A Message from the Chair concerning Ellen Furlough

Dear friends,

I write to let you know that Ellen Furlough, Professor Emeritus in our department and a cherished friend and colleague to many of us, passed away September 26 in the afternoon.

Ellen was an outstanding scholar and teacher and a deeply kind-hearted and generous colleague. Early-onset Alzheimer’s kept her from giving even more of herself. But she gave us so very much. The sharpness of her intellect. Her passion for history. Her infectious love of things French. Her easy smile and ready laugh. Her quick wit and lively spirit. Her remarkable devotion to her students and to our department community. Her generosity of spirit and her great good nature.

​Ellen was a pioneer in the field of transnational history and was always challenging her students and colleagues (in the nicest, gentlest way) to think beyond the boundaries of the nation state. Her path-breaking work on tourism and empire has profoundly influenced new generations of scholars. She was a beloved teacher too. At UK, she won the Alumni Great Teacher Award, and shaped the graduate careers of a cohort of Ph.D. students who hold her in the highest esteem.

We wish Ellen’s loving partner, Frank Davis, her son Andrew, and all her other family members peace and comfort in this time of loss. Frank has very kindly shared several photos of Ellen, her 2014 retirement tribute (see page 4 of the PDF), and the text of Ellen’s obituary that will soon appear in the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Ellen was a capacious soul. Those of us lucky enough to know her will always remember her as the warm, generous, and lively presence that she remains forever in our hearts.

Ellen Furlough Obituary

All best wishes, Phil

People’s Thoughts

Dr. Aaron Weinacht
UK History Department Alum, PhD 2009 Professor of History, University of Montana Western

Back in the 2001/2002 academic year, when I was a senior at Ball State University, Dr. Furlough came up to Indiana to speak at our annual undergraduate history conference. I was reading a [probably not very good] paper at that conference, and afterwards, Ellen told me that I should really think about going to graduate school. She suggested that I check out the history department at UK, and I did so. I came down to UK in the Fall of 2003, to work with Dr.’s Petrone and Rowland. While doing that, I took a couple of excellent graduate courses with Dr. Furlough, and she was kind enough to serve on my PhD dissertation committee and to direct one of my teaching fields for my PhD.

In hindsight, something I greatly appreciate about Ellen, was her patience with her students. I recall one morning, when I’d been up half the night obsessing about something she’d had us read in historiography class. I was certain there was something seriously amiss with that text, and I showed up at her office at 7:30 a.m., to talk about it. Only later did I find out that the text in question had been written by one of her own graduate mentors. I wouldn’t have blamed her, had she ejected me from the premises, and I often think of this and chuckle, as I remind myself to be patient with my own students.

Dr. Furlough, while patient, was rigorous and demanding in beneficial ways. There was a certain “look” Ellen had, which communicated that what you’d just said in class, though perhaps brim-full of rhetorical genius, was also blissfully unencumbered by evidence. Even now, when I’m working on a project, I can feel Dr. Furlough’s “look” hovering in the air, asking me if I’ve really thought with sufficient care about what I’ve just said.

 The graduate program at UK was a wonderful place to be, and I wouldn’t have ended up having such a great experience there, without Dr. Furlough. I am sorry to have lost such a mentor.

Dr. Aaron Weinacht

Jeremy D. Popkin,
William T. Bryan Chair of History, University of Kentucky

Dear Colleagues,

We mourn the passing on June 26, 2020, of Ellen Furlough (1953-2020), author of Consumer Cooperation in France: The Politics of Consumption, 1834-1930 (Cornell University Press, 1991), co-editor of several volumes of essays, and author of influential articles on tourism in 20th-century France. Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease forced Ellen Furlough to step down from her position at the University of Kentucky in 2011. Here are four tributes to Ellen Furlough’s work and her spirit. Jeremy D. Popkin, William T. Bryan Chair of History, University of Kentucky

Susan Whitney,
Professor of History, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada

Ellen Furlough loved to travel, to participate in scholarly community and discourse, to teach, and to mentor young scholars. She helped define historical scholarship in three related areas: consumer cooperation, consumer cultures, and tourism. After publishing Consumer Cooperation in France:  The Politics of Consumption, 1834-1930 (Cornell, 1991), Ellen co-edited three important collections of essays, The Sex of Things: Gender and Consumption in Historical Perspective (California, 1996), with Victoria de Grazia; Being Elsewhere: Tourism, Consumer Culture, and Identity in Modern Europe and North America (Michigan, 2001), with Shelley Baranowski; and Consumers against Capitalism? Consumer Cooperation in Europe, North America, and Japan, 1840-1990 (Rowman & Littlefield, 1999), with Carl Strikwerda. All three books were ambitious in scope and concerned with big political and economic questions. All made gender important themes.

The books were also clearly written and accessible to the students she so loved to teach, first at Kenyon College and then at the University of Kentucky. meEllen was proud to have been selected as a University of Kentucky Great Teacher in 2005 and she was even prouder of the Kenyon students who continued on to graduate school and of the graduate students she supervised at Kentucky.  Ellen was happiest when sharing ideas and sources over a good meal and French wine, and she delighted in bringing together young scholars with more established ones.

I was fortunate to have been one of the scholars-in-the-making she befriended and mentored.  A Southerner who became a feminist after women’s liberation came to her hometown in the early 1970s, Ellen was writing her dissertation on the history of French consumer cooperation under Joan Scott’s supervision when I arrived at Brown in the Fall of 1984. Ellen took me under her wing, explaining bizarre academic practices with the skill of an anthropologist and lending me her much nicer apartment when she went out of town. Although I left Brown after receiving my M.A. nine months later, we stayed in touch and became friends who contrived to meet up at conferences or in Paris whenever possible. Ellen was full of sage advice in the mid-1990s after I took my first academic job, as an assistant professor of women’s studies in Canada, and struggled to combine heavy teaching and advising with the writing of French history. She insisted that I get on H-France, passed along ideas about the latest books and films in French history, and served as a wise, lively, and, often, humorous sounding board. 

