Obituary: Irene Julia Blanchard, 1934-2021 | Obituaries | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Obituary: Irene Julia Blanchard, 1934-2021 

Scholar, humanitarian and enthusiastic traveler was a pioneer in women's studies

Published December 10, 2021 at 6:00 a.m. | Updated December 10, 2021 at 2:40 p.m.

click to enlarge Irene Blanchard - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Irene Blanchard

Irene Julia Blanchard, 87, died on December 5, 2021, in St. Johnsbury, Vt.

Irene was born in Bennington, Vt., on June 10, 1934, the daughter of John and Julia (Crosier) Blanchard. She attended a one-room rural school for seven years; then, after a couple of winters in Florida, she finished at Bennington High School in 1952. She began her career as a home economist with a degree from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y., which she attended on a full scholarship. After graduating in 1956, she worked for the West Penn Power Company and later moved to Cambridge, Mass., where she worked as a county extension agent.

In 1960, Irene joined the faculty of Garland Jr. College in Boston, where she taught food and nutrition and found her calling in teaching. While there, she was part of a group of faculty who changed the philosophy of the college from a “girl’s school,” where women were taught their roles, to a women’s college, where the emphasis was on self-knowledge, self-respect and preparation for a profession. While there, Irene also learned that she was a feminist. She and three colleagues created one of the first women’s studies courses in the country. Garland offered Irene room for growth, as well as friends and family. During her 16 years there, she found herself interested more in people’s feelings than in food. She earned a master’s degree in counseling from Boston University, and became a college counselor.

In 1976, financial difficulties caused Garland to close after 103 years. That precipitated Irene to return to her native Vermont, where a one-year appointment teaching at Lyndon State College turned into a 22-year teaching career. During those 22 years, she had a leave of absence to attend Syracuse University, where, in 1984, she obtained her Ph.D. in social sciences. Irene became an advocate for women and was one of the founding mothers for Umbrella; she was also on the board of directors for Catamount Arts, and was a great support for Northeast Kingdom Human Services and Osher.

Irene was an enthusiastic and frequent traveler. She visited Costa Rica, Brazil, India, Nepal, Greece, Europe, England, France, Austria, Germany, Scandinavian Countries, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, Peru and Russia.

People wishing to give in her honor can do so at Catamount Arts, 173 Eastern Ave., St. Johnsbury, Vt., 05819; the Irene Blanchard Scholarship for rural Vt. kids, Development Office, Northern Vt. University, Lyndonville, Vt., 05159; or the American Cancer Society, New England Division, Inc., P.O. Box 3333, Montpelier, Vt., 05601.

There will be no services at this time.

Memories and condolences may be shared with the family at

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