Carolyn Gold Heilbrun (January 13, 1926 – October 9, 2003) was an American academic and prolific feminist author of both important academic studies and popular mystery novels under the pen name of Amanda Cross.
Heilbrun attended graduate school in English literature at Columbia University, receiving her M.A. in 1951 and Ph.D in 1959.
Among her most important mentors were Columbia professors Jacques Barzun and Lionel Trilling, while Clifton Fadiman was an important inspiration: She wrote about these three in her final non-fiction work, When Men Were the Only Models We Had: My Teachers Barzun, Fadiman, Trilling (2002).
Heilbrun was born in East Orange, New Jersey, to Archibald Gold and Estelle Roemer Gold.
The family moved to Manhattan when she was a child. She graduated from Wellesley College in 1947 at the top of her class.
Heilbrun taught English at Columbia for more than three decades, from 1960 to 1992. She was the first woman to receive tenure in the English Department. Her academic specialty was British modern literature, with a particular interest in the Bloomsbury Group.
Her academic books include the feminist study Writing a Woman’s Life (1988). In 1983, she co-founded and became co-editor of the Columbia University Press’s Gender and Culture Series with literary scholar Nancy K. Miller.
From 1985 until her retirement in 1992, she was Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities at Columbia.
She married James Heilbrun and they had three children.
She was the author of 14 Kate Fansler mysteries, written under the name Amanda Cross. Fansler, like Heilbrun, was an English professor.
Heilbrun kept her second career as a mystery novelist secret in order to protect her academic career, until a fan discovered “Amanda Cross”‘s true identity through copyright records.
The novels, all set in academia, often were an outlet for Heilbrun’s view on feminism, academic politics, and other political issues. Death in a Tenured Position (set at Harvard University) was particularly harsh in its criticism of the academic establishment’s treatment of women.
In the book The Last Gift of Time: Life Beyond Sixty, Heilbrun expressed her desire to take her own life on her 70th birthday because “there is no joy in life past that point, only to experience the miserable endgame.”
Despite this, she turned 70 in January 1996 and did not follow up on her promise and ultimately lived another seven years.
One fall morning in 2003, she went for a walk around New York City with her longtime friend Mary Ann Caws and told the latter: “I feel sad.”
When Caws prompted her why, Heilbrun responded: “The universe.” Afterwards, she went home to her apartment and was found dead the next morning, having overdosed on sleeping pills and from placing a plastic bag around her head.
A suicide note was left behind reading: “The journey is over. Love to all.” She was 77 years old. According to her son, she had been in good health with no known physical or mental ailments, but she merely felt her life was “completed”. However, Heilbrun could have had undiagnosed mental issues as she largely despised psychiatry and would never have willingly taken therapy sessions.
The reason for this view came from her distaste for Sigmund Freud, whom she saw as the “father” of psychoanalysis and whose writings she considered deeply anti- woman.
Heilbrun enjoyed solitude when working and, despite being a wife and mother of three, often spent time alone at various retreats over the years, including her luxury Manhattan apartment and a country home in upstate New York.
At the age of 68, she purchased a brand-new home for herself. She held strong opinions on nearly every aspect of women’s lives and also believed that ending one’s own life was a basic human right. In keeping with her views on aging in The Last Gift of Time: Life Beyond Sixty, she quit wearing high heels, hose, and other form-fitting clothing in her early 60s, instead adopting blouses and slacks as her daily attire.
Heilbrun’s son recalled that “My mother was a generous hostess when she was young, but lost interest in dinner parties as she got older. She preferred to order groceries from the local supermarket and have them
sent to her apartment as she was too busy to waste time squeezing oranges at Fairway.”
. Five Colleges Archives and Manuscript Collections (http://asteria.fivecolleges.edu/findaids/mortimer/manoscmr6_scope.html) – Carolyn G. Heilbrun Papers (1846-1979).
. Barnard College (http://www.barnard.edu/sfonline/heilbrun/heilbrun.htm) (video)
. Jewish Women’s Archive (http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/heilbrun-carolyn-g)
. Random House (http://www.randomhouse.com/author/results.pperl?authorid=12497)
. W. W. Norton (http://books.wwnorton.com/books/Author.aspx?id=8387)
. New York Times Magazine (http://www.itri.brighton.ac.uk/~Christy.Doran/Wellesley/Alum/heilbrun.html), November 8, 1992
. Scholar and Feminist Online (SFO) (http://www.barnard.edu/sfonline/heilbrun/) – Writing a Feminist’s Life: The Legacy of Carolyn G. Heilbrun (2006)
Kate Fansler mysteries
In The Last Analysis (1964)
The James Joyce Murder (1967)
Poetic Justice (1970)
The Theban Mysteries (1971)
The Question of Max (1976)
Death in a Tenured Position (1981, Nero Award winner) Sweet Death, Kind Death (1984)
No Word From Winifred (1986)
A Trap for Fools (1989)
The Players Come Again (1990)
An Imperfect Spy (1995)
The Collected Stories (1997) most are for Kate Fansler The Puzzled Heart (1998)
Honest Doubt (2000)
The Edge of Doom (2002)
Non-fiction, academic publications
In addition to her mystery novels, Heilbrun was the author of 14 nonfiction books, including the feminist study Writing a Woman’s Life (1988). These books include:
The Garnett Family (1961)
Toward a Recognition of Androgyny (1973)
Lady Ottoline’s Album (1976) (editor)
Reinventing Womanhood (1979)
The Representation of Women in Fiction (1983) (co-editor)
Writing a Woman’s Life (1988)
Hamlet’s Mother and Other Women (1990) (collection of essays)
Education of a Woman: The Life of Gloria Steinem (1995)
The Last Gift of Time: Life Beyond Sixty (1997) ISBN 0-345-42295-3
When Men Were the Only Models We Had: My Teachers Barzun, Fadiman, Trilling (2002) ISBN 0- 8122-3632-7
1. ^ a b c d e McFadden, Robert D. “Carolyn Heilbrun, Pioneering Feminist Scholar, Dies at 77” (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B07EFD9153FF932A25753C1A9659C8B63), The New York Times, October 11, 2003. Accessed December 18, 2007.
2. ^ a b c “Carolyn Heilbrun” (http://www.c250.columbia.edu/c250_celebrates/remarkable_columbians/carolyn_heilbrun.html). C250 Celebrates: Columbians Ahead of Their Time. Columbia University. Retrieved June 18, 2012.
3. ^ “Gender and Culture Series” (http://cup.columbia.edu/series/64). Columbia University Press. Retrieved June 18, 2012.
4. ^ Vergel, Gina. “Economics Professor Remembered as a Gentleman and Scholar” (http://www.fordham.edu/campus_resources/enewsroom/archives/archive_1202.asp). Fordham University. Retrieved June 17, 2012.
5. ^ Vanessa Grigoriadis, “A Death of One’s Own” (http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/people/n_9589/), New York Magazine.