The University of New Orleans mourns a leading history professor and women’s studies expert. Dr. Madelon Powers passed away last week after a struggle with cancer. University faculty, students and administrators remember the history professor as a kind and loving, laughing woman, a noted scholar and a teacher who helped to draw out the best in students.
"She had more joie de vivre than anyone I’ve ever known," said Mary Niall Mitchell, Joseph Tregle Professor in Early American History and Ethel and Herman L. Midlo Chair in New Orleans Studies. "This was also what made her so popular with students. She was stern about what she required of them—she really wanted them to learn and to do well—but she worked equally hard to teach them to see the humor in life and in history. There are not nearly enough jokes told in the history department these days, in part because we don’t have Madelon to keep us smiling."
Madelon Powers received a doctorate in History from the University of California at Berkeley in 1991, where she studied with historian Lawrence Levine, with whom she shared a strong interest in folklore and popular culture, said Kevin Graves, dean of the College of Liberal Arts.
She came to UNO in 1992 as an assistant professor, specializing in U.S. urban history and women’s history, and was one of the most popular members of the history department among graduate and undergraduate students.
She was also an active member of the Women’s Studies faculty and served as chair of the UNO History Department from 2008 to 2011. Dr. Powers retired in 2011 after a 20-year career of successful research and teaching.
Among historians, Dr. Powers is best known for her seminal book, drawn from her dissertation, titled Faces Along the Bar: Lore and Order in the Workingman’s Saloon, 1870-1920, published by the University of Chicago Press in 1998.
“It remains the definitive work on a vital but often overlooked institution of American urban history,” Graves said. “Due to her expertise, Madelon was invited to serve for several years as a consultant to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum during its renovation of an urban saloon in New York City.”
The UNO History Department will honor Powers with a new scholarship to be given to returning and non-traditional undergraduates, Graves said.
“Madelon will be remembered for her generous spirit, her willingness to share her love of history, and her quick wit,” Graves said. “She was especially dedicated to the non-traditional students who fill many of the seats in UNO classrooms, particularly those who returned to college later in life.”