The English and History Departments, UCLA colleagues, and friends join in mourning the deaths of Constance Coiner, 48, and her daughter, Ana Duarte-Coiner 12, who were among the passengers of TWA flight #800. Constance Coiner designed her own individual Ph.D. program in American Studies, bringing together her interests in working-class literature and history. Her dissertation, under the direction of Professor Robert Maniquis, was completed in 1987. While at UCLA, Constance Coiner was honored with the Distinguished Teaching Award for Teaching Assistants (1982-83), the Alumni Association's Distinguished Scholar Award (1985-86), UCLA Chancellor's Marshall Award (1987), and the Outstanding Graduate Student Award in 1986-87. In addition to numerous other fellowships she was awarded, including the Woodrow Wilson Charlotte W. Newcombe Dissertation Fellowship (1985-86), Constance also became in 1988 the first recipient of the Mary Wollstonecraft Prize, endowed by Dr. Barbara (Penny) Kanner through the UCLA Center for the Study of Women, for an outstanding dissertation about women using historical materials. Constance also taught in the Freshman Summer Program (1980-82) and in the Writing Program from 1987 to 1988. Since 1988 she had been on the faculty at the State University of New York, Binghamton, where in 1995 she received their Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Born while Constance was completing her doctorate, Ana Duarte-Coiner helped lead her team to a city softball championship in 1995, excelled as a student, was a reporter on a children's television program, and was also an accomplished pianist and member of her school's varsity tennis team. Epitomizing the feminist dictum that "the personal is political," Constance wrote from the experiences of raising a daughter and of her teaching of ethnic women writers when she published respectively an essay on "Fortysomething: 'Silent' Parenting in the Academy" for a collection entitled Listening to Silences: New Essays in Feminist Criticism and an article on "Is Multiculturalism Enough?" for Women's Studies: _ Interdisciplinary Journal. Her scholarship draws extensively upon oral histories and interviews with her subjects in an effort to contextualize and humanize the literary and political voices of American writers. Her book, Better Red: The Writing and Resistance of Tillie Olsen and Meridel Le Sueur , published in 1995 by Oxford University Press, brilliantly illuminated the feminism of these early working-class writers with ties to the Communist Party. Joining in the 1995 demonstrations against cut-backs in SUNY support for affirmative action student support programs, Constance acted upon her political beliefs in concert with Ana and her partner, Stephen Duarte, who worked formerly in the Academic Advancement Program at UCLA and is now an academic adviser with the Equal Opportunity Program at Binghamton.
Her colleagues remember Constance as an irrepressible, sparklingly vibrant human being, tenacious, and generous with students and graduate student peers, as much a guiding spirit to her thesis committee of Karen Rowe, Raymund Paredes, Daniel Howe, and Alexander Saxton, as they were for her. A pioneering voice for feminist scholarship on women of the working class, Constance became at SUNY Binghamton and within the Modern Language Association a well-respected and beloved mentor to women students who sought to do as she had done by forging links between women's lives and work, between American feminism and the political left, between oral history and literary theory. At the time of her death, she was at work on a study of Carolyn Forché and writing the introduction to a new issue of Alexander Saxton's working-class novel, The Great Midland (1948). Scholar of the old left, Constance Coiner spoke as a passionate voice of the new left and the new feminism.