Rita Mae Brown
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Rita Mae Brown
Rita Mae Brown
Born (1944-11-28) November 28, 1944 (age 76)
Hanover, Pennsylvania, U.S.
OccupationNovelist, poet, screenwriter, activist
EducationUniversity of Florida
Broward College
New York University (BA)
School of Visual Arts
Union Institute and University (MA, PhD)
Literary movementLGBT rights, lesbian movement, feminism

Rita Mae Brown (born November 28, 1944) is an American feminist writer, best known for her coming-of-age autobiographical novel, Rubyfruit Jungle. Brown was active in a number of civil rights campaigns, but tended to feud with their leaders over the marginalising of lesbians within the feminist groups. Brown received the Pioneer Award for lifetime achievement at the Lambda Literary Awards in 2015.


Early life

Brown was born in 1944 in Hanover, Pennsylvania to an unmarried teenage mother and her mother's married boyfriend. Brown's birth mother left the newborn Brown at an orphanage. Her mother's cousin Julia Brown and her husband Ralph retrieved her from the orphanage,[1] and raised her as their own in York, Pennsylvania, and later in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.[2] Julia and Ralph Brown were active Republicans in their local party.[3]


Starting in late 1962, Brown attended the University of Florida at Gainesville on a scholarship.[4] In the spring of 1964, the administrators of the racially segregated university expelled her for participating in the civil rights movement.[4] She subsequently enrolled at Broward Community College[5] with the hope of transferring eventually to a more tolerant four-year institution.[6]

Early career

Brown hitchhiked to New York City and lived there between 1964 and 1969, sometimes homeless,[7] while attending New York University[8] where she received a degree in Classics and English. In 1968, she received a certificate in cinematography from the New York School of Visual Arts.[9]

Brown received a Ph.D. in literature from Union Institute & University in 1976 and holds a doctorate in political science from the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C.[10]

Brown wrote for Rat, the first New York City-based women's liberation newspaper.[]

Later career

In 1982, Brown wrote a screenplay parodying the slasher genre titled Sleepless Nights; retitled The Slumber Party Massacre, the producers decided to play it seriously, and it was given a limited release theatrically.[11] Brown is featured in the feminist history film She's Beautiful When She's Angry.[12][13]

Philosophical and political views

In the spring of 1964, during her study at the University of Florida at Gainesville, she became active in the American Civil Rights Movement. Later in the 1960s, she participated in the anti-war movement, the feminist movement and the Gay Liberation movement.[14] She was involved with the Student Homophile League at Columbia University in 1967 but left it because the men in the league were not interested in women's rights.[15]

She was involved in the Redstockings, but also left the group because of its lack of involvement in lesbian rights.[15] She then went on to join the Gay Liberation Front, where she suggested the formation of an all-lesbian group, since many of the women felt excluded from the feminist movement and the male-led gay liberation movement.[15]

Brown took an administrative position with the fledgling National Organization for Women, but resigned in January 1970 over comments by Betty Friedan seen by some as anti-gay and by the NOW's attempts to distance itself from lesbian organizations.[16] Brown claimed that lesbian was "the one word that can cause the Executive Committee [of NOW] a collective heart attack."[17]

Brown played a leading role in the "Lavender Menace" zap of the Second Congress to Unite Women on May 1, 1970, which protested Friedan's remarks and the exclusion of lesbians from the women's movement.[18][19] Brown and other lesbians from the Gay Liberation Front created The Woman-Identified Woman, which was distributed at the zap. The group that wrote the manifesto then went on to become the "Radicalesbians".[15]

While doing work for the American Civil Rights Movement, Brown was introduced to consciousness-raising groups, which she incorporated into the organizations she created and the ones she worked in.[20][17]

In the early 1970s, she became a founding member of The Furies Collective, a separatist lesbian feminist collective in Washington, DC that held that heterosexuality was the root of all oppression.[18] The women wanted to create a communal living situation for radical feminists. The group purchased two houses, where they lived together and used consciousness raising techniques to talk about things like homophobia, feminism, and child rearing.[17] They believed that being a lesbian was a political act, not just a personal one. Brown was exiled from The Furies after a few months[15] and the group dismantled in 1972, a year after its inception.[17]

When asked if she had ever really come out (i.e. as lesbian), she told Time in 2008,

"I don't believe in straight or gay. I really don't. I think we're all degrees of bisexual. There may be a few people on the extreme if it's a bell curve who really truly are gay or really truly are straight. Because nobody had ever said these things and used their real name, I suddenly became the only lesbian in America. It was hysterical. It was a misnomer, but it's okay. It was a fight worth fighting."[21]

Brown also does not consider herself a "lesbian writer" because she believes art is about connection and not about divisive labels.[17] In a 2015 interview for The Washington Post, Brown was asked if she thought awards in gay and lesbian literature were important; she replied:

"I love language, I love literature, I love history, and I'm not even remotely interested in being gay. I find that one of those completely useless and confining categories. Those are definitions from our oppressors, if you will. I would use them warily. I would certainly not define myself -- ever -- in the terms of my oppressor. If you accept these terms, you're now lumped in a group. Now, you may need to be lumped in a group politically in order to fight that oppression; I understand that, but I don't accept it."[22]

