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Marilyn French

This page was updated by Mara French on 12/27/10. Send any corrections or additions to Revisions: 2010.

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Marilyn French (nŽe Edwards) (November 21, 1929 - May 2, 2009) was an American author.

French was born in Brooklyn to E. Charles Edwards and Isabel Hazz Edwards. She attended Hofstra University (then Hofstra College) where she also received a master's degree in English in 1964. She married Robert M. French Jr. in 1950; the couple divorced in 1967. She later attended Harvard University, earning a Ph.D in 1972. Years later she became an instructor at Hofstra University.

In her work, French asserted that women's oppression is an intrinsic part of the male-dominated global culture. Beyond Power: On Women, Men and Morals (1985) is a historical examination of the effects of patriarchy on the world.

French's 1977 novel, The Women's Room, follows the lives of Mira and her friends in 1950s and 1960s America, including Val, a militant radical feminist. The novel portrays the details of the lives of women at this time and also the feminist movement of this era in the United States. At one point in the book the character Val says "all men are rapists". This quote has often been incorrectly attributed to Marilyn French herself. French's first book was a thesis on James Joyce.

French was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 1992. This experience was the basis for her book A Season in Hell: A Memoir (1998).

She is mentioned in the 1982 ABBA song, "The Day Before You Came". The lyrics that mentioned French were: "I must have read a while, the latest one by Marilyn French or something in that style".

French died from heart failure at age 79 on May 2, 2009, in Manhattan, New York City.








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NEW YORK (AP) - Marilyn French, the writer and feminist whose novel "The Women's Room" sold more than 20 million copies and transformed her into a leading figure in the women's movement, has died at 79. 

French died of heart failure Saturday at a Manhattan hospital, said Carol Jenkins, a friend and president of New York's Women's Media Center. 

Her 1977 first novel, "The Women's Room," transformed the college teacher into a feminist leader whose aim was "to change the entire social and economic structure of Western civilization, to make it a feminist world," she once said. 

The landmark novel, which was translated into 20 languages, details the journey to independence of a 1950s housewife who gets divorced and goes to graduate school. The book mirrored aspects of French's own life experiences, including the rape of her daughter. 

She was called anti-male after a character in the novel says: "All men are rapists, and that's all they are. Th ey rape us with their eyes, their laws, and their codes." 

"Those words came from a character, and she was not a man-hater, and never said that in her personal life," Jenkins said. "But she wanted men to accept their part in the domination of women." 

Still, the novel "connected with millions of women who had no way before of claiming their anger and discontent," Jenkins said. 

The male subjugation of women is the main theme of French's novels, essays, literary criticism and her four-volume, nonfictional "From Eve to Dawn: A History of Women." 

A Brooklyn native, French graduated from Long Island's Hofstra University with a master's degree, studying philosophy and English literature. She taught there in the 1960s. After her divorce, she earned a doctorate from Harvard and was an English professor at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. 

A smoker, she survived a battle with esophageal cancer in 1992 that included a 10-day coma she described in "Season in Hell: A Memoir." 

Her last novel is to be published this fall, and she was also working on a memoir. 

French is survived by her son, Robert French, of East Brunswick, NJ., and daughter Jamie French, of Cambridge, MA.