Dr. Liz Bird, a groundbreaking academic feminist, passed away at 76 after battling cancer. During her tenure as the Head of Continuing Education and Dean of Arts at the University of Bristol, Dr. Bird played a crucial role in advancing women’s and gender studies in both the university’s Social Science faculty and through community education.
Dr. Bird’s scholarship spanned diverse fields, including art history, cultural studies, sociology, feminism, film, and theatre. Mature students have fond memories of her inspirational extramural courses and how they motivated them to pursue further education. As a vocal advocate of feminism, Dr. Bird co-authored the first interdisciplinary textbook in women’s studies with eight other academics, including the author of this article, entitled Half the Sky: An Introduction to Women’s Studies ( 1979). Later, she embarked on her own research into the history of women’s studies. Her pioneering contribution to adult and continuing education earned her an MBE in 2000.
Dr. Bird grew up in Gateshead and was the daughter of Sybil (nee Grey), a barrister, and Robert Bird, the managing director of the family laundry business. She attended Newcastle upon Tyne Church high school, where she was the head girl, before enrolling in a short cultural course at the University of Perugia. Subsequently, she studied Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Oxford University and earned her Masters in the Sociology of Art and Literature from Sussex University.
After spending a year in Cornell University’s political radical group, Dr. Bird received her Ph.D. at Sussex University. Soon after, she worked as a research assistant at Glasgow University before joining the University of Bristol in 1976 to teach extramural studies. Eventually, Dr. Bird became the Head of Continuing Education before retiring in 2004 as the Dean of Arts.
Dr. Bird’s passion for the creative arts persisted, leading her to obtain an MA in contemporary printmaking at the University of the West of England in Bristol. She became well-known in France, where she had a long-standing home, and in South-West England for her expertise in printmaking. Dr. Bird also actively supported the University of Bristol’s Theater Collection and recruited numerous volunteers to preserve John Vickers photography slides from the early 1900s.
Dr. Bird was widely admired and respected for her unrelenting commitment to collective cultural work. She fought fiercely for women’s rights within the Senate and the AUT union and defended gender courses against significant reluctance.
Dr. Bird’s warmth and down-to-earth personality will be long remembered by everyone from maintenance personnel to senior executives. She was a loyal and imaginative friend to many and a devoted mother and grandmother.
Dr. Bird cherished Breton culture and France in general and took great pleasure in tennis, cricket, and crime fiction. During her final months, she spent her time writing a memoir, preparing a new print exhibition, and watching Test matches and the US Open.
In 1971, Dr. Bird met Brian McInally at Prestwick airport. They had a son named Francis in 1981 and got married in Brittany in 2008. Francis, two grandchildren, Sam and Iris, and her siblings, Michael and Victoria, survived Dr. Bird. Brian died less than three months after his wife.