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Scholar, Teacher, and Advocate in Gender and Development and Feminist Geography

Janet Townsend
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The feminist geography community lost a formidable leader with the passing of Janet Townsend on May 5, 2023.


Janet Townsend was an internationally-renowned researcher, teacher, activist, and mentor.  She was a Lecturer and Reader at Durham University and, until 2012, a Senior Research Fellow at Newcastle University. Colleagues, students, and collaborators remember her as an early leader and advocate for the advancement of women and gender equality in the fields of geography and development.


Through her community-based and collaborative fieldwork in Latin America, South Asia, and West Africa, Janet always put the voices of marginalized women and communities first. Of note is her early work in the rainforest where she investigated peasant women's livelihoods. These themes continued in the following decades with an emphasis on collaboration and empowerment of local women.


Janet's work was published and reported in numerous books, articles, and reports, including one of the first books on international perspectives on gender and geography. Some of her co-authored publications include Knowledge Power and Development Agendas (2002), Women's VOICES from the Rainforest (1995), Women & Power: Fighting Patriarchies and Poverty (1999), Atlas of Women and Men in India (1999) and Geography of Gender in the Third World (1987). In 2005, she was awarded the Edward Heath Prize of the Royal Geographical Society for geographical research, in Women and Development.


Janet was also an active member of the IGU Gender Commission, supporting colleagues and students through global feminist networks and dialogue. The Gender Commission and broader feminist community owe a great deal to Janet and this early cohort of geographers for their indelible mark on feminist geography and development studies.


We are honored to recognize and celebrate the lasting legacy and contributions of Janet Townsend.


As Sara Kindon, Professor, School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington and former undergraduate student of Janet stated:


Janet built strong relationships and impacted many people around the world within and outside of academia. Her legacy lives on through all of us and is a resounding tribute to her values, qualities and way of being.


You are welcome to share your experiences, tributes and condolences here.

Celebrating the legacy of Janet Gabriel Townsend... 

Janet’s career and scholarship by Alan Townsend 

A tribute to Janet by former student Sara Kindon

Janet was truly a pioneer, engaging with feminism before feminism was known about in the academy, engaging with the global south long before other scholars, and all with a generosity of spirit and an independent mind. My condolences to Alan and her family.

- Linda Peake, York University

Janet Townsend was a wonderful geographer, colleague, feminist and internationally networked scholar. Not only did she undertake pathbreaking research with Latin American women and write extensively about the harsh and complex lives of women in diverse situations, she also expressed real interest in others' endeavours and contributed to the academic and intellectual lives of many of us. I remember distinctly her way of holding her head to one side when she was listening, and her quiet way of contributing to discussions, always based on a modest and wise understanding of the issues at hand. Early in my career, I had the pleasure of working with Janet on a couple of annotated bibliographies on gender and development geography for the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex. I remember being so excited and honoured to be working with Janet, who was a wonderful coauthor! She will be sorely missed - long may her work and example inspire us and geographers in future generations.

- Sarah Radcliffe, University of Cambridge

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