Rosanna Hertz

Rosanna Hertz
(781) 283-2141
Women's and Gender Studies
B.A., Brandeis University; M.A., Ph.D., Northwestern University

Rosanna Hertz

Class of 1919 – 50th Reunion Professor of Sociology and Women’s and Gender Studies

Contemporary Reproduction, Families and Social Inequalities, New Family Forms, Feminist Methodologies and Internet Use for Social Learning and Connectivity.

* Researches the complexities of contemporary reproduction and how the intersection of reproductive technology, social media, and the wish for intimacy are expanding our ideas about families. 

* Researches families in a changing economy and how social inequality at home and in the workplace shape the experiences of women and men.

Professor Hertz has taught at Wellesley College in both the sociology and women’s and gender studies departments. She teaches courses on the contemporary reproduction, changing families and social inequalities, global families and social policies,  women’s leadership at work. She also teaches a first- year seminar on “The Body.”  Hertz believes that working individually with students is one of the hallmarks of a small college and her favorite way of teaching and sharing knowledge. She always has undergraduate research assistants on her projects.

Hertz is known for her research on the intersection of families, work and gender. For the past 25 years, she has focused on the emergence of new family forms and how they expand our understanding of kinship. She is especially interested in how the Internet is revolutionizing the choices people make as they enter into third-party reproduction arrangements (e.g. sperm and egg donor use) and also how the Internet has become a site of new possibilities for connection between genetic relatives. Her 2006 book, Single by Chance, Mothers by Choice captured popular attention with its finding that the age-old desire for motherhood was in fact reinforced by new scientific advances in reproduction. Her latest book, Random Families: Genetic Strangers, Sperm Donor Siblings and the Creation of New Kin, with her coauthor Margaret K. Nelson, examines the contemporary interplay of genetics, social interaction, and culture expectations in the formation of web-based donor sibling kin groups. A new set of complexities emerge as donor siblings attempt to expand our understanding of kinship. (Oxford University Press 2019; paperback 2020). 

In 2021 Rosanna and her colleague, Joshua Gamson, began to work on a new project “School-based and Internet-based Sexual Learning Experiences of Heterosexual-identified and LGBQ+ Youth.” Using qualitative methods, the project aims to understand how youth with a range of sexual and gender identities have experienced school-based sex education, how they have explored sexual content online, and how they see the two in relation to each other.

She continues her focus on how social inequality at home and in the workplace shape the experiences of women and men. Her first book, More Equal than Others: Women and Men in Dual-Career Marriages and also Working Families (edited with Nancy Marshall) address inequalities that persist between spouses and within the broader economy and how people attempt to resolve them. She has recently written articles about the impacts of Covid19 and how single mothers and their families coped without their pre-pandemic support networks.

Hertz has had a long-standing interest in social science methodology and feminist inquiries. This includes new conventions in data collection and  ethnographic writing. Hertz is especially interested how people narrate and tell stories to make sense of the messiness of life.  In other books and articles, she addresses issues of reflexivity and voice as well as studies of elites.  In addition, she has edited several volumes about how social scientist autobiographical accounts influence their research. She is the former editor of Qualitative Sociology.

Hertz received her PhD in Sociology from Northwestern University and completed a two-year Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. She has held appointments at Harvard’s Law School in the Petrie-Flom Center and at the Brocher Foundation in Switzerland. The National Science Foundation and the Marion and Jasper Whiting Foundation have also funded her research. Currently, she is the Fulbright Research Chair in Health Law, Policy and Ethics, University of Ottawa, 2023-2024.

Links to books:

Random Families: Genetic Strangers, Sperm Donor Siblings, and the Creation of New Kin


Single by Chance, Mothers by Choice:  How Women are Choosing Parenthood without Marriage and Creating the New American Family