Not only was she the first American woman to receive an honors post-graduate degree from Oxford University in addition to being the author of beloved and liberating literature, but Kate Millett, Ph.D., was also a fearless leader in the second-wave of the feminist revolution. Until her last breath, she constantly fought for equality of all sexes and sexual freedom for everyone through education and the power of literature.
Millett, after an arduous childhood with an abusive and neglective father, attended and graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1956, where she obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in English literature. She eventually went on to receive a master’s degree and a doctorate degree, all while teaching English at Barnard College, the only women’s college in New York City. After completing her schooling, Millet supported herself as a file clerk, kindergarten teacher and eventually began sculpting.
During her years of sculpting in the 1960s, she began engaging in social politics. After receiving her distinguished Ph.D., she delved into women’s liberation activism and began her doctoral dissertation. This proclaimed feminist manifesto was published as Sexual Politics — a defining piece of American feminist literature. The book is said to have sold nearly 10,000 within one night, which, at the time, meant it had gone “viral”; she instantly became a prominent figure in the eye of the public.
Millett became chairwoman of the new National Organization for Women (NOW) and was fired from her teaching job at Barnard for her (then) radical views and actions. Millett, alongside her wife Keir, lived in Poughkeepsie, New York, where they sold Christmas trees to fund a women’s art colony. In 2012, she received the Yoko Ono Lennon Courage award for the arts and was then inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2013.
She created a documentary, Three Lives, which is described as a “moving, proud, calm, aggressively self-contained documentary feature, shot by on all-female crew, about what it’s like to be the three very different women who talk about their lives, with feeling and a certain amount of surprise that anyone should be interested, in front of Miss Millett’s camera.”
In 1974, Millett published an autobiography, Flying, in which she discussed how fame from Sexual Politics changed her and sexuality — both in general and her own preferences. Along with this came two more autobiographical works: Sita and A.D.: A Memoir.
Millett died at age 82 on September 6, due to cardiac arrest, while on vacation in Paris with her wife, Sophie Keir. And while she leaves behind a plethora of literature and works of art, Millett will always be remembered for her strides in feminism and gender equality.