Feminist mystery author dies at 77

Sunday, October 12, 2003

— Carolyn Heilbrun, a feminist scholar of English literature who also wrote detective novels under a pseudonym, has died. She was 77.

Heilbrun, who had written that living after the age of 70 should be a choice, apparently committed suicide at her home in Manhattan.

Heilbrun, a retired professor at Columbia University, specialized in modern British literature.

She was the author of such works as "Toward a Recognition of Androgyny," "Reinventing Womanhood" and "Writing a Woman's Life," and wrote numerous academic articles.

Heilbrun was briefly an instructor at Brooklyn College before joining the faculty of Columbia University in 1960 as an instructor of English and comparative literature.

She became a full professor with tenure in 1972, was named the Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities in 1985. She was the first director of the university's Institute for Research on Women and Gender.

For years, Heilbrun -- fearing she would not get tenure at Columbia -- hid her mystery novels from her colleagues, publishing them under the pseudonym Amanda Cross. The heroine of the books, Kate Fansler, was, like Heilbrun, a feminist professor of literature.

Heilbrun also served briefly as a visiting professor at Yale, Princeton, Swarthmore and other colleges.

She retired from Columbia in 1992, but continued to write books and articles, including essays for Hers, a former column in The New York Times.