Celebrated Feminist Poet Adrienne Rich Has Died

Illustration for article titled Celebrated Feminist Poet Adrienne Rich Has Died

Adrienne Rich, one of the feminist movement's most powerful, influential, and accomplished writers, has passed away at the age of 82. The New York Times has a long obituary which is worth reading in full, but they summarized her impact nicely:

She accomplished in verse what Betty Friedan, author of "The Feminine Mystique," did in prose. In describing the stifling minutiae that had defined women's lives for generations, both argued persuasively that women's disenfranchisement at the hands of men must end. For Ms. Rich, the personal, the political and the poetical were indissolubly linked; her body of work can be read as a series of urgent dispatches from the front.


Between her poetry and her prose, Rich published more than 30 books. Her poetry books have collectively sold more than 800,000 copies, and her work has been widely anthologized. She received many awards and honors in her life, including a MacArthur "genius" grant, a National Book Award for poetry, the Bollingen Prize for Poetry, the Academy of American Poets Fellowship, and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. She was also a well-respected professor who taught at many prestigious universities.

Rich graduated from Radcliffe College in 1951, and, in 1953, she married a Harvard economics professor. They had three boys together, but they gradually split, and in 1970, he committed suicide. In 1976, she came out as a lesbian and has lived with her partner, writer Michelle Cliff, for the past 30 years. She died at home in Santa Cruz, California, from complications of rheumatoid arthritis, a disease which she had for most of her adult life.

Adrienne Rich, Feminist Poet, Dies at 82 [New York Times]


Mama Penguino

I had the rare chance to attend a reading of Ms. Rich's as a birthday gift from that friend who could reduce me to laughter and tears by just looking at me a certain way. (This ends just like you think it will.) After sitting through the reading literally holding my breath to keep from bursting out in gales of wild laughter, my insides burning and my ears ringing, the reading ended and we lined up to have Ms. Rich sign our books. I will never forget the stink-eye I received from Adrienne Rich that day and the shame I carried from then on. I spent three years of graduate school studying Rich's work, writing about it, loving it, having it change my life. And that's how it ended! Snapshots of a daughter-in-law, indeed.