"This means," she wrote, "that tenderness and expressiveness should be cultivated in boys and socially approved in men" and "achievement need, workmanship and constructive aggression should be cultivated in girls and approved in women."

This "immodest proposal" seems mild today, but 45 years ago it sounded absurd, akin to asking the Marlboro Man to switch places with Donna Reed.

Traditionalists maligned Rossi as "a monster, an unnatural woman, and an unfit mother," she later
recalled. One critic sent her husband a biting commentary cloaked in a condolence card: It lamented the "death" of his wife.

Rossi, who was 87 when she died of pneumonia Nov. 3 in Northampton, Mass., clearly wasn't a traditional wife. A researcher at several prestigious universities before she landed a faculty position at Goucher College in Maryland (and later at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst), she juggled an academic's life with her life as a married mother of three. She also was an activist who joined Betty Friedan in 1966 as a founding member of the National Organization for Women.

She later compiled a 1973 anthology of essential readings on feminist thought that became a staple of college courses on women's studies.

Her contributions as a feminist scholar "had an enormous impact on the rebirth of feminism," women's movement historian Ruth Rosen wrote several years ago.

Rossi was born Alice Schaerr in New York City on Sept. 24, 1922. Her mother was a housewife who later held a number of jobs, including seamstress and department store clerk, said Rossi's daughter Nina. Rossi often credited her father, an experimental machinist, for encouraging her to pursue her dreams.

During World War II, Rossi worked for the War Manpower Commission and the lend-lease program. After the war she resumed her education, graduating from Brooklyn College in 1947. In 1951, after a first marriage ended in divorce, she married Peter H. Rossi, a sociologist who later achieved eminence as an authority on survey analysis and homelessness. He
died in 2006.

In addition to their daughter Nina, Rossi is survived by another daughter, Kristin; a son, Peter E.; and six grandchildren.

Although Rossi, like her husband, had a doctorate in sociology from Columbia, she was offered lowly positions as a research associate while he was given faculty appointments. She was a researcher at the University of Chicago when she wrote
“Equality Between the Sexes,” published in a special issue of the Academy of Arts and Sciences journal Daedalus devoted to different perspectives on the status of American women. Her article was, according to Rosen, the most startling and "the one that would provide the greatest intellectual legitimacy for a women's movement."

Published the year after Friedan's "The Feminist Mystique," it outlined a three-pronged solution, including creating a network of child-care centers, "de-sex-linking" occupations to open up more opportunities for women and reversing the march to the suburbs so that both parents could work closer to home.

The article established Rossi's credentials as a feminist scholar, which led to meeting Friedan in 1966 and winning her first faculty position at Goucher in 1969. Her first year as a professor was, she later recalled, "a trial by fire": She taught seven courses while raising three small children and managing a 22-room house. That year she also joined the first board of the National Assn. for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (now NARAL Pro-Choice America) and helped organize the first women's caucus in the American Sociological Assn. (In 1982, she was
elected president of the association.)

She left Goucher in 1974, in part because of its failure to make the women's college coeducational. (It began to admit men in 1986.)

Rossi spent the next 17 years at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where she was the Harriet Martineau professor of sociology. After her retirement in 1991, she continued to conduct research and write on issues related to gender, family, kinship and women at work.

The egalitarianism she preached was sometimes sorely lacking in her own marriage. When she had difficulty juggling career and family, her husband, with whom she co-wrote a book on parent-child relations, "wasn't backing me up in terms of picking up the slack in our family relationships," she said in
a 2007 National Public Radio interview.

In that interview, Nina Rossi recalled deeply resenting her mother's career: "I remember . . . just sitting outside her study door crying and not being able to break in." They had a troubled relationship for years.

"There was a period of Nina's life . . . where I was a neglectful parent because of the busyness of my life, and I took shortcuts in parenting," Rossi said.

Although she rose to prominence with the argument that men needed to be more like women and women more like men, Rossi later focused on the biological differences between the sexes as the cause of women's social and political inequality.

Like her earlier embrace of androgyny, this position was controversial too. "People wanted to hear that the problems were all social and cultural," Nina Rossi said. "But she stuck to her guns. She was always unafraid to buck the trend."