Sonya Orleans Rose, Professor Emerita of History, Sociology, and Women’s and Gender Studies, passed away at home in Sarasota, Florida, on Thursday, October 15th, 2020. She was 84 years old.

Sonya joined the University of Michigan faculty as Professor of History and Sociology in 1993.  In 1995, she received an additional appointment as Professor of Women’s Studies, and in 2002, she was appointed the Natalie Zemon Davis Collegiate Professor of History, Sociology, and Women’s Studies. She also served terms as Associate Chair and Chair of the Department of History.  Before joining Michigan, she also was on the faculty of Colby College, where she also served terms as Associate Dean of Faculty, Associate Dean of the College, and chair of the Sociology Department. She was a Fellow at the Mary Ingraham Bunting Institute at Radcliff College from 1989-90.

One of the leading historians of modern Britain, Sonya became a renowned analyst of culture, an archivally-based historian who comfortably joined attention to detail and precision in elaborating social theory. Her books include Limited Livelihoods: Gender and Class in Nineteenth-Century England (1992), considering the ways in which gender distinctions and gender relations influenced the development of capitalism, and Which People's War: National Identity and Citizenship in Britain, 1939-1945 (2003) which examines how British national identity was envisaged in the public culture of the World War II home front. Other books include Gender and Class in Modern Europe (1996); Gender, Citizenship, and Subjectivities (2002); and At Home with the Empire: Metropolitan Culture and the Imperial World (2006), co-edited with Catherine Hall. In 2010, Sonya’s What is Gender History? was published, providing an introduction to the field and highlighting the intersection of race, class, ethnicity and gender in relation to society, culture and politics. Most recently, Sonya turned her attention to the impact of empire and decolonization on British metropolitan life. 

After retiring in 2006, Sonya and her husband Guenter relocated to Walthamstow, London where Sonya remained active as a Visiting Research Fellow at Birkbeck, University of London. She loved their decade in London, visiting museums, attending plays and concerts, sharing her scholarly work with distinguished British colleagues, including Catherine and Stuart Hall, and traveling with Guenter across Europe and as far away as Nepal. In 2017, they returned to the States and took up residence in Sarasota.

Throughout her academic career, Sonya was a dedicated teacher of undergraduate students and mentor to graduate students. Never one to promote herself, she generously supported the work and careers of emergent and established colleagues. She was dedicated to civil rights and social justice and remained politically engaged throughout her life, casting her ballot for the 2020 election days before her death.

Sonya is survived by Guenter, her daughter Laura Orleans, her step-children Mark Rose, Shawn Rose, Jennifer Benitez and her grandchildren Emma and Isaac York, Kara, Blake, Cole, and Christopher Rose, and Miguel and Justin Macias. A virtual celebration of Sonya’s life will take place in the future. If you would like to be notified about her celebration, please contact her daughter Laura at