Honors, decorations, awards and distinctions

Brown received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Arts Council to publish her novel Six of One.[23]

In 1982, Brown was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Variety or Music Program for I Love Liberty,[24] and again for the ABC mini-series The Long Hot Summer in 1985.[25]

She was co-winner of the 1982 Writers Guild of America Award for I Love Liberty,[25][26] and the recipient of the New York Public Library's Literary Lion award of 1987.[26]

In 2015, Brown was presented the Pioneer Award for lifetime achievement at the 27th Lambda Literary Awards.[27]

In addition, Brown was nominated for an Audie award, and won both AudioFile Earphones and Publishers Weekly Listen-Up awards.[28]

Brown received an honorary doctorate from Wilson College in 1992.[26]

Personal life

Starting in 1973, Brown lived in the Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles.[29] In 1978, she moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, where she lived briefly with American actress, author, and screenwriter Fannie Flagg, whom she had met at a Los Angeles party hosted by Marlo Thomas. They later broke up due to, according to Brown, "generational differences", although Flagg and Brown are the same age.[30][31][32]

In 1979, Brown met and fell in love with tennis champion Martina Navratilova.[30] In 1980, they bought a horse farm in Charlottesville where they lived together until their breakup, over Navratilova's then concern that coming out would hurt her application for U.S. citizenship (according to The Washington Post).[30] Brown still lives on the estate in Charlottesville.[33][34]

Published works



  • Rubyfruit Jungle (1973) ISBN 0-553-27886-X
  • In Her Day (1976) ISBN 0-553-27573-9
  • A Plain Brown Rapper (June 1976) ISBN 0884470113
  • Southern Discomfort (1983) ISBN 0-553-27446-5
  • Sudden Death (1984) ISBN 0-553-26930-5
  • High Hearts (1987) ISBN 0-553-27888-6
  • Venus Envy (1994) ISBN 0-553-56497-8
  • Dolley: A Novel of Dolley Madison in Love and War (1995) ISBN 0-553-56949-X
  • Riding Shotgun (1996) ISBN 0-553-76353-9
  • Alma Mater (2002) ISBN 0-345-45532-0

Runnymede books


Mrs. Murphy Mysteries

The Mrs. Murphy Mysteries include "Sneaky Pie Brown" as a co-author.[36]

  1. Wish You Were Here (1990) ISBN 978-0-553-28753-0
  2. Rest in Pieces (1992) ISBN 978-0-553-56239-2
  3. Murder at Monticello (1994) ISBN 978-0-553-57235-3
  4. Pay Dirt (1995) ISBN 978-0-553-57236-0
  5. Murder, She Meowed (1996) ISBN 978-0-553-57237-7
  6. Murder on the Prowl (1998) ISBN 978-0-553-57540-8
  7. Cat on the Scent (1999) ISBN 978-0-553-57541-5
  8. Pawing Through the Past (2000) ISBN 978-0-553-58025-9
  9. Claws and Effect (2001) ISBN 978-0-553-58090-7
  10. Catch as Cat Can (2002) ISBN 978-0-553-58028-0
  11. The Tail of the Tip-Off (2003) ISBN 978-0-553-58285-7
  12. Whisker of Evil (2004) ISBN 978-0-553-58286-4
  13. Cat's Eyewitness (2005) ISBN 978-0-553-58287-1
  14. Sour Puss (2006) ISBN 978-0-553-58681-7
  15. Puss n' Cahoots (2007) ISBN 978-0-553-58682-4
  16. The Purrfect Murder (2008) ISBN 978-0-553-58683-1
  17. Santa Clawed (2008) ISBN 978-0-553-80706-6
  18. Cat of the Century (2010) ISBN 978-0-553-80707-3
  19. Hiss of Death (2011) ISBN 978-0-553-80708-0
  20. The Big Cat Nap (3 April 2012) ISBN 978-0-345-53044-8
  21. Sneaky Pie for President (1 August 2012) ISBN 1410450244/ISBN 0345530470
  22. The Litter of the Law (22 October 2013) ISBN 978-0-345-53048-6
  23. Nine Lives to Die (24 June 2014) ISBN 978-0-345-53050-9
  24. Tail Gait (26 May 2015) ISBN 978-0-553-39236-4
  25. Tall Tail (17 May 2016) ISBN 978-0-553-39246-3
  26. A Hiss Before Dying (30 May 2017)[37]
  27. Probable Claws (May 29, 2018)[38]
  28. Whiskers in the Dark (June 4, 2019)[39]

