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PASSAGES Pioneering author, second-wave feminist Kate Millett dies
by Liz Baudler
2017-09-08

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Feminist, activist, author and multidisciplinary artist Kate Millett passed away in Paris Sept. 6, 2017. Millett is perhaps best known for her 1970 book Sexual Politics, which catapulted her into the leading tiers of second-wave feminism. From its publication, Sexual Politics was one of the main critiques of patriarchy that underpinned the feminist movement.

Millett was born on Sept. 14, 1948 in Minnesota. Educated at the University of Minnesota and Oxford, Sexual Politics, Millett's most well-known work, was originally her doctoral thesis from Columbia University. She did not endure the resulting fame and platform Sexual Politics gave her with any great joy; that period of time became the subject of her 1974 memoir Flying.

Time Magazine's November 1970 cover story on Millett announced her bisexuality. Millett had married a Japanese sculptor, Fumio Yoshimura, in 1965, but had relationships with women before, during and after her marriage. Her 1977 book Sita chronicles her relationship with an older woman lover. She divorced Yoshimura in 1985. Millett's bisexualty and nonmonogamy were often sources of tension in her professional and personal life, and some scholars point to her coming out as a moment that fractured the feminist movement into anti- and pro-lesbian factions.

A sculptor as well as reluctant academic, Millett founded the Women's Art Colony and Tree Farm in Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1971. That year she also produced the movie Three Lives, a documentary about three women, one of whom is Millett's sister Mallory, talking about their lives in patriarchal society. She also published The Prostitution Papers, which argues for decriminalization of prostitution.

In 1979 Millett and her partner, Sophie Keir, visited Iran to advocate for women's rights. They nearly didn't escape, locked overnight in the immigration office, an experience Millett wrote about in her 1981 book Going to Iran. Millett chronicled her experiences with bipolar disorder in the 1990 memoir The Loony Bin Trip, where she describes her 1980 experience with being involuntarily committed to a mental institution in Ireland. This experience led to her later activism with anti-psychiatry movements. Her last book, 2001's Mother Millett, was an account of caring for her mother, Helen, in her old age.

Toward the end of her life, Millett was widely honored, with awards from the Lambda Literary Foundation, Yoko Ono's Courage Award and a 2013 induction into the National Women's Hall of Fame. But her impact might be most often felt at the personal level.

Linda Bubon, former owner of Chicago's Women and Children First Bookstore, remembers a frustrated search for Millett's Sita as "one of the key experiences" that led her to want to open a women's bookstore.

Millett is survived by her wife Sophie Keir, who she married recently.

See more details here: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kate_Millett .


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