Susan Faludi's lengthy New Yorker piece on Shulamith Firestone, the brilliant feminist pioneer who authored The Dialectic of Sex and founded the first major radical-feminist groups in the country before she was in her late 20s, is a heartbreaking must-read. Firestone withdrew from feminism almost as quickly as she helped shape the second-wave movement, and lived a life of solitude and bouts of schizophrenia until she died alone in her apartment last August.
“When I think back on Shulie’s contribution to the movement, I think of her as a shooting star," Jo Freeman, a feminist writer and activist who worked with Firestone early on, once said. "She flashed brightly across the midnight sky, and then she disappeared.”
The essay covers how Firestone's successes eventually led to her demise, as well as her familial struggles — her younger brother lamented her failure to make a "good marriage" even at her funeral — her mental illness, and the "trashing" that her former cohorts believe forced Firestone into self-exile. Of a Memorial Conference, Faludi writes, "It was hard to say which moment the mourners were there to mark: the passing of Firestone or that of a whole generation of feminists who had been unable to thrive in the world they had done so much to create."