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Carolyn Gold Heilbrun

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Title: Carolyn Gold Heilbrun  
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Subject: Kate Fansler, Nero Award, Suicides in New York City, List of Wellesley College people, Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature
Collection: 1926 Births, 2003 Deaths, 20Th-Century American Novelists, 20Th-Century Women Writers, 21St-Century American Novelists, 21St-Century Women Writers, American Mystery Writers, American Non-Fiction Writers, American Women Novelists, American Women Writers, Columbia University Alumni, Columbia University Faculty, Female Suicides, Feminist Studies Scholars, Guggenheim Fellows, Jewish American Novelists, Jewish Feminists, Nero Award Winners, People from East Orange, New Jersey, Suicides in New York, Suicides in New York City, Wellesley College Alumni, Women Mystery Writers, Writers Who Committed Suicide
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Carolyn Gold Heilbrun

Carolyn Gold Heilbrun
Born Carolyn Gold
(1926-01-13)January 13, 1926
East Orange, New Jersey
Died October 9, 2003(2003-10-09) (aged 77)
New York City
Pen name Amanda Cross
Occupation Writer, professor
Alma mater Columbia University

Carolyn Gold Heilbrun (January 13, 1926 – October 9, 2003) was an American academic at Columbia University, the first woman to receive tenure in the English department, and a prolific feminist author of important academic studies. In addition, beginning in the 1960s, she published numerous popular mystery novels with a woman protagonist, under the pen name of Amanda Cross.[1] These have been translated into numerous languages and in total sold nearly one million copies worldwide.


  • Career 1
  • Kate Fansler mystery novels 2
  • Life 3
  • Bibliography 4
    • Non-fiction, academic studies 4.1
    • Kate Fansler mysteries 4.2
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Heilbrun attended graduate school in English literature at Columbia University, receiving her M.A. in 1951 and Ph.D in 1959.[1][2] Among her most important mentors were Columbia professors Jacques Barzun and Lionel Trilling, while Clifton Fadiman was an important inspiration: She wrote about these three in her final non-fiction work, When Men Were the Only Models We Had: My Teachers Barzun, Fadiman, Trilling (2002).

Heilbrun taught English at Columbia for more than three decades, from 1960 to 1992.[2] She was the first woman to receive tenure in the English Department and held an endowed position.[3] Her academic specialty was British modern literature, with a particular interest in the Bloomsbury Group.[1] Her academic books include the feminist study Writing a Woman's Life (1988). In 1983, she co-founded and became co-editor of the Columbia University Press's Gender and Culture Series with literary scholar Nancy K. Miller.[4] From 1985 until her retirement in 1992, she was Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities at Columbia.[1][2]

Kate Fansler mystery novels

Cover of the 1966 Avon Books paperback edition of In the Last Analysis by Amanda Cross (Pseudonym of Carolyn G. Heilbrun). Cover art by Robert Abbett.

Heilbrun was the author of 14 Kate Fansler mysteries, published under the pen name of Amanda Cross. Her protagonist Kate Fansler, like Heilbrun, was an English professor. Heilbrun kept her second career as a mystery novelist secret in order to protect her academic career, until a fan discovered "Amanda Cross"' true identity through copyright records. Through her novels, all set in academia, Heilbrun explored issues in feminism, academic politics, women's friendships, and other social and political themes. Death in a Tenured Position (1981, set at Harvard University) was particularly harsh in its criticism of the academic establishment's treatment of women. Her books were translated into "Japanese, German, French, Swedish, Finnish, Spanish and Italian, selling in total nearly a million copies worldwide."[3]


Heilbrun was born in East Orange, New Jersey, to Archibald Gold and Estelle (Roemer) Gold. The family moved to Manhattan's Upper West Side when she was a child.[1] She graduated from Wellesley College in 1947 at the top of her class. She married James Heilbrun, whom she met in college. He was an economist and they had three children. She completed her master's and doctorate degrees after her marriage, and was the first woman hired in Columbia's English department.[5]

