The Life and Death of a Feminist Fighter

Shulamith Firestone helped start the movement that rejected her
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 8, 2013 7:40 PM CDT
The Life and Death of a Feminist Fighter
Shulamith Firestone.   (Wikimedia Commons)

A woman who helped spark radical New York feminism in the late 1960s—and inspire the entire movement that followed—was devastated and left to die in isolation after her fellow activists rejected her, writes Susan Faludi in The New Yorker. Less known today, Shulamith Firestone started early feminist groups and wrote the highly influential The Dialectic of Sex, praised by Simone de Beauvoir as the only fresh treatise in feminism. Firestone saw the family as the embryo of all political antagonisms, and argued that the "exaggeration of children's dependence" forced women into an extreme "bondage to motherhood."

Firestone's own family was explosive: She rebelled against her Orthodox Jewish father and was beaten by her brother, she said, for ignoring religious law. Firestone brought that intensity to her cause but also antagonized fellow activists, who broke up her organization in a bitter internal dispute. Firestone quit the movement and slipped into paranoid schizophrenia, eventually dying alone in her New York apartment last year—much like other 1960s feminists who ended up infirm, mentally ill, and even homeless. Their fate fell sadly short of what Firestone argued for in Dialectic: a "home" where "all relationships would be based on love alone." Click for Faludi's full article. (More feminism stories.)

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