A crowd gathered at Mystique pub last Thursday evening to remember female scholar and activist Lillian Robinson. Students and colleagues took turns sharing their memories of the woman they considered a friend and a hero.
Robinson became the principal of the Simone de Beauvoir Institute in 1999, and worked as a Professor of women’s studies. She was a well known and well-loved presence at Concordia University.
For 28 years, the Institute has been part of Concordia and is the home of the first women’s studies program in Canada.
Viviane Namaste became the active principal of the Institute after Lillian passed away from ovarian cancer on Sept. 20.
“She went beyond theory,” said Namaste of the woman she admired. “For me to know Lillian is to understand the many different sides of who she was: a scholar, teacher and activist. She brought knowledge and action to the forefront.”
Born in 1941, Robinson’s parents were Jewish immigrants who settled in New York City. Her education began in the U.S. and she received her Ph.D. in comparative literature from Colombia University.
The author of six scholarly books, Robinson published her last book, Wonder Women, in 2003. The novel takes a look at female superheroes. At the time of her death, she was working on a new study, analyzing the myths surrounding interracial rape.
She frequently spoke at Concordia and to the local press, often in defence of students’ rights and their right to organize. She was also a founding member of the Jewish Alliance Against the Occupation.
In the obituary released by Lillian’s family, there was a long list of her academic credentials and her works exploring women’s issues and gender politics. Mirroring what many said at the memorial, the obituary read, “A stimulating teacher and lecturer, she spoke in most cases without notes. She enjoyed making her points with humor, both in her published pieces and in frequent asides and improvisations as she spoke.”
The Robinsons have asked that donations be sent to the Lillian Robinson Scholars Program, founded through Concordia with Lillian’s blessing and encouragement. It is hoped the scholarship will be used solely to bring distinguished feminist scholars to the Simone de Beauvoir Institute. A memorial service will take place in Montreal later in November, likely hosted by Concordia.
The crowd gathered at Mystique was, surprisingly, not too somber, even though they evidently would miss their friend.
Noticeably full of smiles and fond memories, they all raised their glasses to the inspirational force known as Lillian Robinson.