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Debra Joan Osnowitz

Debra Joan Osnowitz was born  November 6, 1952, in Fargo, North Dakota, and died unexpectedly April 7, 2021. She was valedictorian in high school, graduated early, and moved to Providence to attend Brown in the fall of 1970.

Debi graduated from Brown University with an AB in English and an MAT in English and Education. She went on to receive an MA in Sociology and Women’s Studies and a PhD in Sociology from Brandeis in 2005. She taught Sociology at Clark for a number of years. Among her publications are many articles and a book from Cornell University Press, Freelancing Expertise: Contract Professionals in the New Economy. She was deeply interested in social theory, culture, work, occupations and professions, and organizations. She was continuing her research in sociology when she died.

In the 1970s, Debi was a member of the advocacy group 9to5, part of the National Association of Working Women, where she chaired the group Women in Publishing. She then worked for many years as an editorial freelancer and was a founding member of the Freelance Editorial Association.

She had a unique ability to connect to people across ages and stages regardless of their background, forming deep friendships with people from many stages of life. She was an inspired and inspiring teacher and took enormous pleasure in her students’ success.

She was bright, kind, thoughtful, articulate, curious, and wise. She was funny, serious, prodigiously smart, a steadfast loyal friend. She was extraordinarily generous and insightful. She wrote wonderful letters. She was private, yet open and warm, and freely gave her attention, thoughts, and time. She loved literature and writing. There was a musicality, a youthfulness, and a joyousness to her voice. When she spoke it was as if her voice smiled. She loved people and their stories, and she loved life. She believed in the goodness of people and devoted her life to that goodness, and to trying to be a positive influence in the world. She wanted to use her talents and her skills to make the world a better place.

She loved classical music and played the viola. She loved cats and took great care of those in her family. She was the loving chosen aunt to Emily, Amanda, Anna, and Sophia, and the devoted support of their parents.

She is survived by her brother Daniel, her brother Steve, and her mother, and by numerous heart-broken friends.

Burial was private.


In memory of Debi Osnowitz donations may be made to:

Temple Hillel B’nai Torah or The Sociology Department at Brandeis.


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