Adrienne Rich dies at age 82

The award-winning poet and icon of the feminist movement passed away Tuesday.

WRITTEN BY: Brittney Elkins
Adrienne Rich (far right) with Meridel Lesueur and Audre Lorde. 1980.
Image Source: K. Kendall via Wikimedia Commons
Adrienne Rich (far right) with Meridel Lesueur and Audre Lorde. 1980.

Adrienne Rich, the award-winning poet and icon of the feminist movement, died in her Santa Cruz, California home Tuesday.

Adrienne Rich was 82-years-old when she passed away after complications from rheumatoid arthritis.

Among the first contemporary poets of the early feminist movement, Adrienne Rich became known for her works based on both personal reflection and piercing social commentary.

Adrienne Rich lived openly as a lesbian for most of her adult life, and her socially conscious work influenced a generation of gay rights and anti-war activists. However, a 17-year marriage to Alfred Conrad, which ended in 1970, gave her three sons. Her experiences as a mother inspired her to write Of Woman Born, a feminist critique of motherhood.

Adrienne Rich believed art and politics should co-exist. In 1997, she refused the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor given by the United States government to artists in protest against the Clinton Administration’s policies regarding the arts and particularly literature.

“Art means nothing if it simply decorates the dinner table of the power which holds it hostage,” Adrienne Rich said in regards to her decision to refuse the honor.

Adrienne Rich will be remembered as more than a literary figure. Her lifetime of work explored women’s rights, racism, sexuality and economic and political justice. She was a key influence for feminists, gay rights and anti-war activists, and she taught new generations of writers at Swarthmore College, Columbia University School of the Art and City University of New York.

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