Wendy Sanford is Haverford’s Spring 2022 Friend in Residence
The Quaker activist and her spouse, Polly Attwood, are visiting Haverford virtually this semester to reflect on new developments in feminist, LGBTQ+, and antiracism activism.
Wendy Sanford, a Quaker feminist, member of the LGBTQ+ community, and antiracist activist, is visiting Haverford virtually as this spring's Friend in Residence. Each semester, the College’s Quaker Affairs Office brings a member of the Quaker community to Haverford to impart knowledge, share their life experiences, and strengthen the community’s connection to its Quaker roots. This unique method of instruction allows for experiential learning for many students. Sanford’s time at Haverford will consist of virtual events that will take place from Friday, March 18 through Thursday, March 31, as she connects via Zoom from Cambridge, MA.
“I first met Wendy when attending conferences for the Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, and Queer Concerns (FLGBTQC) in the late 1980s,” said Walter Hjelt Sullivan, director of Quaker Affairs and the Friend in Residence Program. “As I have known Wendy, her work has always been grounded in and guided by her Quaker faith. At the same time, her work has often been on the growing edge of Quakerism—helping Quakers to live into a world aspired to but not yet realized.”
One of the key pillars of Sanford’s visit to Haverford is discussion of her recent memoir, These Walls Between Us: A Memoir of Friendship Across Race and Class. Co-created with Mary Norman, the book chronicles Sanford’s journey to understanding her privilege as a white woman. She has since looked at how that privilege can contribute to a more antiracist community.
“The book examines my training in racial and class dominance as obstacles to the 65-year friendship between myself and Mary Norman, the Black woman who co-created both our friendship and the book,” Sanford explained. “I seek, as a white woman, to be utterly honest about all that I have needed to unlearn and to change in order to be a more dependable friend. In a time when school boards and elected officials in many states are prohibiting honest teaching about racism in U.S. history, Ms. Norman and I are glad to add our voices to the truth telling.”
In addition to her antiracist activism, Sanford brings a deep history of feminism and reproductive justice work, as it relates to racial and class inequities, as well as challenges faced by members the gender-fluid and transgender communities. She hopes to bring the experience she has cultivated as a long-time co-author and editor of the women's health classic Our Bodies, Ourselves to Haverford.
“My group has been working to expand and ensure these rights for 50 years. We are in our 70s and 80s now! We rely on the awareness, activism and creativity of the next generations,” said Sanford. “There’s a lot of reproductive justice work going on at college campuses around the country… I’d like to learn from what’s going on at Haverford.”
She helped edit and publish that influential book from 1973 to 2011. One focus of her time at Haverford will be dedicated to exploring how it evolved over 40 years, how it relates to students today, and what "women's health" means in the context of gender fluidity and trans health.
Sanford’s spouse of 42 years, Polly Attwood, is a longtime teacher and social justice advocate. During her partner’s residency, she too will be visiting Haverford’s campus to educate and learn. She will be visiting Kelly Zuckerman’s class, “Critical Issues in Urban Education,” and is eager to join Haverford students in discussing and debating the purposes of public and urban education.
“I hope to listen to their deepest questions, yearnings and visions for what they believe is needed to create schools and communities that truly sustain and nurture the well-being of all,” Attwood said. “I hope that whatever I might be led to share out of my years in public education as a history teacher and more recently as a teacher educator can be of use and support Haverford students on their individual and collective journeys as change agents in schools and communities.”
Sanford will also be visiting another of Zuckerman’s classes, “Theories of Change,” to discuss These Walls Between Us, and how relationships can act as conduits of change. She and Mary Norman will also be presenting that memoir at a Library Book Talk on March 21, from 4:15 to 6:00 p.m.
“Haverford College is committed to supporting each member of the community to become the truest and fullest version of themselves. I think that has been the work of Wendy's life,” said Sullivan. “Wendy has been a friend and a support to many and a model of Quaker faithfulness in my life. I am happy that she is coming to Haverford.
Wendy Sanford and Polly Attwood will be participating in virtual programming from March 18-31, 2022. Full programing for their visit can be found here.