Alix Kates Shulman

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Alix Kates Shulman
Shulman at discussion at Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art in 2010
Shulman at discussion at Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art in 2010
BornAlix Kates Shulman
August 17, 1932
Cleveland, Ohio
Alma materCase Western Reserve University, Columbia University, New York University

Alix Kates Shulman (born August 17, 1932) is an American writer of fiction, memoirs, and essays, as well as one of the early radical activists of second-wave feminism. She is best known for her bestselling debut adult novel, Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen (Knopf, 1972), "one of the first novels to emerge from the Women's Liberation Movement" (Oxford Companion to Women's Writing).

Early life and education[edit]

Shulman was born in Cleveland, Ohio on August 17, 1932. She received a BA from Western Reserve University in 1953. She then moved to New York City to study philosophy at the Columbia University Graduate School and later received an MA from New York University.


Shulman first emerged as the author of the controversial "A Marriage Agreement," (see it under "External links" below) which proposes that men and women split childcare and housework equally and details a method for doing so. Originally published in the feminist journal Up From Under in 1969, it was widely reproduced in magazines (Life, Redbook, Ms., New York) and anthologies, including a Harvard textbook on contract law. It continues to be debated, for instance in January 2007 in a Washington Post Blog.[1]

Three years later, following several children's books, Shulman published her first adult novel, the bestselling Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen (Knopf, 1972), which examineed the contradictions and pressures on a young woman of the pre-feminist 1940s, '50s, and '60s, through the story of Sasha Davis from childhood through marriage and motherhood. Almost continuously in print, it was reissued in a 25th anniversary edition in 1997 by Penguin, a 35th anniversary "Feminist Classics" edition in 2007 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, and as an ebook in 2012 by Open Road.

Her second novel, Burning Questions (Knopf, 1978), recreates the rise of the women's liberation movement and sets it in a historical context. Her third novel, On the Stroll (Knopf, 1981), takes on the themes of homelessness and abuse through the story of a shopping-bag lady and a teenage runaway who is preyed upon by a pimp, over the course of one summer. Her fourth novel, In Every Woman's Life... (Knopf, 1987), explores marriage, children, and singleness in a contemporary comedy of manners. After that, in her next three books, she turned to memoirs: Drinking the Rain (FSG, 1995), about her experience of living alone on an island without electricity, road, or phone, as she undergoes a midlife change; A Good Enough Daughter (Random House [Schocken], 1997), about her life as a daughter to loving parents whom she sees through to their deaths; and To Love What Is (FSG, 2008), an account of caring for her husband following a 2004 accident that left him seriously brain-impaired.

In 2012 she published her fifth novel, Menáge (Other Press), a comedy of manners satirizing the rich and the literary life; and a collection of essays, A Marriage Agreement and Other Essays: Four Decades of Feminist Writing (Open Road). In addition, she has written two books on anarchist-feminist Emma Goldman: the biography To The Barricades (T.Y.Crowell, 1971) and Red Emma Speaks: An Emma Goldman Reader (Random House, 1972). Except for her three children's books (Bosley on the Number Line [McKay, 1970], Finders Keepers [Bradbury Press, 1971], Awake or Asleep [Addison Wesley, 1971]), all her titles are available as ebooks.

Shulman has taught writing and women's literature widely in the U.S., including at the University of Hawaii at Manoa (Honolulu), where she held the Citizens Chair in 1991-2, New York University, New School University, the University of Southern Maine, the University of Colorado at Boulder, and Yale. She received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Case Western Reserve University in 2001.


In the early 1960s Shulman was active in the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). She named the theater arts chapter, 7-Arts CORE, prior to the group's attending the 1963 March on Washington.

She became opposed to the Vietnam War, counseling draftees on their rights at the Quaker Meeting House and the Washington Square Methodist Episcopal Church, both in Manhattan.

In 1967 Shulman first became involved in the Women's Liberation Movement (WLM) in New York City by participating in the monthly discussion group, New York Radical Women; she subsequently joined several small consciousness-raising women's groups (Redstockings, WITCH, New York Radical Feminists), and feminist political action groups (CARASA, No More Nice Girls, Feminist Futures, Take Back the Future). In 1971, after their first production, ""Rape In"". she became a member of the Advisory Board of the Westbeth Playwrights Feminist Collective - a NYC-based feminist theater group - and of the New York Feminist Art Institute. She was one of the planners of the first national demonstration of women's liberation, which catapulted the movement to national attention, the August 1968 Miss America protest in Atlantic City, a demonstration against oppressive beauty standards, which was a major theme of Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen.

