Assessing the Complicated Legacy of Heather Armstrong

The 'original influencer' died this week at 47
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 13, 2023 2:30 PM CDT
Assessing the Complicated Legacy of Heather Armstrong
This image released by Peter Ashdown shows a selfie of Heather Armstrong in Salt Lake City on April 1, 2023.   (Peter Ashdown via AP)

When the death of Heather Armstrong was announced this week, many headlines used the term "queen of the mommy bloggers." The term came from the headline of a 2011 profile of Armstrong by Lisa Belkin in the New York Times, and Armstrong herself embraced it. (See her keynote speech in 2015 at the XOXO Festival.) Belkin and others are now assessing the complicated legacy of Armstrong, who wrote of her struggles with depression and alcoholism at her pioneering Dooce blog, as well as in best-selling books, and took her own life at age 47. "Before there were influencers and clicks and 'authenticity,' there was Armstrong," writes Belkin in a new Times assessment. This time, the headline refers to her as the "original influencer," and, indeed, millions were reading Dooce at its peak popularity about a decade ago.

"So began a brief but golden age of women making themselves heard on the internet, proving what is now assumed but was then brand-new: that a woman writing about her life from her kitchen could make her life into a living," writes Belkin. In the Washington Post, Lyz Lenz writes that death of Armstrong "hit me like a kick in the chest," even though she didn't personally know the woman she long considered a role model in how to write with "skin-peeling honesty" and humor. It just felt like she knew her. Armstrong, unfortunately, was a pioneer in another, unwanted way—as the target of an army of trolls. "The online backlash, criticism and hate Heather received was overwhelming," writes Lenz. Andy Baio at, another old-school blogger who came to know Armstrong at conferences over the years, adds that she struggled to handle it.

"The pressures of living online took a toll on her emotional well-being, and she quit writing several times," he writes. In recent years, her posts became "increasingly disturbed and erratic," writes Belkin, including one (since deleted) with an "upsetting transphobic rant," per Baio. Armstrong also wrote of her return to drinking and of her constant fight to ward off depression. At one point, she tried chemically induced comas, which she wrote about in her last book in 2019. "In the end, perhaps the last thing she modeled for us was her humanness," writes Lenz. "She was strong and messy and funny—but also just a person trying so hard to live." (If you or someone you know needs help, visit or call or text the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.)

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