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Professor Emerita, Feminist, Mystery Author Carolyn Heilbrun Dies

Carolyn Heilbrun

Carolyn Heilbrun, Avalon Foundation Professor Emerita in the Humanities, died on Thursday, October 9. Her death was by suicide, an option Heilbrun had advocated as a rational way to approach old age, and her preferred way to die.

Heilbrun joined Columbia's Department of English and Comparative Literature in 1960 as an instructor, rising to full professor in 1972, and Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities in 1986. She served as President of the Modern Language Association in 1984. She taught her last classes at Columbia in the spring of 1992.

Known for her courses on feminist theory and modern British literature, Heilbrun was an advocate for the advancement of women's rights. She was a founder of Columbia's Institute for Research on Women and Gender and served as its first director from 1987-1989. Heilbrun also served as editor of Columbia University Press' Gender and Culture Series.

Among her scholarly works are "Lady Ottoline's Album" (1976). She coedited "The Representation of Women in Fiction" (1983), "In Toward a Recognition of Androgyny" (1973), and "Reinventing Womanhood" (1979). "Hamlet's Mother and Other Women" (1990) is a collection of her feminist literary essays. Later nonfiction works by Heilbrun include "The Education of a Woman: The Life of Gloria Steinem" (1995) and "The Last Gift of Time: Life Beyond Sixty" (1997).

In addition to her non-fiction, Heilbrun is a well-known crime writer. Using the pseudonym Amanda Cross she penned "In the Last Analysis," "The James Joyce Murder," "Poetic Justice," "The Theban Mysteries," 'The Question of Max," "Death in a Tenured Position," "An Imperfect Spy," "The Collected Works of Amanda Cross," and many other thrillers.

Born in 1926, Heilbrun received a B.A. from Wellesley in 1947 and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1951 and 1959, respectively. She received honorary degrees from the University of Pennsylvania (1984) and Bucknell University (1985). Heilbrun was a Guggenheim Fellow (1965-66), AAUW Honorary Fellow (1970-71), Rockefeller Foundation Humanities Fellow (1976-77), Radcliffe Institute Fellow (1976-77) and NEH Senior Research Fellow (1983-84).

Published: Oct 10, 2003
Last modified: Oct 17, 2003

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