Rita Mae Brown

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Rita Mae Brown
Born (1944-11-28) November 28, 1944 (age 71)
Hanover, Pennsylvania, US
Occupation novelist, poet, screenwriter, activist
Nationality American

Rita Mae Brown (born 28 November 1944) is an American writer and feminist. She is best known for her first novel Rubyfruit Jungle. Published in 1973, it dealt with lesbian themes in an explicit manner unusual for the time. Brown is also a mystery writer and screenwriter.

Early life[edit]

Brown was born in Hanover, Pennsylvania to an unmarried, teenage mother and her mother's married boyfriend. Brown's birth mother left the newborn Brown at an orphanage. Brown's mother's cousin, Julia "Juts" Brown, and her husband Ralph retrieved her from the orphanage,[1] and raised her as their own in York, Pennsylvania, and later in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.[2]

Starting in late 1962, Brown attended the University of Florida at Gainesville on a scholarship.[3] In the spring of 1964, the administrators of the racially segregated university expelled her for participating in the civil rights movement.[3] She subsequently enrolled at Broward Community College[4] with the hope of transferring eventually to a more tolerant four-year institution.[5]

Between 1964 and 1969, she lived in New York City, sometimes homeless,[6] while attending New York University[7] where she received a degree in Classics and English. Later,[when?] she received another degree in cinematography from the New York School of Visual Arts.[citation needed] Brown received a Ph.D. in literature from Union Institute & University in 1976 and holds a doctorate in political science from the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C.[8]

Starting in 1973, Brown lived in the Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles.[9] In 1977, she bought a farm in Charlottesville, Virginia where she still lives.[10] While living in Los Angeles in 1982, Brown wrote a screenplay parodying the slasher genre titled Sleepless Nights; retitled The Slumber Party Massacre, the producers decided to play it seriously, and it was given a limited release theatrically.[11]

Political activism[edit]

During Brown's spring 1964 semester at the University of Florida at Gainesville, she became active in the American Civil Rights Movement. Later in the 1960s, she participated in the anti-war movement, the feminist movement and the Gay Liberation movement.

Brown took an administrative position with the fledgling National Organization for Women, but resigned in January 1970 over Betty Friedan's anti-gay remarks and NOW's attempts to distance itself from lesbian organizations.[12] She claims she played a leading role in the "Lavender Menace" zap of the Second Congress to Unite Women on 1 May 1970, which protested Friedan's remarks and the exclusion of lesbians from the women's movement.[13]

In the early 1970s, she became a founding member of The Furies Collective, a lesbian feminist newspaper collective in Washington, DC, which held that heterosexuality was the root of all oppression.[13]

Brown told Time magazine in 2008, "I don't believe in straight or gay. I really don't. I think we're all degrees of bisexual. There may be a few people on the extreme if it's a bell curve who really truly are gay or really truly are straight. Because nobody had ever said these things and used their real name, I suddenly became [in the late 1970s] the only lesbian in America."[14]

Personal life[edit]

Brown has been in relationships with tennis player Martina Navratilova, actress and writer Fannie Flagg, socialite Judy Nelson, and politician Elaine Noble.[15][16] Brown enjoys American fox hunting and is master of her Fox Hunt Club. She has also played polo, and started the women-only Blue Ridge Polo Club.[17]

Writing career[edit]


Brown began her writing career with poetry:


She has authored a number of novels, including:


Since 1990 Brown has "coauthored" with her talking cat, Sneaky Pie Brown, a cozy mystery series featuring the feline character Mrs. Murphy.[19] These include:

  1. Wish You Were Here (1990) ISBN 978-0-553-28753-0
  2. Rest in Pieces (1992) ISBN 978-0-553-56239-2
  3. Murder at Monticello (1994) ISBN 978-0-553-57235-3
  4. Pay Dirt (1995) ISBN 978-0-553-57236-0
  5. Murder, She Meowed (1996) ISBN 978-0-553-57237-7
  6. Murder on the Prowl (1998) ISBN 978-0-553-57540-8
  7. Cat on the Scent (1999) ISBN 978-0-553-57541-5
  8. Pawing Through the Past (2000) ISBN 978-0-553-58025-9
  9. Claws and Effect (2001) ISBN 978-0-553-58090-7
  10. Catch as Cat Can (2002) ISBN 978-0-553-58028-0
  11. The Tail of the Tip-Off (2003) ISBN 978-0-553-58285-7
  12. Whisker of Evil (2004) ISBN 978-0-553-58286-4
  13. Cat's Eyewitness (2005) ISBN 978-0-553-58287-1
  14. Sour Puss (2006) ISBN 978-0-553-58681-7
  15. Puss n' Cahoots (2007) ISBN 978-0-553-58682-4
  16. The Purrfect Murder (2008) ISBN 978-0-553-58683-1
  17. Santa Clawed (2008) ISBN 978-0-553-80706-6
  18. Cat of the Century (2010) ISBN 978-0-553-80707-3
  19. Hiss of Death (2011) ISBN 978-0-553-80708-0
  20. The Big Cat Nap (3 April 2012) ISBN 978-0-345-53044-8
  21. Sneaky Pie for President (1 August 2012) ISBN 1410450244/ISBN 0345530470
  22. The Litter of the Law (22 October 2013) ISBN 978-0-345-53048-6
  23. Nine Lives to Die (24 June 2014) ISBN 978-0-345-53050-9
  24. Tail Gait (26 May 2015) ISBN 978-0-553-39236-4

