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Feminist writer Shulamith Firestone dies in New York

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Writer Shulamith Firestone, who published her influential “The Dialectic of Sex” at age 25 and then retreated into isolation and mental illness, has died at age 67.

Firestone was found dead of natural causes Sept. 4 in her Manhattan apartment, said her sister Laya Firestone Seghi.

“The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution” was published in 1970 during the height of the women’s liberation movement. Firestone applied Marxist analysis to the status of women and argued that true liberation would come only when women were freed from childbearing. In Firestone’s utopian future, babies would gestate outside the womb and be raised by both sexes.

“The tyranny of the biological family would be broken,” she wrote.

The book joined works such as Kate Millett’s “Sexual Politics” and Germaine Greer’s “The Female Eunuch” as a 1970s feminist standard and is still assigned in college courses.

Firestone retreated from public life after the book was published and was hospitalized with schizophrenia in the 1980s. More recently she became so reclusive that according to her landlord, Bob Perl, she had been dead for about a week when her body was discovered.

Firestone was beloved despite her struggles, Perl said. People often called his office to volunteer to pay the rent on her East Village apartment.

Firestone was born to an Orthodox Jewish family in Ottawa, Ont., and raised in St. Louis. She earned a degree in painting at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

She moved to New York in the 1960s and co-founded three feminist groups intended as radical alternatives to mainstream groups like the National Organization for Women.

Firestone’s only book other than “The Dialectic of Sex” was “Airless Spaces,” a fictionalized account of life in and out of psychiatric hospitals, published in 1998.

In addition to Seghi, survivors include her mother, two brothers and another sister. — ap


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