"Sister" Jane Mysteries

Mags Rogers Mysteries




  1. ^ Cogdill, Oline H. (14 October 1997). "The Making Of Writer Rita Mae Brown". The Sun Sentinel. Retrieved 2015.
  2. ^ Brown, Rita Mae (1997). Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser. Bantam Books. pp. 1-2. ISBN 9780553099737.
  3. ^ "Novelist Rita Mae Brown on the Peculiar Pleasures of Train Travel". Retrieved 2016. While I was enchanted by the animals, mother was often more taken with the people. She was active in the local Republican party and knew everyone. Of course, it's easy to know a lot of people in a small place. Dad was also involved in politics. Cigar in hand, a big smile on his handsome face, he would chat up the town's men as he walked me down to the horse car.
  4. ^ a b Brown, Rita Mae (1997). Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser. Bantam Books. pp. 183-184. ISBN 9780553099737.
  5. ^ Brown, Rita Mae (1997). Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser. Bantam Books. pp. 144-149. ISBN 9780553099737.
  6. ^ Brown, Rita Mae (1997). Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser. Bantam Books. pp. 186-189. ISBN 9780553099737.
  7. ^ Brown, Rita Mae (1997). Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser. Bantam Books. pp. 200-201. ISBN 9780553099737.
  8. ^ Brown, Rita Mae (1997). Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser. Bantam Books. pp. 209-210. ISBN 9780553099737.
  9. ^ Nelson, Emmanuel S. (2009). Encyclopedia of Contemporary LGBTQ Literature of the United States. Santa Barbara, California: Greenwood Press. p. 95. ISBN 9780313348617.
  10. ^ Related by Brown in her autobiography Rita Will and Starting from Scratch.
  11. ^ Brown, Rita Mae (1997). Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser. Bantam Books. pp. 298-299. ISBN 9780553099737.
  12. ^ "The Women".
  13. ^ "The Film -- She's Beautiful When She's Angry". Shesbeautifulwhenshesangry.com. Retrieved .
  14. ^ Jacob Wheeler. "An Evening with Rita Mae Brown". Retrieved 2018.
  15. ^ a b c d e Faderman, Lillian (2015). The Gay Revolution: The Story of Struggle. Simon and Schuster. p. 232.
  16. ^ Brownmiller, Susan (1999). In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution. Dial Press. ISBN 0-385-31486-8.
  17. ^ a b c d e Hogan, Steve; Hudson, Lee (1998). Completely Queer: The Gay and Lesbian Encyclopedia. New York: Henry Holt.
  18. ^ a b Related by Brown in her autobiography Rita Will.
  19. ^ Davies, Diana. "Photograph". New York Public Library Digital Collections. Retrieved 2016.
  20. ^ "Author and Activist Rita Mae Brown". Retrieved 2016.
  21. ^ Sachs, Andrea (18 March 2008). "Rita Mae Brown: Loves Cats, Hates Marriage". Time Magazine. Retrieved 2015.
  22. ^ Burns, Carole (May 30, 2015). "Rita Mae Brown, awarded as pioneer of lesbian literature, scoffs at the term". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2019.
  23. ^ Fresh Air with Terry Gross, October 9, 1978: Interview with Rita Mae Brown. WHYY-FM. October 9, 1978. OCLC 959925415. Scroll down to 'View online' to hear the audio of the interview.
  24. ^ "34th Primetime Emmys Nominees and Winners". emmys.com. Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved 2015.
  25. ^ a b "Brown, Rita Mae 1944- | Encyclopedia.com". www.encyclopedia.com. Retrieved .
  26. ^ a b c International Who's Who in Poetry 2005. Taylor & Francis. 2004. ISBN 9781857432695.
  27. ^ "Opinion | Rita Mae Brown 'not interested' in being gay". Washington Blade: Gay News, Politics, LGBT Rights. 2015-06-12. Retrieved .
  28. ^ "The Sand Castle (MP3 CD) | Politics and Prose Bookstore". www.politics-prose.com. Retrieved .
  29. ^ Brown, Rita Mae (1997). Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser. Bantam Books. pp. 288-289. ISBN 9780553099737.
  30. ^ a b c Mansfield, Stephanie; Mansfield, Stephanie (13 August 1981). "Rita Mae Brown, Martina Navratilova &". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2017.
  31. ^ Foster, Steven (1 November 2009). "Rita Mae Goes to the Dogs". OutSmart Magazine. Archived from the original on 30 July 2017.
  32. ^ Bernard, Marie Lyn. "15 Lesbian Couples Time Forgot". Autostraddle. Retrieved 2017.
  33. ^ Brown, Rita Mae (1997). Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser. Bantam Books. pp. 322-329. ISBN 9780553099737.
  34. ^ "Rita Mae Brown". 2013-05-15. Archived from the original on May 15, 2013. Retrieved .
  35. ^ Sisterhood is powerful : an anthology of writings from the women's liberation movement (Book, 1970). [WorldCat.org]. OCLC 96157.
  36. ^ https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/series/MPY/mrs-murphy
  37. ^ "A Hiss Before Dying by Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown - PenguinRandomHouse.com". Retrieved 2018.
  38. ^ "Probable Claws by Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown - PenguinRandomHouse.com". Retrieved 2018.
  39. ^ "Whiskers in the Dark by Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown - PenguinRandomHouse.com". Retrieved 2018.
  40. ^ "Rita Mae Brown books". isbndb.

External links

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