As Ellen edited, taught, and mentored, she continued her pioneering investigations into the history of French tourism, producing widely cited and admired articles on the history of Club Med and, with Rosemary Wakeman, on la Grande-Motte. She was hard at work on a book about tourism and consumer cultures in France when Early-Onset Alzheimer’s robbed her of the ability to do the research, writing, and teaching that were so important to her. She was the model of a committed and humane scholar.

Dr. Whitney Walton,
Professor of History, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana

The historical profession and academia in general have lost an outstanding scholar, gifted teacher, committed feminist, and generous individual in Ellen Furlough. Although we were close in age and career stages, Ellen acted like a wise and sympathetic mentor to me as we were turning our dissertations into books.  Both of us were writing about consumerism.  Ellen’s first book was on working-class consumer cooperatives, and mine on middle-class consumer taste.  I don’t think we had met in person yet, but she suggested to me theoretical works on consumerism, including anthropologist Arjun Appadurai’s The Social Life of Things, that I would otherwise have missed, and that enhanced my work.   I can’t remember how many times I assigned her article on Club Med.  Her co-edited book with Victoria de Grazia, The Sex of Things: Gender and Consumption in Historical Perspective (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996) significantly advanced the field of the history of consumerism through gender analysis.  Her work on tourism that the early onset of Alzheimer’s interrupted promised to be equally influential.  She was always an engaged listener with good advice and constructive suggestions about scholarship in a wide range of topics.


I never saw Ellen in a classroom, but she established a reputation for excellent teaching.  A junior colleague from Ellen’s time at Kenyon College conveyed her admiration for Ellen as a model and a leader for all faculty at this teaching-intensive institution.  Catching up with Ellen at conferences was always a delight.  She made them worthwhile through her scholarly contributions and enjoyment of intellectual community.  She was particularly welcoming and attentive to younger scholars, including women.  Ellen effortlessly combined intelligence and inclusiveness.

Dr. Stephen Harp,
Distinguished Professor of History, University of Akron, Akron, Ohio

Like so many, I already miss Ellen.  We first met at an Ohio Academy of History meeting in the 1990s, when she was still at Kenyon College. I only attended because I learned she was going.  To paraphrase a Michelin guidebook, the chance to meet Ellen “valait le voyage.”  Ever generous with her time, we quickly became colleague-friends, sharing our work and giving updates about our personal lives.  Ellen was an excellent scholar, but she was also an incomparably helpful, insightful, and humorous colleague.  My own work improved as a result of her influence.  As important, I watched how she mentored me and other junior colleagues.  I still try to follow in her footsteps. 

Most readers of H-France already know Ellen’s superb book on consumer co-ops and her many articles on the history of tourism.  She was at work on a big history of twentieth-century French tourism when Alzheimer’s struck.  I read parts of the manuscript, and every time I refer to French camping, Club Med, imperial tourism, or Tourisme et Travail, I still pause to wonder how much she could have taught us.  Frankly, I really doubt I would have written either my book on nudism or my forthcoming book about the Riviera without her early encouragement.

Ellen was charming.  In 2004, in a tiny, of-the-way bistro in the 14e, the propriétaire was quite a character, sitting down with us during our meal.  He interrupted her, and he was pushy, to say the least.  Ellen did not miss a beat; she quickly had him wrapped around her finger, and soon complimentary servings of crème brûlée magically appeared. 

As the walls began to close in, Ellen wrote to say good-bye, sadly sure that she would no longer be at conferences or the BnF.  I honestly can’t think of a worse fate for a mind as nimble and as brilliant as Ellen’s.  I can only imagine what else we would know, and what we might see differently and better, were she still with us.

Jeremy D. Popkin,
William T. Bryan Chair of History, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky

After teaching for many years at Kenyon College in Ohio, Ellen Furlough joined the History Department at the University of Kentucky in 1999.  The enthusiasm she brought to everything she did, from her classes on French and European history to the annual “nouveau Beaujolais” parties she organized with her devoted husband Frank Davis, whom she met shortly after moving to Lexington, made her one of the department’s favorite professors.  Colleagues knew that we would always be greeted with a smile when we knocked on her door, and that she was always ready to offer her good counsel on academic and personal issues.  She was devoted to our department; among the last tasks she completed before she had to withdraw from teaching was the direction of a complicated and controversial job search.

Ellen Furlough’s pathbreaking research for the book she planned on the French vacation industry produced unexpected insights, such as her discovery of the role of leftwing ideas about mass tourism in the origins of Club Med.  The articles she published on the subject remain widely cited, and she attracted excellent graduate students eager to work with her.  Always interested in new directions in the field, she was eager to integrate her work into the growing field of colonial and imperial studies.  Sadly, the onset of memory problems prevented her from completing the exciting book for which she had done so much research and cut short her promising career as a graduate mentor. 

Because of our shared interest in French history, Ellen Furlough and I had a special bond.  We often ran into each other at Lexington’s historic Kentucky Theater, especially when French films like “A Very Long Engagement,” which she adored, were playing.  We sometimes met to take Sunday morning walks in the Lexington Arboretum, a lovely park within walking distance of the house she and her husband had bought in one of Lexington’s historic neighborhoods.  In addition to our common scholarly interests, Ellen and I both had the sadness of having mothers who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.  Little did I dream, as we exchanged news about our mothers’ conditions, that her life would be so cruelly altered by the same malady. 


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