News & Politics

Ellen Willis, 1941-2006


Groundbreaking feminist author, activist, and academic Ellen Willis died Thursday morning. Willis had been sick from some time. Born in 1941, she served as the first pop music critic at the New Yorker, and later worked as an editor and writer at the Village Voice, on and off, until the mid 1990s.

(Ellen Willis, via

For the Voice‘s 50th anniversary, she filed an essay about the role and coverage of women at the paper.

Early feminist journalists gravitated to the Voice, she wrote, where they encountered resistance from the entrenched male reporters. As Willis put it:

They did not take kindly to our efforts to raise their consciousness about sexism in the office and in the paper: We might have thought of ourselves as sexy rebels against feminist party lines, but they called us “Stalinist feminists,” in a foreshadowing of Rush Limbaugh’s “Feminazi” label. We retaliated by dubbing them “the white boys.” The fights often spilled over onto the Voice’s pages—yet another way the paper was unique in documenting the culture of the left.

(Hanging a banner at the New York Public Library. Photo: Fred W. McDarrah)

In an e-mail announcement of her passing, a friend noted that it is impossible to imagine the world without Willis. Read her words again, and you’ll see why.

Essay: Lust Horizons: The ‘Voice’ and the Women’s Movement

Reprint: Hell No, I Won’t Go: End the War on Drugs
September 19, 1989

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