Significant Contemporary American Feminists: A Biographical Sourcebook

By Jennifer Scanlon | Go to book overview

JOANNA RUSS
(1937-)

Jeanne Cortiel

Joanna Russ is one of the most consistent radicals among feminist science fiction writers. Reaching far beyond the scope of the genre, her work has influenced both feminist fiction and theory. The story of Russ' childhood, as projected in interviews and the scattered biographical material on her, introduces the major themes in her career as a writer and feminist critic. Russ was born on February 22, 1937, in New York City. She grew up in an exclusively Jewish neighborhood in the Bronx. Her mother loved literature, and her father had an avid interest in popular science. Nonreligious and committed to socialism, both parents were teachers and eager to share their knowledge and enthusiasm with their only child. In 1949, Russ was accepted to the Bronx High School of Science, in the first year it admitted female students. However, Russ chose not to attend, possibly not a willing decision since she attributes it to "family insanity" ( Holt 1982, 483). In her senior year of high school, in 1953, she became one of the ten top finalists in the Westinghouse Science Talent Search. Yet her interest in literature and writing was at least equally strong. Her first published work, two poems, appeared when she was fifteen in Epoch. Even then, her writing rang with the courage and willingness to confront, which is such a marked characteristic of all her work. In "Not for Years but for Decades" ( 1985) she recollects writing a wistful lesbian short story in high school that, not surprisingly, mortified her teacher.

Thus, the tensions between literature, science, and the effective exclusion of women from both fields played an important role in Russ' early development. The image of the closet emerges as another major presence in her life story. In an interview with Donna Perry in 1993 she states, "I had kind of come out at the age of eleven and a half and gone in a few years later" ( Perry 1993, 295). This tension with the closet, which for her, one could argue, stands for possibility rather than disguise, also structures Russ' fictional work as well as her development as a writer.

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Significant Contemporary American Feminists: A Biographical Sourcebook
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Editorial Board ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Copyright Acknowledgments v
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • Bella Abzug (1920-1998) 1
  • Paula Gunn Allen (1939-) 8
  • Gloria AnzaldÚa (1942-) 14
  • Frances Beale (1940-) 22
  • Rita Mae Brown (1944-) 28
  • Charlotte Bunch (1944-) 36
  • Pat Califia (1954-) 44
  • Judy Chicago (1939-) 51
  • Shirley Chisholm (1924-) 55
  • Esther Ngan-Ling Chow (1943-) 60
  • Pearl Cleage (1948-) 66
  • Kate Clinton (1945- ) 73
  • Mary Daly (1928- ) 79
  • Angela Davis (1944-) 86
  • Shulamith Firestone (1945-) 98
  • Jo Freeman (1945-) 104
  • Betty Friedan (1921-) 111
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933-) 118
  • Bell Hooks (1952- ) 125
  • Dolores Huerta (1930-) 133
  • June Jordan (1936-) 138
  • Evelyn Fox Keller (1936-) 145
  • Florynce Kennedy (1916-) 150
  • Audre Lorde (1934-1992) 156
  • Catharine Mackinnon (1946-) 163
  • Olga Madar (1915-1996) 174
  • Wilma Mankiller (1945-) 181
  • Del Martin (1921-) 188
  • Kate Millett (1934- ) 194
  • CherrÍe Moraga (1952- ) 201
  • Robin Morgan (1941-) 206
  • Pauli Murray (1910-1985) 213
  • Eleanor Holmes Norton (1937-) 218
  • Alice Paul (1885-1977) 223
  • Anna Quindlen (1952-) 231
  • Adrienne Rich (1929-) 238
  • Faith Ringgold (1930-) 245
  • Rosemary Ruether (1936-) 251
  • Joanna Russ (1937-) 257
  • Patricia Schroeder (1940-) 264
  • Eleanor Smeal (1939-) 271
  • Barbara Smith (1946-) 279
  • Gloria Steinem (1934-) 283
  • Margo St. James (1937-) 290
  • Alice Walker (1944- ) 297
  • Rebecca Walker (1969-) 305
  • Michele Wallace (1952-) 311
  • Sarah Weddington (1945-) 317
  • Ellen Willis (1941-) 327
  • Selected Bibliography 335
  • Index 341
  • About the Editor and Contributors 355
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