Obituary for Robert Fogarty
by Robert C. Conard
The news of the death, 9 August 2021, a few days ago, of 82 year-old Robert Fogarty shocked the Antioch College community which knew him well and valued him highly. As professor of history, he had come to the college in 1968 and in 1977 became the editor of the well-established and respected Antioch Review, the journal which published its first issue in 1941 as a vehicle to combat fascism and communism. In the 44years of Fogarty’s editorship, the Review’s reputation increased immensely by publishing work from some of the best contemporary writers and thinkers in America and from abroad. In recognition of his extraordinary ability, the college honored Fogarty with the title Editor Emeritus. In 1980 it named him the John Dewey Professor in the Humanities and in 2019 bestowed on him the J.D. Dawson Award for significant contributions to Antioch College. Recognizing his talent early, the College twice appointed him chair of the Department of Humanities (1973-74 and 1978-79).
Fogarty’s national awards abound, among them are the Pen/American Center’s Nora Magid Award for Magazine Editing (2003) and under his editorship, the Review received several nominations for the prestigious Ellie [the Oscar of journalism] in the categories of fiction and essay awarded by the American Society of Magazine Editors in association with the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Along with Fogarty’s prominence as editor of a prestigious literary magazine, he is equally recognized and honored for his scholarship.
Fogarty has been remarkably consistent and prolific in the main focus of his research: utopian societies, utopian communities, communes, communal societies, cults, groups with religious orientation, and various other kinds of intentional communities. As a graduate student at the University of Denver (Ph.D 1968), he was already publishing in this field. He has written or edited ten books related to this extensive subject. Even now, possibly to appear posthumously, his manuscript “‘The Perfect Gift’: The Healing Tribes, 1875-1930” is seeking a publisher. His work deals not only with the prominent early utopian unions of the 1800s, like the Harmonists, followers of Robert Owen, and the Fourier societies which adhered to the philosophy of Charles Fourier, but also with recent cult creations like the Branch Davidians of David Koresh and the Peoples Temple founded by Jim Jones. He has written for the Nation, The Times Literary Supplement, The Encyclopedia of American Culture and Intellectual History, The Encyclopedia of Social History, and Annual Studies in American Culture.
The best known of his books are his Dictionary of American Communal and Utopian History (Greenwood, 1980) with its annotated list of communal and utopian societies from 1787 to 1919; The Righteous Remnant: the House of David , a group widely known for its traveling baseball and basketball teams (Kent State UP, 1981, 1988); All Things New: American Communes and Utopian Movements, 1860-1914 (U. of Chicago P, 1990). One reviewer writes of All Things New: “Fogarty’s study has not received the attention it deserves primarily because of the erroneous belief that few such communities were envisioned or established during these years [1860-1914]. In tracing the history of more than 125 communal efforts, the author [Fogarty] puts this theory to rest.”
Most popular among Fogarty’s books are the two about the Oneida Community, founded by John Noyes and his followers in 1841 in Putney, Vermont. In 1848 this group moved to Oneida, New York. The community was called a Perfectionist community, meaning one could lead a perfect spiritual life on earth since the Second Coming of Christ had already occurred. One needed only to follow practices advanced by Noyes. The community believed in communal property and possessions, mutual criticism, and sexual union, but rejected monogamy. It is the latter practice that Fogarty focuses on in his Special Love/Special Sex: An Oneida Community Diary (Syracuse UP, 1994). Fogarty’s book is an analysis and interpretation of Victor Hawley’s secret diary, written in 1876-1877. In 1993, a collection of Oneida diaries, letters, and records were donated to the Syracuse University Library. This material is the basis of Fogarty’s book. In his diary Hawley details his love for fellow communist Mary Jones and how they were kept apart, how their request to have a child was denied, and how Mary was compelled to have a child by Noyes’ son. In 1869 Noyes widened his interest to “scientific breeding” to create a spiritually superior race. A committee selected couples for breeding in the first eugenics experiment in America.
In 2000 Fogarty also edited Desire and Duty at Oneida: Tirzah Miller’s Intimate Memoir (Indiana UP). The memoir was written between 1867 and 1879 and depicts in detail her social and sexual life with her uncle and lover, the founder of the Oneida community and various other partners. Tirzah was 24 when she began her memoir. Her sexual relations with Noyes and others were part of a planned breeding program to bring out the best traits in the young.
Fogarty actually began publishing on the Oneida Community in 1973 in Labor History, 14, 2, Spring issue, with an article entitled “Oneida: A Search for Religious Security.” Along with Frank Christopher, he also acquired in 1998 and 1999 grants from the Nation Endowment for the Humanities for the making of a documentary film about the Oneida Community. In 2002 he became program chair for the 29th Conference of the Communal Studies Association at the Oneida Community Mansion House. Because of his long scholarly interest in the Oneida Community, he was named a Trustee to the Executive Committee of the Oneida Community Mansion House and served from 2002 to 2008. The 93,000 square foot house now serves as a museum, research center, meeting place and has a restaurant and rooms for guests.
Robert Fogarty’s wife Katherine has requested in lieu of flowers, one send a donation to Oneida Community Manson House, 170 Kenwood Ave., Oneida, New York 13421.
Fogarty’s success as a scholar results in large part from his literary writing style, always clear, precise, and eloquent, making the reading of his work pleasurable: a proper illustration of the motto of The Antioch Review: The Best Words in the Best Order.
Details for the funeral will be announced later.