Dorothy Goodwin’s long and distinguished career as a public servant in the federal government and as an educator at the University of Connecticut was capped by five terms in the state’s General Assembly, where she represented the towns of Storrs and Mansfield from 1975 to 1985.
Granddaughter of Francis Goodwin, for whom Hartford’s Goodwin Park is named, and daughter of Charles Goodwin, who wrote the legislation establishing the Metropolitan District Commission, Dorothy Goodwin was born and raised in Hartford, Conn. She attended the Oxford School and the Milton Academy in Milton, Mass. She then went on to Smith College where she graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in sociology. She joined the Bureau of Indian Affairs as an intern in 1937 and was later hired by the Interior Department and sent to India during World War II.
After the war, Goodwin joined the U.S. Foreign Agriculture Organization and was sent to Japan. She returned to Hartford in 1952. In 1957, she received the University of Connecticut’s first Ph.D. in agricultural economics and began a long career at the university, teaching economics at UConn until 1965 and then becoming Director of Institutional Research and Assistant Provost. Goodwin retired in 1974 and, in 1975, was elected to the Connecticut General Assembly from the 54th District. As chair of the Education Committee, she demonstrated her dedication to Connecticut’s schools. This also earned Goodwin her greatest recognition as a lawmaker as she crafted the compromise leading to the reorganization of higher education and, in 1979, shepherded the school equalization plan through the Assembly, creating new formulas for state educational aid for cities and towns.
Her legacy to the education of Connecticut students was exemplified by her appointment in 1982 as the co-chair of the General Assembly’s Education Commission. After retiring from the General Assembly, Goodwin was appointed to the Connecticut State Board of Education by Governor William O’Neill. In addition, she served on the board of trustees of Hartford College for Women and on the University of Hartford’s board of regents. She received numerous honors, including the Connecticut Humanities Council’s 1991 Wilbur Cross Award in recognition of a career that combined distinguished scholarship and teaching with public service.
Goodwin died in her home in Bloomfield, Conn., in June 2007 at the age of 92. A portion of her estate was given to the UConn Foundation to establish the Dorothy C. Goodwin Fund for Teacher Preparation to improve teacher quality.
During This Time
1946 - 1965: Women’s Activism in Conservative Times
The Cold War in the 1950s between the Soviet Union and the United States produced fear of domestic subversion. The McCarthy Era purged suspected Communists from government, the entertainment industry, and universities, and labeled gays and lesbians as un-American security risks. General anxiety contributed to a popular conception of the family as a source of social stability, and reinforced traditional notions of women’s place at home. In 1963, Betty Friedan called this promise of fulfillment through the domestic arts the “feminine mystique,” and advocated instead that women seek personal careers.
For two decades, a burgeoning economy and a growing consumer culture had expanded the availability of jobs for women. Notable was the increase in the workforce of married women, especially middle-class white women and educated women, though they were viewed in the media as working less for a career than to assist their families with needed income or desirable amenities for the home.
Some working-class women in labor unions challenged traditional cultural norms, such as the United Electric, Radio and Machine Workers who achieved non-discrimination clauses in local contracts. Middle-class women moderated their interest in women’s issues, promoting instead advancement through the League of Women Voters, YWCA, and the American Association of University Women. More radical women in Women Strike for Peace demonstrated against the nuclear arms race and were summoned to the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1962. Many activists would join the Civil Rights Movement.
The movement against segregation following World War II dates from the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which ruled that segregated schools are inherently unequal and thus a violation of the 14th amendment. African-Americans were given new hope, and in 1955 Rosa Parks, a black seamstress who refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, triggered a bus boycott of critical importance. Black women and white women took part in boycotts, sit-ins, demonstrations, and marches. A culminating achievement in 1965 was the Voting Rights Act pushed through by President Johnson.
Mexican-Americans in the southwest also fought to improve their life and work conditions. In 1962, Dolores Huerta, co-founder with Cesar Chavez of the United Farm Workers, played a leading role in organizing a national boycott of grapes that forced growers to sign a contract with the union.
Other ethnic groups were soon to come to America, enriching its diversity. The Immigrant and Nationality Act of 1965 established an immigration system based on family preference. Half of the new immigrants came from Mexico and Central and South America, while a quarter were from Asia. Two-thirds of the immigrants were women and children. While poverty and acculturation were issues, for many the time-honored American process of upward social mobility had begun.
Special thanks to Barbara E. Lacey, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of History, St. Joseph's College (Hartford, CT) for preparing these historical summaries.