Marilyn French: Biography

Marilyn French

21 nov 1929

Marilyn French was an American author and lecturer. She was born Marilyn Edwards in 1929 in New York City; the daughter of an engineer and a department store clerk. She was raised in New York and spent most of her life living there.

She attended Hofstra University, a private but not-for-profit university in Hempstead, New York, obtaining a degree in philosophy and English Literature in 1951. She went on to study for a master’s degree in English Literature, graduating from this course in 1964. A few years later she decided to study for PhD, and graduated from Harvard University with her doctorate in 1972. In between her studies, she also taught at Hofstra. She was an English teacher there from 1964 to 1968.

Her first book was actually a work of non-fiction, and it was not until her had published several academic works before she turned to writing novels. Her first work of fiction, The Women’s Room, remains her most well-known. It follows the stories of a group of women in mid-20th century America as they live through the peak of the feminist movement in the United States. It was an international bestseller, and has sold well over 20 million copies in 20 different languages.

She remained a feminist campaigner throughout her lifetime, and while she recognised that conditions for women in the United States were better in her later years than they had been when she first wrote The Women’s Room, she was still quick to identify many of the symbols and acts of sexism and gender inequality which remained many decades later.

Marilyn French died in Manhattan in 2009, aged 79.