Monday, September 13, 2010

From Elizabeth Heineman, USA

Professor of History and of Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies, University of Iowa

When the late Ken Cmiel and I planned a conference on the history of sexual violence in conflict zones, we – on a lark – invited Rhonda to deliver the keynote address. We were sure she’d be far too busy and would beg off, and we could quickly turn to more realistic prospects. Instead Rhonda immediately agreed. This was a wonderfully generous act towards two academics she’d never met and, probably, had never heard of, but it was also a testament to Rhonda’s breadth of vision: she never doubted that historians and human rights activists had plenty to say to each other. Rhonda’s talk was brilliant and passionate, and her engagement in discussions of historical topics far from her area of expertise truly inspirational.

Despite her illness and her continuing work as an educator, scholar, and litigator, Rhonda never flagged in her commitment to this project, taking time between medical treatments to revise her talk into the capstone essay in the collection that emerged from the conference. I am tempted to say that this essay may have been one of the last things Rhonda wrote. Yet I would not be surprised to learn that Rhonda left a great many works in her last months and years, not wanting to let any promise remain unfulfilled. Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones: From the Ancient World to the Era of Human Rights, which will appear in 2011 with Penn Press, will be dedicated to her memory and to that of Ken Cmiel.

We are lucky to have had her among us, and the world is a better place for her having been here.