Brown has written about her passions for horses, hounds, and American fox hunting in her fiction and non-fiction works and is active in a local fox hunt club.[17] In 2000, she began a mystery series centered around "Sister" Jane Arnold, the 73-year-old master of foxhounds at a fox hunting club in Virginia. Books include:

  1. Outfoxed (2000) ISBN 0345484258
  2. Hotspur (2002) ISBN 0345428234
  3. Full Cry (2003) ISBN 0345465202
  4. The Hunt Ball (2005) ISBN 0345465504
  5. The Hounds and the Fury (2006) ISBN 0345465482
  6. The Tell-Tale Horse (2007) ISBN 034550626X
  7. Hounded to Death (2008) ISBN 0345512375
  8. Fox Tracks (2012) ISBN 0345532996
  9. Let Sleeping Dogs Lie (2014) ISBN 055339262X

In 2010, Brown's new series, featuring Mags Rogers and her wirehaired dachshund Baxter, debuted. This series includes:

  1. A Nose for Justice (2010) ISBN 978-0-345-51182-9[20]
  2. Murder Unleashed (2010) ISBN 978-0-345-51183-6



Her screenplays and teleplays include:

  • I Love Liberty (1982; TV special)
  • The Slumber Party Massacre (1982; feature film)
  • The Long Hot Summer (1985; TV movie)
  • My Two Loves (1986; TV movie)
  • Me and Rubyfruit (1989; short film interpretation of Rubyfruit Jungle)
  • Rich Men, Single Women (1990; TV movie)
  • The Woman Who Loved Elvis (1993; TV movie)
  • Mary Pickford: A Life on Film (1997; documentary)
  • Murder She Purred: A Mrs. Murphy Mystery (1998; TV movie)

In 1982, Brown was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Variety or Music Program for I Love Liberty.[21]


  1. ^ Cogdill, Oline H. (14 October 1997). "The Making Of Writer Rita Mae Brown". The Sun Sentinel. Retrieved 13 October 2015. 
  2. ^ Brown, Rita Mae (1997). Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser. Bantam Books. pp. 1–2. ISBN 9780553099737. 
  3. ^ a b Brown, Rita Mae (1997). Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser. Bantam Books. pp. 183–184. ISBN 9780553099737. 
  4. ^ Brown, Rita Mae (1997). Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser. Bantam Books. pp. 144–149. ISBN 9780553099737. 
  5. ^ Brown, Rita Mae (1997). Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser. Bantam Books. pp. 186–189. ISBN 9780553099737. 
  6. ^ Brown, Rita Mae (1997). Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser. Bantam Books. pp. 200–201. ISBN 9780553099737. 
  7. ^ Brown, Rita Mae (1997). Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser. Bantam Books. pp. 209–210. ISBN 9780553099737. 
  8. ^ Related by Brown in her autobiography Rita Will and Starting from Scratch.
  9. ^ Brown, Rita Mae (1997). Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser. Bantam Books. pp. 288–289. ISBN 9780553099737. 
  10. ^ Brown, Rita Mae (1997). Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser. Bantam Books. pp. 322–329. ISBN 9780553099737. 
  11. ^ Brown, Rita Mae (1997). Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser. Bantam Books. pp. 298–299. ISBN 9780553099737. 
  12. ^ Brownmiller, Susan (1999). In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution. Dial Press. ISBN 0-385-31486-8. 
  13. ^ a b Related by Brown in her autobiography Rita Will.
  14. ^ Sachs, Andrea (18 March 2008). "Rita Mae Brown: Loves Cats, Hates Marriage". Time Magazine. Retrieved 26 June 2015. 
  15. ^ Azzopardi, Chris (17 December 2009). "Welcome to the Jungle". Gay & Lesbian Times. Retrieved 8 December 2012. 
  16. ^ Bayard, Louis (29 June 2009). "Crying foul on Martina Navratilova". Salon.com. Retrieved 8 December 2012. 
  17. ^ a b Rita Mae Brown Website Bio, retrieved May 24, 2007 Archived May 23, 2007 at the Wayback Machine Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "OnlineBio" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  18. ^ "Sisterhood is powerful : an anthology of writings from the women's liberation movement (Book, 1970)". [WorldCat.org]. Retrieved 2015-05-08. 
  19. ^ "About Rita Mae Brown & Sneaky Pie Brown". MysteryNet. 
  20. ^ "Rita Mae Brown books". isbndb. 
  21. ^ "34th Primetime Emmys Nominees and Winners". emmys.com. Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved 26 June 2015. 

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