies of Science. She served as editor of Signs and worked with colleagues in Latin America to create the journal Tapuya.

Throughout this multi-session interview, Harding often reflects on the influence of social justice movements—the women's movement, the civil rights movement, and the independence and post-colonial movements in nations around the world—on her work, and her steadfast commitment to producing work that furthers those movements. She emphasizes the practical and managerial approach she has taken towards her writing, teaching and mentorship of students. She describes herself as a "rogue philosopher," and delights in Sharon Traweek's characterization of her as someone who "plants herself on the borders of institutions and refuses to go away."

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 211 pages
  • 8:37:00
Rights Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License
Rights holder
  • Science History Institute
Credit line
  • Courtesy of Science History Institute

About the Interviewers

Jody A. Roberts served as the Director of the Institute for Research at the Science History Institute. He received his PhD and MS in Science and Technology Studies from Virginia Tech and holds a BS in chemistry from Saint Vincent College. His research focuses on the intersections of regulation, innovation, environmental issues, and emerging technologies within the chemical sciences.

Joseph Klett is a sociologist of culture and technology. His research focuses on sonic interactions between people, places, and things in social organizations. He is currently principal investigator for the Community History Platform, a digital resource for connecting scientific communities to researchers and archives. Before joining the Science History Institute, Joseph was a visiting assistant professor in the department of sociology at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Institutional location

Oral history number 1101

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • March 29, 1935
  • San Francisco, California, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1956 Douglass College BA English
1973 New York University PhD Philosophy

Professional Experience

State University of New York at Albany

  • 1973 to 1976 Assistant Professor of Philosophy, The Allen Center

University of Delaware

  • 1976 to 1979 Assistant Professor of Philosophy
  • 1976 to 1989 Associate Professor of Philosophy
  • 1981 to 1996 Joint Appointment to Sociology
  • 1985 to 1991 Director of Women's Studies
  • 1986 to 1996 Professor of Philosophy
  • 1992 to 1993 Director of Women's Studies

Universiteit van Amsterdam

  • 1987 Visiting Professor of Philosophy and Women's Studies

University of Costa Rica

  • 1990 Visiting Professor of Philosophy

University of California, Los Angeles

  • 1992 Visiting Professor of Women's Studies and Philosophy
  • 1994 to 1996 Adjunct Professor of Women's Studies and Philosophy
  • 1995 to 2000 Director of the Center for the Study of Women
  • 1995 to 2012 Professor of Education and Women's Studies
  • 2012 to 2014 Distinguished Research Professor of Education and Women's Studies
  • 2014 to 2021 Distinguished Research Professor of Education and Women's Studies Emerita

Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich

  • 1993 Visiting Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies

Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society

  • 2000 to 2005 Co-editor

Michigan State University

  • 2010 to 2014 Distinguished Part-time Visiting Professor of Education and Women's Studies

University of Cambridge

  • 2017 Diane Middlebrook and Carl Djerassi Distinguished Visiting Professor of Gender Studies

Tapuya: Latin American Science, Technology and Society

  • 2017 Member, founding editorial team, and International Advisory Board


Year(s) Award
1986 The Science Question in Feminism nominated one of five best science books of 1986, Los Angeles Times
1986 The Science Question in Feminism named one of the five best books of 1986, The Socialist Review
1987 Jessie Bernard Award, American Sociological Association
1988 Feminism and Methodology, Susan Koppelman Award of the American and Popular Culture Association
1990 Woman Philosopher of the Year, Eastern Society for Women in Philosophy
1994 The ‘Racial’ Economy of Science, Outstanding Book Award of Choice
1995 The ‘Racial’ Economy of Science, Critics’ Choice Award from American Educational Studies Association
2007 to 2008 Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar
2009 American Education Research Association (AERA) Award for Distinguished Contributions to Gender Equity in Education Research
2013 John Desmond Bernal Prize for Lifetime Achievements, Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S)

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PDF — 1.9 MB

The published version of the transcript may diverge from the interview audio due to edits to the transcript made by staff of the Center for Oral History, often at the request of the interviewee, during the transcript review process.

Complete Interview Audio File Web-quality download

5 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads