Barbara Ehrenreich Biography
Sun Sign: Virgo
Born in: Butte
Famous as: Writer & Activist
political ideology: Democratic
Spouse/Ex-: Gary Stevenson, John Ehrenreich
father: Ben Howes Alexander
mother: Isabelle Oxley
siblings: Benjamin Jr, Diane
children: Ben Ehrenreich, Rosa Brooks
U.S. State: Montana
Founder/Co-Founder: United Professionals
education: Reed College (1963) Rockefeller University
awards: 1980 - National Magazine Award for excellence in reporting with colleagues at Mother Jones magazine
2000 - Sidney Hillman Award for journalism
2002 - National Magazine Award for her essay Welcome to Cancerland
2004 - Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship
2007 - Freedom from Want
Barbara Ehrenreich is an American writer and political activist. Throughout her life, she has proved herself as one of the most influential journalistic voices of her generation. After completing her studies, she turned to political and anti-war activism. She became a victim of sexist behavior during her pregnancy at a medical care facility and underwent political as well as personal transformation. Later, she got involved with the ‘women's health movement’ and eventually decided to become a full time writer. She worked mostly in health-related research, advocacy as well as activism and also wrote several feminist books on the history and politics of women's health. A self-described fourth-generation atheist, she has authored more than twenty books in her career. Her main focus has been on the contemporary socio-cultural landscape, with emphasis on feminism and the plight of the poor. Her work life branches into three tracks—journalism, activism and books. She shares her ideas through essays, opinion pieces, and now-a-days blogs, and her activism emphasizes on various issues such as health care, peace, women's rights, and economic justice. She continues to encourage everybody towards building a better society for women and lead the way for future generations.
- She was born Barbara Alexander on August 26, 1941 in Butte, Montana, to Ben Howes Alexander, a copper miner and his wife, Isabelle Oxley. She has one brother, Ben Alexander Jr., and one sister, Diane Alexander. Her parents later got divorced.
- Her father attended the Montana State School of Mines and later received education from the Carnegie Mellon University and eventually became a senior executive at the Gillette Corporation.
- She enrolled at the Reed College where she initially studied chemistry but later majored in physics, graduating in 1963. Then she attended Rockefeller University in theoretical physics but later switched to biology. In 1968, she obtained her PhD in cellular immunology.
- After completing her doctorate, she served as an analyst with the Bureau of the Budget in New York City and with the Health Policy Advisory Center. She was influenced by the anti-Vietnam war movement and started doing investigative stories for a small charitable group in New York which advocated for better health care for the city's poor.
- During her pregnancy, she experienced a dreadful form of sexism and later got involved with the ‘women's health movement’ which worked for better health care for women. Eventually, she decided to quit her teaching job and became a full-time writer.
- Her earlier literary works include ‘Witches, Midwives, and Nurses: A History of Women Healers’ (1972) and ‘For Her Own Good: 150 Years of the Expert’s Advice to Women’ (1978) with Deirdre English.
- From 1979 to 1981, she served as a professor at New York University, the University of Missouri at Columbia and Sangamon State University.
- Her later works include ‘Re-Making Love: The Feminization of Sex’ (1986) with Elizabeth Hess and Gloria Jacobs and ‘The Mean Season: The Attack on Social Welfare’ (1987) with Frances Fox Piven, Richard Cloward, and Fred Block.
- Her one and only fictional work titled ‘Kipper’s Game’ was published in 1993.
- In 1997, she published her non-fictional work titled ‘Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War’ on the human disposition for warfare.
- In 1998 and 2000, she taught essay-writing at the Graduate School of Journalism, University of California.
- Her collection of essays called the ‘Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy’ with Arlie Russell Hochschild was published in 2003.
- In 2006, she wrote on socially inflected reportage, ‘Bait and Switch’, about white-collar unemployment. The same year, she founded the United Professionals, a nonprofit, non-partisan membership organization for white-collar workers, regardless of profession or employment status.
- In 2007, she published ‘Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy’, a sort of optimistic correlative to her 1997 book ‘Blood Rites’.
- In 2009, she authored ‘This Land is Their Land: Reports from a Divided Nation’, a biting look at the Bush years.
- One of her most acclaimed works is ‘Fear of Falling: The Inner Life of the Middle Class’, which was published and nominated for a National Book Critics’ Award in 1989.
- One of her most celebrated works is ‘Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America’ published in 2001. It investigates the impact of the 1996 welfare reform act on the working poor in the United States from her perspective as an undercover journalist.
- In 1982, she received a Ford Foundation Award for humanistic perspectives on contemporary society.
- In 1998, she was conferred the ‘Humanist of the Year’ by the American Humanist Association.
- In 2000, she was awarded the Sidney Hillman Award for journalism for her article ‘Nickel and Dimed’ in Harper’s Magazine.
- In 2004, she was honored with the ‘Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship’ jointly by the Puffin Foundation of New Jersey and The Nation Institute. It is awarded to a person who challenges the status quo "through distinctive, courageous, imaginative, socially responsible work of significance".
- In 2007, she was the recipient of the “Freedom from Want" Medal awarded by the Roosevelt Institute.
- She has been awarded honorary degrees by Reed College, the State University of New York at Old Westbury, the College of Wooster in Ohio, John Jay College, UMass Lowell and La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia.
- In 1966, she married John Ehrenreich, a clinical psychologist whom she met during an anti-war activism campaign in New York City. The couple published several books concerning health policy and labor issues together. They are blessed with two children; a daughter, Rosa, born in 1970 and a son, Ben, born in 1972. The couple got divorced in 1977.
- In 1983, she married Gary Stevenson, a union organizer for the Teamsters. They got divorced in 1993.
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