Carolyn Heilbrun, a feminist scholar and mystery novelist, died on Thursday at age 77. According to her son, Robert, she took her own life because “she wanted to control her destiny … and she felt her life was a journey that had been concluded,” the New York Times reports.
Heilbrun’s scholarly writing included books that became feminist classics, including “Toward a Recognition of Androgyny,” “Reinventing Womanhood,” and “Writing a Woman’s Life.” She also wrote more than a dozen detective novels under the pseudonym Amanda Cross. The heroine of the books was also a feminist literary scholar.
Heilbrun was also a retired Columbia University literature professor and the first director of Columbia’s Institute for Research on Women and Gender. She retired in 1992, when she said in an interview, “When I spoke up for women’s issues, I was made to feel unwelcome in my own department, kept off crucial committees, ridiculed, ignored,” according to the Times. In fact, she hid her identity in her detective novels for fear she would not receive tenure, the Associated Press reports. She is survived by her son, her two daughters, her husband, and two grandchildren.