Feminist writer Kate Millett, author of Sexual Politics, has died at the age of 82, a close friend said on Friday.
Millett died of cardiac arrest in Paris, where she was on vacation with her wife, Canadian photojournalist Sophie Keir, said Phyllis Chesler, a writer and friend of the couple. Millett “died in a city she loved,” said Chesler, herself a celebrated figure in the American feminist movement. “She was a European-style intellectual: Cosmopolitan, literate, well traveled, multi-talented, ceremonial,” she said.
Millett found fame in 1970 with Sexual Politics, which started life as a doctoral thesis before becoming a point of reference for feminist theorists. In the book, she described a patriarchal society, took on the misogyny of novelists D.H. Lawrence and Henry Miller and attacked the theories of Sigmund Freud.
Born into an Irish Catholic family in Minnesota on Sept. 14, 1934, Millett studied at the University of Minnesota and at Oxford, focusing on the Victorian period and English literature. Upon her return to the United States, she taught English and began creating sculptures, before moving to Japan in 1961. While in Japan, she married sculptor Fumio Yoshimura.
After coming out as a lesbian, she published a memoir, Flying, in 1974 and another Sita, in 1977. Other works included The Basement: Meditations on a Human Sacrifice and Iran, which followed a trip to the country in support of women’s rights.
Her book The Loony Bin-Trip (1990) was inspired by her personal experience in a psychiatric hospital, where she was sent for bipolar disorder. In the book, she described “the terrible toll that such imprisonment took on her artist-soul, her intellectual mind,” Chesler said.
Actress Lena Dunham was among those posting tributes to Millett on Twitter. “She pioneered feminist thought, de-stigmatized mental illness, wore massive fashion glasses,” the creator of Girls wrote.