Rosanna Hertz
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Contact Information

Personal website:

Telephone: 781.283.2141

Current Courses
211 American Families and Social Equality
306 Seminar: Women and Work
311 Family and Gender Studies: The Family, the State, and Social Policy


Rosanna Hertz is the Classes of 1919-1950 Professor of Sociology and Women's and Gender Studies at Wellesley College where she has taught since 1983.  She chaired the Women's Studies Department from 1999-2008.  She is the past president (2009-2010) of the Eastern Sociological Society, the oldest regional sociological association.  She is the co-director of a newly formed Institute on Gender and the New Global Economy and a research scholar at the Wellesley Centers for Women.

She is presently working on two research projects.  The first project, “Productive Rule Breakers and Innovators,” seeks to better understand the motivations and the tactic of men and women who stretch everyone’s thinking about what’s possible. They “stretch the envelope” while remaining loyal to the organizations and communities that nurtured them. They inspire others to have similar aspirations and to challenge the status quo – rather than withdrawing or complaining from the sidelines. The specific focus of this study is the experience of women who have become productive rule breakers and innovators in developing economies – specifically India, China, South Africa, Cuba and Israel.  It examines the context of their lives – the “intersection of biography and history” – in an effort to understand how education, family background, social structure and social networks influenced their distinctive personal and professional trajectories.  It seeks to understand the critical moments and events that encouraged each woman to become a different kind of leader – a productive rule breaker.

“Getting Dressed” a project based on interviews with women and men in situ (literally, in their closets) about the factors that influence what they wear and when and where they wear it.  Hertz explores dress as a process of choice influenced by identity and personal taste, social roles and institutional expectations,  individual budgets and social networks.  All the phases of getting dressed are included:  from shopping to putting together a look. Getting dressed for everyday life provides unique insights into human behavior.

In broadest terms, Hertz’s scholarship focuses on families in a changing economy and how social inequality at home and in the workplace  shape the experiences of women and men. She is interested in how people weave together a life on their own, despite lack of government or workplace supports. She has recently completed a study of the interplay of genetics, social interaction, and culture expectations in the formation of web-based donor sibling kin groups.  Books she has written in this vein include, Single by Chance, Mothers by Choice: How Women Are Choosing Parenthood without Marriage and Creating the New American Family (Oxford University Press, 2006)  and More Equal than Others: Women and Men in Dual-Career Marriages (University of California Press).

Hertz teaches courses on the changing family and social policy, the social construction of gender, and women and the global economy.  She has had a long-standing interest in social science methodology, which she has incorporated into an interdisciplinary course, “The Feminist Inquiry.”

She received a B.A. at Brandeis University in sociology and philosophy and an M.A. and Ph.D. in sociology from Northwestern University. In addition, she completed a two-year post-doctoral fellowship in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

She is frequently quoted in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune and The Boston Globe. She appears frequently in the broadcast media commenting on social problems for local news specials.

She has published the following articles, available here below in PDF format:

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