Marilyn French, 79, a writer and feminist scholar whose provocative 1977 novel, The Women's Room, captured the frustration of a generation of women fed up with society's traditional conceptions of their roles, died Saturday at a New York hospital. The cause was heart failure.
Although The Women's Room received mixed reviews, it became a feminist classic, selling more than 20 million copies in two dozen languages with a story that spoke to women seeking liberation from societal norms.
The novel's most-quoted line - "All men are rapists, and that's all they are," spoken by the protagonist after the near-rape of her daughter - was often attributed to Ms. French herself, giving critics what they thought was proof of the author's man-hating rage.
But the author said she did not hate men. "What I am opposed to," she told the London Times a few years ago, "is the notion that men are superior to me." Although the novel was not autobiographical, there was, she said, "nothing in [it] I've not felt."
Although her best-selling novel brought her to public attention, later books cemented her role as a leading feminist writer on gender inequality. They include Beyond Power: On Women, Men and Morals (1985) and The War Against Women (1992). Her last major work was a four-volume From Eve to Dawn: A History of Women, completed in 2008. She is survived by daughter Jamie and son Robert.
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