Rebecca Summerhays

Rebecca Summerhays, cherished partner, sister, aunt, daughter, and friend, died just before dawn on April 28, 2022, of ovarian cancer. She was 47.

Rebecca grew up in the dry mountains of the West but flourished in the rich soil of New England. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Utah and a doctorate in Victorian literature from Brown University. She cultivated talents for music, crafting, and writing, among countless others—poignantly fitting for a scholar of literature that celebrated and gave voice to heroines’ inner lives.

Rebecca dedicated her career as a teacher and professor to helping young people—especially young women—realize their potential and self-worth. She cared especially for her students and colleagues at Wellesley College, where she found renewed purpose and energy in teaching writing courses on “craftivism” and embodiment and in labor organizing on behalf of her fellow nontenure faculty members. From her early days in Mormon feminism to her work with survivors of domestic abuse to her efforts at Wellesley, her advocacy for women’s value and equality was a constant throughout her adulthood.

Rebecca participated actively in the Iyengar yoga community in the Boston area. The fellowship she felt there with friends and mentors animated the last decade and a half of her life. 

Rebecca’s life and spirit were filled with adventure. She practiced yoga in India, descended into the Amazon and scaled the Andes in Peru, solo trekked the Camino de Santiago across Spain, walked the Coast-to-Coast trail in England, mushed dogsleds in Québec, and snorkeled the vibrant reefs of St. John and Hawaii. She was always ready for an expedition and tenaciously saw each journey through to its end.

Rebecca loved indulgences that bestowed cheer, comfort, or beauty. She brought elegance, color, and love to her friends’ and family’s lives through the many gorgeous handmade quilts, knitwear, and crafts she gifted through the years.

Rebecca was deeply good and uncommonly kind. She was thoughtful and wise, with just the right words—or swears—for any occasion. She was gracious, even in the face of illness, ill use, sorrow, and pain. To those who knew her, she will ever be a model of grace and integrity.
Rebecca was preceded in death by her grandparents and her mother, Constance. She is survived and will be forever remembered by her partner, Tad; her siblings, Emily, Ben, and Jake; her father, Daniel; many nieces, nephews, and in-laws; and friends too numerous to name. A memorial service to celebrate her life will be held at a later date. For those who wish to memorialize Rebecca, donations may be made in her name to Health Care Without Walls (


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4 Condolences

  1. Elizabeth Hale on May 4, 2022 at 12:15 pm

    My thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathies are with Tad, Emily, Dan and Becky’s whole family. Words can’t describe how much she will be missed and how deeply her loss is felt. This beautiful tribute captures her perfectly. I will always cherish my memories of growing up with her- Sundays and Christmases at our grandparents, evenings at our house when my dad Terry would urge her to perform on the piano for us, admiring her quilts and being amazed at her humility and kindness despite her incredible accomplishments. Again, I’m so sorry for your profound loss.

  2. James Summerhays on May 4, 2022 at 7:21 pm

    I remember visiting Becky on Sundays at grandma’s house. We were both tall for our age and most Sundays we stood back to back to measure who was the tallest. Becky looked like my twin sister except she was mild-mannered. As a six year old, I was impressed and assumed that we would get married someday– but then I learned she was my first cousin.

    Decades later I remember one particular conversation with her at a family function that was filled with laughter, irony, pain, catharsis, and wit. She struck me as someone with feelings too sensitive and too refined for a harsh world. Love you, Becky and look forward to seeing you again.

  3. Domingas Rosa on May 6, 2022 at 6:05 pm

    It is really hard to hear and not easy to understand the death of Rebecca Summerhays. I wish her husband and family from the bottom of my heart to be strong in this darkest hours. Rest in peace Rebecca Summerhays.

  4. Heather Bryant on May 6, 2022 at 9:11 pm

    Rebecca was so kind, so funny, so authentic, so good, so wise, and so warm and such an amazing friend. I am heartbroken at her loss—and am sending love to her family in this devastating loss.

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