As a woman, a lesbian, and a Jew, Adrienne Rich felt triply excluded by society, and she used her long and influential career as a poet to fight for change. Rich, who has died from complications linked to rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 82, was one of America's best-known public intellectuals who addressed women's rights, sexuality, and racism in two dozen volumes of poetry and several of prose, the New York Times reports. She rejected the National Medal of Arts in 1997, citing the Clinton administration's "cynical politics."
Her first volume of poetry, published in 1951, was praised by WH Auden. Her writing took on a sharper edge after she began to chafe at the roles of mother and housewife, the Washington Post notes. "She was a courageous poet,” said the poet laureate of Santa Cruz County, where Rich lived since the '80s. “She was courageous in that she wrote against the current before it was fashionable to do so, to speak up as a woman and as a lesbian. She was a real pioneer."