In the book The Last Gift of Time: Life Beyond Sixty, Heilbrun expressed her desire to take her own life on her 70th birthday because "there is no joy in life past that point, only to experience the miserable endgame." She turned 70 in January 1996 and did not follow up on her idea at the time. She lived another seven years. One fall morning in 2003, she went for a walk around New York City with her longtime friend Mary Ann Caws and told the latter: "I feel sad." When Caws prompted her why, Heilbrun responded: "The universe."[6] Afterward, she went home to her apartment. The next morning she was found dead, having taken sleeping pills and placed a plastic bag over her head. She left a suicide note, which read: "The journey is over. Love to all." She was 77 years old. According to her son, she had been in good health with no known physical or mental ailments, and she felt her life was "completed".[6]

Heilbrun enjoyed solitude when working and, despite being a wife and mother of three, often spent time alone at various retreats over the years, including her luxury Manhattan apartment and a country home in upstate New York. At the age of 68, she purchased a new home to use by herself, as she wanted a private place. She held strong opinions on nearly every aspect of women's lives and also believed that ending one's own life was a basic human right. In keeping with her views on aging in The Last Gift of Time: Life Beyond Sixty, she quit wearing high heels, hose, and form-fitting clothing in her early 60s. She adopted blouses and slacks as her daily attire. Heilbrun's son recalled, "My mother was a generous hostess when she was young, but lost interest in dinner parties as she got older. She preferred to order groceries from the local supermarket and have them sent to her apartment as she was too busy to waste time squeezing oranges at Fairway."[6]


Non-fiction, academic studies

Heilbrun was a scholar and the author of 14 nonfiction books, including the feminist study Writing a Woman's Life (1988). These books include:

  • The Garnett Family (1961)
  • Toward a Recognition of Androgyny (1973)
  • Lady Ottoline's Album (1976) (editor)
  • Reinventing Womanhood (1979)
  • The Representation of Women in Fiction (1983) (co-editor)
  • Writing a Woman's Life (1988)
  • Hamlet's Mother and Other Women (1990) (collection of essays)
  • Education of a Woman: The Life of Gloria Steinem (1995)
  • The Last Gift of Time: Life Beyond Sixty (1997) ISBN 0-345-42295-3
  • When Men Were the Only Models We Had: My Teachers Barzun, Fadiman, Trilling (2002) ISBN 0-8122-3632-7

Kate Fansler mysteries

  • In The Last Analysis (1964)
  • The James Joyce Murder (1967)
  • Poetic Justice (1970)
  • The Theban Mysteries (1971)
  • The Question of Max (1976)
  • Death in a Tenured Position (1981, Nero Award winner)
  • Sweet Death, Kind Death (1984)
  • No Word From Winifred (1986)
  • A Trap for Fools (1989)
  • The Players Come Again (1990)
  • An Imperfect Spy (1995)
  • The Collected Stories (1997) most are for Kate Fansler
  • The Puzzled Heart (1998)
  • Honest Doubt (2000)
  • The Edge of Doom (2002)


  1. ^ a b c d e McFadden, Robert D. "Carolyn Heilbrun, Pioneering Feminist Scholar, Dies at 77", The New York Times, October 11, 2003. Accessed December 18, 2007.
  2. ^ a b c "Carolyn Heilbrun". C250 Celebrates: Columbians Ahead of Their Time. Columbia University. Retrieved June 18, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b Anne Matthews, "Rage in a Tenured Position", New York Times Magazine, 8 November 1992
  4. ^ "Gender and Culture Series". Columbia University Press. Retrieved June 18, 2012. 
  5. ^ Vergel, Gina. "Economics Professor Remembered as a Gentleman and Scholar". Fordham University. Retrieved June 17, 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c Vanessa Grigoriadis, "A Death of One's Own", New York Magazine.

External links


  • Five Colleges Archives and Manuscript Collections, Carolyn G. Heilbrun Papers (1846-1979).


  • "Carolyn G. Heilbrun", Barnard College] (video)
  • Suzanne Klingenstein, "Carolyn G. Heilbrun", Jewish Women's Archive
  • "Carolyn G. Heilbrun", Random House
  • "Carolyn G. Heilbrun", W. W. Norton
  • Anne Matthews, "Rage in a Tenured Position", New York Times Magazine, 8 November 1992
  • Scholar and Feminist Online (SFO) - Writing a Feminist's Life: The Legacy of Carolyn G. Heilbrun (2006)
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