In Memoriam: Suzanne Hodgman (1925-2019)

I am so saddened by Suzanne's passing...

I am so saddened by Suzanne's passing that I barely find the words.  Suzanne was my mentor and she was the reason that I became a librarian.  I dedicated the Latin American Collection Concepts book that Gayle and I edited to her. I worked my way through college and was lucky enough to get a student assistant job with Suzanne at UW-Madison.  At the time I was about to head off to law school, but I loved my job at the library so much I decided to go to library school instead.  Much of that decision was due to Suzanne.  Suzanne took me under her wing, teaching the basics of collection development and taught me all about the individual book vendors. I later worked for her as the Program Assistant for the SALALM Secretariat.  I turned to her frequently in my early career for advice and she was always there for me.  She was part of my family and attending my wedding and my daughter's baptism.  She had one daughter and 2 granddaughters.

Suzanne was very short – under 5 ft.  One day she came in the office red faced. She proceeded to tell me that she rode in the elevator with a student who was over 6 ft. tall. He looked down at her and asked her what it was like to go through life so short.  She fired back “what's it like to go through life so stupid.”  This woman was ballsy!  There were a lot of people who didn't get along with her at UW-Madison libraries, and it was pretty obvious that they didn't like her because she spoke up in an era in which women were supposed to be quiet, pretty and serve coffee. At the time, she was the only female bibliographer at UW and she was always fighting to be heard. I admired her so much, because she carved out an amazing career in academia in a time when most women were supposed to stay at home, she lived alone, was super independent and didn't take shit from anyone.  She was a perfect role model.  After retirement she took these wildness tours including one in which she trekked through the jungles of the Amazon, and another that took her to the tundras of Alaska.      

Suzanne actually never wanted to be a librarian.  She wanted to be a vet. She absolutely adored cats and owned many over the years.  But vet schools did not accept women at the time.  She desperately wanted a career and the only career paths open to her as a woman were nursing, teaching and librarianship. She didn't like the first two, so she picked librarianship.  Thank heaven for us she did.  She was one of the forces that molded SALALM into what it is today.  The Secretariat was at UW-Madison for years. She typed and published the newsletter herself on a quarterly basis for years in a time when there were no computers.  I am not sure if she was President, but she was Secretary and served on the Executive Board for decades and was one of those people who knew the bylaws backwards and forwards.  She was a force to be reckoned with within the organization.  She shaped the UW-Madison Ibero-American collection during a period when the University was flush with money and so had a huge impact on the historic strengths and direction of the collection.  She did the same at Florida.  She last attended SALALM at our 50th anniversary in Gainesville. 

Suzanne fought her entire life for gender equality. I always felt that she was on the conservative side politically and so she certainly would not have called herself a feminist, yet she was one of these women who cleared the path for the rest of us.    

I really loved this woman and I'm going to miss her. 

Jana Krentz,

Librarian for the Latin American & Iberian Collections, Latinx Studies, Yale University

Pictured (left to right): Christine Nelson, Jana Krentz and Suzanne Hodgman

Posted 30 January 2020 by Betsaida Reyes