by Judi Baker | Chances are, if you (like me) took feminist literature courses in college, you became well acquainted with lesbian poet and essayist Adrienne Rich. Adrienne Rich passed away March 27 at the age of 82. She was a resident of Santa Cruz, California, where she lived with her partner, writer and editor Michelle Cliff.
Adrienne Rich was a mother, a gay rights and anti-war activist, and wrote proficiently about women’s rights, gender, sexuality, economics and social justice. Rich taught at many colleges and universities, including Brandeis, Rutgers, Cornell, San Jose State and Stanford, and won numerous award for her writing (in 1997, when then-President Clinton awarded her the National Medal of Arts, she refused to accept it, because of the administration’s “cynical politics”).
In her controversial work Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution, published in 1976, Rich presented a feminist critique of pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood. In her essay, “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Experience,” Rich addressed “how and why women’s choice of women as passionate comrades, life partners, co-workers, lovers, community, has been crushed, invalidated, forced into hiding.”
Adrienne Rich gave women, feminists, and lesbians, a voice. She was passionate, articulate, and critical. She will be greatly missed, but her words will remain with us forever.
Read more about Adrienne Rich in her obituary in the L.A. Times.
Watch her read her poem, What Kind of Times Are These: