Casey Miller

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Casey Geddes Miller
Born(1919-02-26)February 26, 1919
DiedJanuary 5, 1997(1997-01-05) (aged 77)
Known forAuthor
Notable work
The Handbook of Nonsexist Writing: For Writers, Editors and Speakers
Words and Women

Casey Geddes Miller (February 26, 1919 – January 5, 1997) was an American feminist author and editor best known for promoting the use of non-sexist writing in the English language. Along with her writing partner, Kate Swift, Miller authored The Handbook of Nonsexist Writing and Words and Women.


Casey Miller was born in Toledo, Ohio on February 26, 1919 to Walter and Laura Miller.[1][2] By 1930 her father had died and her mother and sisters moved from Perrysburg, Ohio to New York City.[3] She attended Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts Philosophy in 1940.[1][4] She also studied graphic arts at Yale University. During the Second World War, Miller was commissioned as a lieutenant in the United States Navy and served for three years in the Office of Naval Intelligence in Washington D.C..[1][4] While there, she was involved in war-time cryptography and "helped to break codes used by Japanese" in the Pacific Ocean theatre of World War II.[4][5]

After war's conclusion, she moved to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia where she worked from 1947 to 1954 in the landmark's publication department. She became the curriculum editor of Seabury Press Inc. and 10 years later moved to Greenwich, Connecticut to work as a freelance editor from her home.[1][4][5] A few years later, Miller moved to East Haddam, Connecticut in 1967 and began a writing partnership with Kate Swift, which lasted until her death.[5]

Throughout her life, Miller was an active philanthropist. She served as a foster parent for dozens of children and donated generously to Smith College, Planned Parenthood, and NAACP.[5] in 1977, Miller became an associate of the Women's Institute for Freedom of the Press (WIFP).[6] 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.

Writing career[edit]

Miller formed a professional editing partnership with Kate Swift, the director of the news bureau of the University of Yale's School of Medicine, in 1970. Soon after, Miller and Swift were asked to copy-edit a sex education manual for junior high school students with the intended goal of encouraging mutual respect and equality between female and male students.[7] However, the original text of the pamphlet continually used masculine personal pronouns such as "he" so that it was unclear whether the manual's original author was writing about both males and females or males alone. The use of masculine pronouns to refer to both male and females undermined the stated goal of establishing equality between the students. Swift later said, "We suddenly realized what was keeping [the author's] message - his good message - from getting across, and it hit us like a bombshell," in a 1994 interview for the National Council of Teachers of English. She went on to say, "It was the pronouns! They were overwhelmingly masculine-gendered."[7] Miller and Swift realized that masculine nouns in English are often used to generalize both male and females, often to the point of ignoring females. This led to Miller and Swift to wage what the New York Times would later call "a forceful campaign against what many considered sexist language."[1]

"Desexing the English Language"[edit]

After this realization, Miller and Swift began to explore and promote awareness of the ways in which the English Language is gender biased towards men.[8] The next year, Miller and Swift published an article titled "Desexing the English Language" in the inaugural issue of the magazine Ms., which had been run as an insert in the New York Magazine on December 6, 1971.[9][10] Kate Swift would later remark that the public response to this article received both praise and ridicule.[1] Soon after, in April 1972, they went on to publish "One Small Step for Genkind" in the New York Times Magazine. Other articles were eventually published in The Washington Post and, over the years, in many additional national periodicals.[11]

Words and Women[edit]

Miller and Swift's work culminated in their publishing of the book Words and Women in 1976 by Doubleday, which Women's Media Center called "a world-changing book."[12] In 1980 they wrote The Handbook of Nonsexist Writing and had it published by Lippincott & Crowell and in 1988 by HarperCollins.[1] Senator Chris Dodd later said that this handbook is "still considered the standard reference guide on how to correctly utilize language in order to properly address and speak of women."[5]


Because of their efforts, the Hartford Courant later titled Miller and Swift as "leaders in the women's movement of the 1970s" and a duo who "took on the pronoun he [...] along with the rest of what they and other feminists considered male-biased language in countless articles and speeches as well as in their books."[4] Eventually people became aware of the "implicit discrimination in" the English Language and "writing and speaking without using masculine-gender words" began to catch on.[4][5] Furthermore, some of Miller and Swift's actual proposals for non sexist language eventually found their way into everyday usage. For example, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, "Some of the authors' proposals gained traction. Many newspapers, textbooks and public speakers avoid "fireman" and "stewardess" nowadays."[7]

Miller died on January 5, 1997, at age 77 of chronic obstructive lung disease in Middletown, Connecticut.[4][5][11] Upon her death, Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut entered a "Tribute to Casey Miller" into the U.S. Senate's Congressional Record.[5] She was buried in Madison, Connecticut and was later joined by her partner, Kate Swift, upon Swift's death in 2011.[13]

Casey Miller's personal papers and records are kept in the Special Collections and University Archives at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Van Gelder, Lawrence. "Casey Miller, 77, a Promoter Of Nonsexist Language, Dies." New York Times. January 8, 1997:
  2. ^ United States. Census Bureau 1930. Perry's Burg, Ohio. District 87-35, Sheet 4A 124.
  3. ^ United States. Census Bureau 1940. New York, New York S.D. 16 E.D. 31-814 Sheet 1B
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Van Nes, Claudia. "Enemy of Sexist Language." The Courant. January 6, 1997.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Senator Dodd (CT). "Tribute to Casey Miller." Congressional Record 143:15 (February 7, 1997), p. S1125-6.
  6. ^ "Associates | The Women's Institute for Freedom of the Press". Retrieved 2017-06-21.
  7. ^ a b c Pioneer Press. "Deaths elsewhere: Kate Swift, 87, helped alter sexist language." May 11, 2011.
  8. ^ Love, Barbara J. Feminists Who Changed America, 1963-1975. University of Illinois Press, 2006. Page 454
  9. ^ McDonald, William. The Obits 2012: The New York Times Annual. Workman Publishing, 2011. page 447
  10. ^ Buchanan, Paul D. Radical Feminists: A Guide to an American Subculture: A Guide to an American Subculture. ABC-CLIO, 2011. Page 17
  11. ^ a b Allen, Donna, and Kassell, Paula. 1997. "Casey Geddes Miller (1919-1997): An Appreciation." Women and Language 20 (1): 1. Academic OneFile.
  12. ^ Maggio, Rosalie. "Kate Swift, Feminist Wordsmith, 1923 to 2011." Women's Media Center. May 13, 2011.
  13. ^ "Casey Geddes Miller (1919 - 1997) - Find A Grave Memorial". Retrieved 2016-04-10.
  14. ^ "Archives West: Casey Miller and Kate Swift papers, 1919-2000". Retrieved 2016-04-10.

Further reading[edit]

  • Words and Women