Susan Schechter was born May 1, 1946, in St. Louis, Missouri. She received a bachelor's degree in comparative literature from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1975 and a master's degree in social work from the Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She was married to Allen Steinberg. The couple had a son, Zachary Schechter-Steinberg. While in graduate school Schechter worked as development coordinator for Christopher House and the Loop Center YWCA in Chicago, finally becoming the director of women's services of the latter in 1976. It was during this time that she became involved in the battered women's movement and helped to organize the first battered women's shelter in Chicago. In 1978 Schechter left Chicago and moved to New York City. For a short while, she worked for the Family Abuse Project at the Henry Street Settlement, leaving this position to become coordinator of children and youth development services at the Park Slope Safe Homes Project in Brooklyn, New York.
Following her work at the Park Slope Safe Homes Project, Schechter sought funding in order to complete her first book, Women and Male Violence: The Visions and Struggles of the Battered Women's Movement, which was published in 1982. In that same year, she became a program associate and later director of the Women's Education Institute in New York City. By 1986, she had moved to Brookline, Massachusetts, and became involved in the development of Advocacy for Women and Children (AWAKE) at Children's Hospital, Boston. AWAKE was the first program in the United States situated in a pediatric hospital that served battered women and their abused children.
In 1991, Schechter took a position as clinical professor at the University of Iowa, School of Social Work. While she supervised several graduate students completing independent studies and practicum requirements, and also lectured for various courses taught at the School of Social Work, the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, the College of Law, and the Injury Prevention Center, she mainly served as a project director for a number of grant projects. Many of these grants explored domestic violence service needs and the relationship between domestic violence and child abuse, and had an impact on national public policy and training procedures. Funding sources included private foundations, such as the Ford Foundation, the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and federal and state agencies, such as the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Centers for Disease Control, among others.
In 1992, Schechter completed her second book, When Love Goes Wrong: What to Do When You Can't Do Anything Right, co-authored with Ann Jones, although throughout the 1980s and 1990s, she continued to publish various articles, book chapters, and training curricula and manuals on the subjects of domestic violence and child abuse. There was a great demand for Schechter's expertise and as a result, she was featured as a speaker, trainer, etc., at numerous conferences and engaged as a consultant by many organizations, including, but not limited to: the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence and its subsidiary, the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence; the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges; the United States Department of Justice and the United States Department of Health and Human Services, as well as their subsidiary agencies; and the Family Violence Prevention Fund. In addition, she also served on a number of committees, councils, or boards, including the National Advisory Council on Violence Against Women, the Advisory Board for the National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women, and the Board of Governors for Violence Update, Sage Publications. Schechter died on February 4, 2004, of endometrial cancer.
From the guide to the Papers of Susan Schechter, (inclusive), (bulk), 1961-2005, 1986-2004, (Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute)