Biography

Harriet Angell Hobson Mowshowitz

August 30, 1941 – August 3, 2012

Born: Hartford, CT; Died: New York City

Harriet grew up in West Hartford, CT with father John Hobson, mother Anne Cotter Hobson, older brother Allan and younger brother Bruce. She was nicknamed “Hoppy” for her childhood infatuation with Hopalong Cassidy. Harriet attended local elementary schools, and in 1959 received her high school diploma from Loomis Chaffee School, Windsor, CT. A year in France with the Experiment in International Living at Roanne led to a lifelong friendship with her ‘French sister’ Noëlle Clair Rouzeval. She started college at Northwestern University in 1959, transferred to Sarah Lawrence College the following year, and received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College in 1963. While at Sarah Lawrence she spent a semester at the Sorbonne in France in a visiting program.

Harriet met her future husband (Abbe Mowshowitz) in 1960 while she was at Northwestern. They were married February 1, 1964. Having completed her undergraduate degree, she enrolled in a graduate program at Columbia University, but shifted to the University of Michigan after getting married. She received a PhD in Romance Languages and Literature: French in 1970; along the way she completed two Masters degrees, one in French (1966) and one in Italian (1968), all at the University of Michigan. Her formal study of Italian began with an intensive introduction to the language at Middlebury College.

Before completing her PhD, Harriet taught French at the University of Toronto (University College) as an instructor 1968-1969. Following this she joined the faculty of the University of British Columbia, first as an Instructor and, when she completed her PhD, became an Assistant Professor. She taught courses in French and comparative literature. She remained at the University of British Columbia until 1980. Both of her children were born in Vancouver while she was teaching at the University of British Columbia, the first (Jed) in 1973, the second (Seth) in 1977. She decided in 1979 to abandon her teaching career to focus more attention on her family. As an intermediate step she took a leave of absence 1979-1980 to spend the year in Delft, The Netherlands, where her husband had a visiting position at the University. The experience of living in Delft led to a life-long interest in Dutch language and culture. She became fluent in Dutch very quickly, made many friends in Holland and eventually acquired Dutch citizenship.

From 1980 to 2000 Harriet divided her time between Westchester County (Croton-on-Hudson, 1980-86; Larchmont, 1986-94; Mamaroneck, 1997-2000), and the Netherlands (Warmond, 1990-1992; Leiden, 1992-1994; Voorschoten, 1994-1997). While in Westchester she worked as a volunteer at the St Thomas Episcopal Church thrift shop in Mamaroneck. Always an active outdoors person, she joined the Rowing Club in Leiden and explored the canals of South Holland from the close perspective of a row boat. In this period she also spent a couple of years (1982-84) in Troy,NY, enjoying college Hockey games, while her husband taught at RPI. From November 2000 on she spent as much time as possible in her Catskill mountain retreat (“high mowing”) in Neversink, NY, building stone walls, and keeping the land in trim. However, she took time out to spend the academic year 2001-2002 in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

Harriet became interested in fine fabrics while living in Holland – Leiden was once a center of textile production – and amassed a large collection of figured linens, tea towels and other textiles.

Throughout her adult life Harriet kept up a voluminous correspondence with friends and family, as a self-appointed chronicler of family and personal history. Her correspondents looked forward especially to receiving her annual Christmas letter, each year urging her to take up writing in earnest. An avid reader, and interested in everything around her, she also collected books on anything that took her fancy.

“But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.” 
― George Eliot, Middlemarch

3 thoughts on “Biography”

  1. I met Hoppy at Pine Island Camp in summer 1960, and we dated all through our sophomore years. She was warm-hearted, intelligent, and curious about everything.

  2. Harriet lived here in The Netherlands in “de Beatrixlaan” and was in a very friendly contact with our mother Antje. When I married, Harriet joined us in the Chapel of Mariëngaerde in Warmond. A lady with kind and friendly thoughts about the people she lived with in several surroundings. Lots of comfort I wish for her loved ones. Yours, Marcus

  3. It is hard to believe it is almost three years ago that Harriet died.
    Harriet, I still miss you.
    Harriet, ik mis je nog steeds.
    Harriet, ich vermisse Dich immer noch.

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