Mrs. Batson and Mrs. Hicks: Race, Rights, and the Mothers’ Fight for Boston Public Schools (1953-2003)
Elizabeth Hauck

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of Wisconsin-Madison

Primary Discipline

Parents, especially mothers, have long worked to secure better educational opportunity for their children— sometimes at the expense of opportunities for other people’s children.This project— a dual biography of Ruth Batson, the Black chairwoman of Boston’s NAACP Public School Committee, and Louise Day Hicks, a white lawyer and Boston politician— traces five decades of mother-activism by Batson and Hicks and their fellow Black and white mother-activists. I frame the story of school desegregation as the mothers’ political battle for educational opportunity and argue that the history of American education is a story of the evolving politics of motherhood.During the 1970s, Boston became a cautionary tale of white parents’ resistance to federally mandated school desegregation via busing as widespread racial violence captured the national imagination and fueled a narrative of “white flight” that undermined the gains of the Civil Rights Movement, exaggerated the so-called perils of integration, and turned American claims of “freedom” toward “individual” interests while denying the systemic racism behind the distribution of educational opportunity in America’s schools.Though recent scholars have challenged the Boston “busing” narrative, public memory holds fast to the story as justification for re-segregated schools in the city—and the nation.Juxtaposing the lives of two powerful yet understudied, mother-activists, this study bridges existing scholarship on progressive and conservative school activism. Situating mothers’ work on the spectrum of feminisms and anti-feminisms and exploring the intersectional politics of race, gender, and schools, I illuminate the ways American liberalism and conservatism were—and are—in conversation and conflict over schooling.
About Elizabeth Hauck
Liz Hauck is a doctoral student in Educational Policy Studies and History at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. She studies ideas about equity, mercy, and the distribution of educational opportunity, and how ideas have informed and upheld policies of segregation, desegregation and re-segregation in schools in the United States throughout the twentieth century. Framing the history of American education as a story of simultaneous expansion and exclusion, her work also considers how schooling intersects public and private interests, how cities make schools and schools make citizens, how race and racial categorization have shaped student and teacher experience in schools, and how mothers’ activism is a portal to understanding the relationship between public schools, differently imagined versions of American freedom, and individual and family access to the full benefits of American citizenship. More broadly, Liz writes about how memory shapes stories and stories make history, and how the stories we tell ourselves shape our understanding of our communities and the world. Prior to pursuing her doctorate at UW—Madison, Liz taught for eleven years at her alma mater, Boston Latin School; she also taught for two years at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago, IL, through Americorps. Her community service projects include volunteering through chaplaincy in a prison, digging an outhouse on the side of a mountain, and cooking in a group home with teenagers in state care. She holds a B.A. in English and Spanish from Boston College, an M.Ed. in Secondary Spanish also from Boston College, and an M.A. in Educational Policy Studies from UW—Madison.

Pin It on Pinterest