Margaret (Marge) Frantz
June 18, 1922 - Oct. 16, 2015
Marge [Gelders] was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1922. Following in the footsteps of her father, a physics professor who organized for racial equality and labor rights in the deep south, Marge would become a lifelong activist and advocate for human rights.
At the age of 13, Marge joined the Communist Party through the Young Communist League and gave her first soapbox speech. At 16, she attended Radcliffe College on scholarship. The scholarship was lost two years later due to her political activities, and she returned to Alabama. She married Laurent Frantz, a lawyer and fellow Party member, at 19. While Laurent served in the Navy during World War II, Marge worked in Washington, DC and Nashville as an organizer and as the editor of The Southern Patriot, the newspaper of the Southern Conference for Human Welfare.
After the war, Marge and Laurent moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Harassed by Klan members and expecting their first child, the couple moved to Berkeley, California. Prohibited from practicing law due to his political beliefs, Laurent worked as a legal editor while Marge continued to work as an editor and became an active member of the Bay Area radical community. Throughout this period they had three more children.
In 1956, disillusioned by events that had come to light in the Soviet Union, Marge left the Communist Party and began a new period of intellectual exploration. The People's Park confrontation in 1969, in which University of California officials sanctioned the use of violence against students and the community, persuaded Marge to quit her editing job and return to college. Marge earned a Bachelor of Arts at University of California, Berkeley, where she began graduate studies in political theory under John Schaar. Marge followed Dr. Schaar to U.C. Santa Cruz, completing a PhD in 1984 in the History of Consciousness, with a thesis on the democratic and educational philosopher Alexander Meiklejohn.
In 1955, Marge met Eleanor Engstrand, the woman who would become her life partner. Initially attracted by each other's interest in politics and social justice, the couple also enjoyed backpacking and bird watching together. Marge and Eleanor moved to Ben Lomond in 1973.
At UCSC, Marge discovered a passion for teaching and became an ardent advocate of women's rights. She was a founding member of the Women's Studies Department on campus and taught American Studies and Women's Studies from 1976 until her retirement in 1989, although Marge's love for teaching led her to lecture for nearly a decade after her official retirement. Marge was a popular and award-winning teacher who inspired students to take up life work for public causes. Her relationship with Eleanor made Marge a role model and enthusiastic mentor to LGBT students.
Marge was featured in the 1998 Academy Award-nominated documentary "Seeing Red". Her published pieces include a chapter for "Red Diapers: Growing Up in the Communist Left"; the introduction to "From Wedded Wife to Lesbian Life: Stories of Transformation"; and the lecture "We Did Overcome: The Death of the Company Town and the House Un-American Activities Committee," for the Paul Lubow Memorial Lecture series.
Marge is survived by her partner Eleanor Engstrand; three children: Larry Frantz of Vancouver, British Columbia., Virginia Frantz of St. Louis, Missouri. and Alex Frantz of San Leandro, California; a sister, Blanche Hartman of San Francisco, and eight grandchildren. She was predeceased by her husband, Laurent B. Frantz, and her oldest son, Joe Frantz. Her memorial will be held Sunday, January 17th, in the Music Recital Hall at the University of California, Santa Cruz campus, from 2:00PM to 5:00PM. A reception will follow the program.
Contributions in her memory are welcomed by:
Aptheker/Frantz Women's Studies Endowment at UC Santa Cruz; American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, and the Northern California and Northern Nevada Chapters of the Alzheimer's Association. View the online memorial for Margaret (Marge) Frantz