Vale Kate Millett

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The distinguished feminist writer, Kate Millett, died of a heart attack last week at the age of eighty-two.

She was a brilliant girl, the first American woman to graduate from St Hilda’s Oxford with a first class degree. She then went on to have a distinguished career in the academy in the US. But she was also troubled by a mood disorder which saw her undergo several involuntary admissions to psychiatric hospitals for treatment of manic episodes.

Possibly she is best known for her book, Sexual Politics (published 1970) in which she took on pillars of the male establishment like D H Lawrence, Henry Miller, Norman Mailer and Sigmund Freud. In her analysis of the way sexual interchanges play out between male and female she unpacks the assumption that male dominance and female submission is fundamental. The ‘strongest individual counterrevolutionary force’ and influence ratifying traditional roles for men and women in America, she said, was Freud.

Her views earned her the undying enmity of men like Mailer, but women like me, emerging from the dark of the past in the 1970’s, will always remember her work with gratitude.

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