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Gladys Engel Lang

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Gladys Engel Lang Obituary
Gladys Engel Lang

Gladys Engel Lang, Professor Emeritus of sociology, political science, and communications at the University of Washington and one of the most accomplished women sociologists of her generation, died at the age of 96 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on March 23, 2016. Gladys Engel began her career as graduate-student researcher for the famous anthropologist Margaret Mead. During World War II, she worked as a research analyst for the Office of War Information in Washington and then for the Office of Strategic Services in Italy, followed by a postwar stint for the Central Intelligence Agency in China. In 1949, she left the government to earn a Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Chicago and marry fellow sociology-student Kurt Lang.

In an open competition held in 1951 for the best research on the effects of radio and television on American life, the Lang couple's submission took the prize, the first such prize ever awarded by the American Sociological Association. Their paper on Chicago's MacArthur Day parade originated the concept of media "refraction" by detailing how experiencing an event on television differs from actually being on the scene. In 1954, while at the University of Miami, Gladys Engel Lang and her husband pioneered the now-ubiquitous exit poll by querying voters as they left their voting booths in a local referendum on financing the public television station.

The husband-wife team conducted other studies of media influences, a number of which they summarized in their book "Politics and Television" (1968), which went through three editions. Gladys Lang and her husband also co-authored "The Battle for Public Opinion" (1983), a seminal study of the president, the press, and the polls during the Watergate scandal. Journalists at first skeptical about the Langs' conclusions gradually embraced them. Sig Mickelson, director of CBS News during the first fully televised political conventions in 1952, publicly acknowledged at a professional conference that the Langs' "description of our coverage was as if they had read our memos and made us look at what we were doing then in a new way."

Beginning in the 1970s, Gladys Lang became interested in the building and survival of women's reputations versus men's, and launched a decades-long study of male and female printmakers from the 1880s until World War II, resulting in the acclaimed "Etched in Memory" (1990). Meanwhile, she and Kurt assembled an extensive print collection, especially of lesser-known and often overlooked "lady-etchers," along with their

male counterparts, and of husband-and-wife artist couples. In 2001, Seattle's Frye Art Museum displayed a selection of 100 works in an exhibition, "Women Printmakers from the Gladys Engel Lang and Kurt Lang Collection." In 2014, the Smith College Museum of Art acquired the Langs' entire collection for its permanent holdings.

Born August 7, 1919, and reared in Atlantic City, NJ, Gladys Engel was the daughter of a house painter. She and her older sister were the first in their family to graduate from high school. Gladys won a local scholarship that allowed both girls to attend the University of Michigan and graduate in 1940. She moved to Seattle to earn a master's degree in sociology, at the University of Washington, with which, in 1942, she obtained a job in the federal government's war-time agencies.

Gladys Engel Lang had a long career in sociology. For almost 30 years in New York, she held a variety of teaching and research positions at institutions, including Queens College, Columbia University, and finally SUNY Stony Brook. She had always yearned to return to Seattle. When the University of Washington offered her a position in 1984, she jumped at the opportunity. Following her retirement from teaching in 1990, she enjoyed the cultural life in Seattle as well as the natural beauty of the city and its surroundings. In June 2014, she and her husband moved to Cambridge, MA, to be closer to their children.

Survivors include her husband Kurt, daughter, Glenna, both of Cambridge, MA, and son, Kevin, of Brookline, MA, as well as three granddaughters: Esme; Lang von Hoffman, Ariella Kahn-Lang, and Jenya Kahn-Lang.

A memorial service will be held May 21, 1:30 p.m., at Cadbury Commons, 66 Sherman Street, Cambridge, MA.

Please sign Gladys' online Guestbook at www.Legacy.com.
Published in The Seattle Times from Apr. 6 to Apr. 7, 2016
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