Margaret (Marge) Frantz
1922 - 2015
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Margaret (Marge) Frantz
June 18, 1922 - Oct. 16, 2015
Santa Cruz
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.

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Published in Santa Cruz Sentinel on Nov. 25, 2015.
Memorial service
02:00 - 05:00 PM
the Music Recital Hall at the University of California, Santa Cruz campus
Memories & Condolences
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8 entries
January 24, 2016
Marge Frantz was my history examiner and changed the way I looked at the world and turned me into a life long social activist. I took her McCarthyism class in 1987 and I've never forgotten it-- truly among the very best classes I took in all my years of school.
Derek Milne
January 17, 2016
I adored Marge and worked with her and her students as the women's studies librarian at UCSC for many years. In fact the first time I met Marge was when I arrived in 1981 and there was a panel on feminism with Marge speaking as the elder feminist!!
Her words of wisdom, honesty and humor as well as her stanch political beliefs will be sorely missed.
My love and condolences go out to Eleanor and Marge's sister, Blanche.
Jacquelyn Marie
January 6, 2016
I was a TA for Marge at UCSC, and then when when I got a job at Stanford I invited her to co-teach a class on McCarthyism with me, which we video-recorded (back in the day!) and archived in Green Library. She broadened the education of UCSC students, and simply blew the minds of the more conservative and easily shocked Stanford students. She was such an amazing scholar and mentor; always a thoughtful, brilliant, and surprising interlocutor. The sheer scale of her knowledge and first hand experience of communism from the 1930s onward were simply extraordinary. How lucky we were to get to know her a little bit. With her, a vivd link to American history has also passed.
Lochlann Jain
December 2, 2015
Marge was my T.A. for Jack Schaar's American Political Thought class in 1973, during the halcyon days of UCSC's first decade. It was a great class and Marge helped it come alive for me. I remember many wonderful discussions and Marge shared a lot about her life. Later I remember her at many LGBT events in Santa Cruz. I shall miss her very much.
David Paine
December 1, 2015
Marge Frantz: so smart, so funny, so full of love and optimism. I remain in awe of her life and dedication to fight the good fight (in a socialist/Quaker kind of way!) As an American Studies major, Marge was central to my UC Santa Cruz experience. Some of the best moments of my student life involve Marge both in and out of the classroom. I was s student in her classes: American history and the senior seminar for American Studies (co-taught by Marge and Jack Schaar). I was honored to TA for her course on McCarthyism. Her lectures were history and analysis peppered with her life experiences. I have great memories of the people Marge brought to class- most especially Jessica Decca' Mitford, Virginia Durr and her own mother. Marge was generous and kind to her students hosting us in Ben Lomond and the Sonoma coast ranch. She challenged us to question through history, theory, small d democracy, feminism, freedom of speech. Because of her I read Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Adrienne Rich, Jessica Mitford, John Sayles, Anne Tyler. Most of these writers and thinkers did not yet have a national following. Marge knew and admired their work and handed me books. I feel blessed to have spent time with Marge. She was a fabulous teacher, mentor, activist, and friend.
Adrianne Waite
November 30, 2015
Marge was my first t.a. in John Schaar's class Early American Political Thought & became a lifelong friend. She was a terrific teacher and an amazing person--warm, witty, generous, a reader, easy to laugh, passionately political--with layer upon layer of political and personal experience & wisdom. I've never met anyone remotely like her.
Joshua Miller
November 30, 2015
An inspiration and a role model for me always. And just fun to be with. In classes so many years ago.
Caren Kaplan
November 26, 2015
A remarkable woman I had the pleasure to know .

While in her presence it was hard not to to take notice of her integrity ,humanity, and intelligence.
Nini Schouborg
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