Remarks in Honor of Carolyn Heilbrun

Sara Paretsky
Vol. 24, No. 2 (Fall 2005), 241-245.

In this personal essay, the author shares something of her own story as a writer and the impact that Heilbrun’s pseudonymous detective writer, Amanda Cross, had on her vocation. The message the author received as a young girl growing up in a small town was “ladies don’t do this”—with “this” running the gamut from driving pickup trucks to working outside the home as anything but a secretary or a schoolteacher to studying math and physics. To escape her restlessness and anger, this essay’s author dove into detective fiction during her teens, but when, at twenty, Amanda Cross entered her life, she felt as though she’d been thumped between the shoulders with a large stick: “a woman who did what Peter Wimsey did, who strolled urbanely through the upper reaches of society, who confronted power without fear, who used her wits to confound both police and academy—she was what I had been waiting for, not a romantic hero.” The essay also tells the story of how the sixties seemed a decade in which women could at last reclaim their lives. Now more than ever, this essay argues, we need to remember the courage of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, who spent seventy years working for our right to vote. As feminists commemorating Carolyn Heilbrun’s work, this essay urges us to carry it on.

This article is part of a special issue of personal and scholarly reflections on the life of Carolyn Heilbrun.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]