Shulman's activism included participation, beginning in 1969 and continuing to the present day, in a number of public speak-outs and conferences on such feminist issues as beauty standards, rape, violence against women, reproductive choice, marriage, and motherhood.[2][3] The goal of the speak-out was to initiate a public dialogue on experiences that at the time were widely considered taboo subjects of speech. In the film Speak Out: I Had an Abortion, Shulman and other subjects testify to having had multiple abortions. Shulman said that "not one was the result of carelessness" but, rather, all were due to the failure of the birth control devices she used.[4]

In 1992, as a Visiting Professor at the University of Hawaii, she was a founder of a Pacific chapter of the pro-choice political action group No More Nice Girls. The Pacific chapter organized demonstrations, held a speak-out on abortion, and put on street theater in Honolulu.[5] In the 1990s she was active on the board of THEA (The House of Elder Artists), an organization attempting to establish a new kind of retirement community in Manhattan for politically and artistically active seniors.[6]

In 1977, Shulman became an associate of the Women's Institute for Freedom of the Press (WIFP).[7] WIFP is an American nonprofit publishing organization. The organization works to increase communication between women and connect the public with forms of women-based media.

In 2012, Shulman joined the Occupy movement and soon became part of the women's caucus, Women Occupy Wall Street, in which she helped put on four Feminist General Assemblies in New York City.

Shulman is featured in the feminist history film She's Beautiful When She's Angry.[8][9]


In 1979 Alix was awarded the DeWitt Wallace/Reader's Digest Fellowship; in 1982 she was a visiting artist at the American Academy in Rome; in 1983 she received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in fiction; in 1982-1984 she was VP of the PEN American Center; in 1998 she was a fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation Center in Bellagio, Italy; in 2000 she received the Woman 2000 Trailblazer Award from the Mayor of Cleveland; in 2001 she was awarded an honorary doctorate from Case Western Reserve University; and in 2010 she received the American Jewish Press Association's Simon Rockower Award. She is listed in Feminists Who Changed America, 1963-1975 (2006) and in Who's Who in America.[10]

Personal life[edit]

Shulman was married for a short time to a graduate student in the English department at Columbia. In 1959 she married her second husband, Martin Shulman, with whom she had two children. In 1989 she married Scott York. Following his 2004 traumatic brain injury, through her writing she became an advocate for the elderly and disabled.[11]

Her son, Theodore Shulman, is a pro-choice activist; he was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in February 2011, on charges of making interstate threats to anti-abortion advocates.[12] On October 3, 2012 he was sentenced by federal judge Paul Crotty to 41 months in prison.[13] Her daughter, Polly Shulman, is an author.


  • Bosley on the Number Line (1970)
  • To The Barricades (1971)
  • Finders Keepers (1971)
  • Awake or Asleep (1971)
  • Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen (1972)
  • Red Emma Speaks: An Emma Goldman Reader (1972)
  • Burning Questions (1978)
  • On the Stroll (1981)
  • In Every Woman's Life... (1987)
  • Drinking the Rain (1995)
  • A Good Enough Daughter (1999)
  • To Love What Is (2008)
  • Menage (2012)
  • A Marriage Agreement and Other Essays: Four Decades of Feminist Writing (2012)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Marriage Contracts". The Washington Post.
  2. ^ Echols, Alice. Daring to Be Bad. University of Minnesota Press, 1989
  3. ^ Brownmiller, Susan. In Our Time. The Dial Press, 1999
  4. ^ "Trouble in Numbers: the Stigma of the Second Abortion by Jennifer Baumgardner". Retrieved 26 February 2011.
  5. ^ Love, Barbara, ed. Feminists Who Changed America 1963-1975. University of Illinois Press, 2006
  6. ^ Brown, Patricia Leigh (2000-08-24). "GENERATIONS; Raising More Than Consciousness Now". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-10-10.
  7. ^ "Associates | The Women's Institute for Freedom of the Press". Retrieved 2017-06-21.
  8. ^ "The Women".
  9. ^ "The Film — She's Beautiful When She's Angry". Retrieved 2017-04-28.
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Alix Kates Shulman - Feminist Writer Alix Kates Shulman". 1932-08-17. Retrieved 2012-05-14.
  12. ^ Drake, Bruce. "Pro-Choice Extremist Reportedly Arrested by FBI for Threats to Pro-Life Activists". Retrieved 2012-05-14.
  13. ^ NY man gets jail for threats to anti-abortion foes, Wall Street Journal, October 3, 2012.


  • Alice Echols, Daring to Be Bad, Univ Minnesota Press, 1989
  • Feminists Who Changed America 1963-1975, edited by Barbara Love, Univ. of Illinois Press, 2006
  • Lisa Hogeland, Feminism and Its Fictions, Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1998
  • The Oxford Companion to Women's Writing, Oxford University Press, 1995
  • Who's Who in America, 2005

External links[edit]