Dr. Pepper Schwartz - a Northwest Original
Feb 1, 2012, 5:39 a.m.
Finding her way to Seattle was a happy accident. Armed with a Ph.D. in Sociology from Yale University and a promise to her husband that she would aim for a job on the West coast, she received an offer from the University of Washington sight unseen.
“I got this job offer from out of the blue,” she says. “The early 70s was a lucky time for women in academia. [Universities] were feeling guilty about having discriminated, and everyone was looking for women since they had none when I came on the job market.”
She liked Seattle from the moment she arrived on a summer day. “It was so beautiful and I thought, ‘Oh my god, where has this place been hiding!’ I hate to admit it, but before I moved here, I didn’t even know where Seattle was on a map. But I immediately liked the spirit of the place. I’d come from the East coast, which was all about the past. Here it was filled with energy and possibility. It was all about the future.”
While the marriage didn’t last, the job at the UW did, where her work is still going strong after nearly 40 years. “In my department [Sociology], I have been here just about the longest. It is a good, supportive home for me. It’s a highly rated department and I am very proud of it.”
On her two marriages: “The first marriage lasted about six seconds,” she says. “We were too young and both realized we weren’t ready to be married. But he helped get me to Seattle, and it was an easy, friendly ending.” She was later married for 23 years to the father of her children. “Art and I do well together. We remain friends and I like his wife, too.”
Her most recent book, Prime: Adventures and Advice on Sex, Love and the Sensual Years (HarperCollins, 2007), has been described as a frank, shocking, courageous memoir. “It is the only personal book that I’ve ever written and the only book I’ll ever write about me,” she says. “My editor at the time suggested, ‘What readers really wanted to know is about your life.’ At first I was taken aback, but then thought, ‘It can be powerful to talk from an emotional perspective about sexuality throughout the life cycle of the 50s, 60s and beyond.’ ” At the time she began writing the book she was single. “As I was writing I thought to myself, ‘Oh no, what have I done. No one will ever date me again after this book comes out!’ But you have to be honest and it has always been important to me to be romantic and sexual and in a relationship.” The book got a lot of press and she was a little worried about potential backlash. “But people came up to me and told me what a difference it made in their lives.” Though told from a personal perspective, the book also provides insight for women in their 50s and beyond about relationships and sexuality in their advancing years. “The heartfelt thanks I received and the feeling of making a difference felt good.” In fact, many of her 16 books have struck a positive chord with the public.