Obituary for Cissie Fairchilds
Cissie C. Fairchilds, History Professor Emerita, Syracuse University, died on September 25th in Syracuse, N.Y. She was 72 years old. The cause was lymphoma.
Ms. Fairchilds taught early modern French history and European social history at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs for twenty-nine years until her retirement in 2006. She grew up in Camp Hill, Pa, and was a 1966 graduate of Bryn Mawr College. In 1972 she received a Ph.D. in history from The Johns Hopkins University.
Ms. Fairchild’s specialty was describing the lives of average citizens through deep research in official archives. Examining demographic data, private account books and registers, marriage contracts, wills, tax records, and even criminal proceedings in three cities in France, she produced in 1984 what one critic called “the most complete study to date of domestic service in the eighteenth century,” at a time when studying domestic servants was not yet in vogue.
In her 2007 book, “Women in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1700,” Ms. Fairchilds synthesized latest research to demonstrate that the era was not a period of diminishing power and rights for European women, but one marked by positive changes leading to the eventual acceptance of the idea that women were not inferior to men. One reviewer hailed the book as “ambitious in scope,” using “highly readable prose” to make intelligible a vast topic.
According to Frederick Marquardt, Professor Emeritus in the History Department, Ms. Fairchilds was a committed teacher. “In her undergraduate courses she worked to provide material that would engage the students. She was a devoted and gifted teacher of graduate students, who wrote first-rate dissertations.”
Ms. Fairchilds was a voracious reader, an avid listener to classical music and opera, and a long-time supporter of the symphony in Syracuse, and supporter of the Syracuse Chief’s games.