In 2003, Andrea Dworkin wrote, “The world was sleeping and Kate Millett woke it up.” Indeed, Kate Millett was a game changer. In 1970, she published Sexual Politics, which catapulted her to fame, both in and out of the feminist movement. The New York Times called the book “the Bible of Women’s Liberation”, and her publisher, Doubleday, said it was one of the ten most important books they published in the 20th century. In it, Kate argued that male supremacy relies on “the acceptance of a value system which is not biological.” Indeed, her arguments underpin our understanding of feminism today: that “sex is a status category with political implications” and that society, as we know it, is founded on a lie “that insists that gender stereotypes are natural rather than cultural.” Sexual Politics destroyed the idea that social sex roles were determined by biology. Gender, Kate argued, was socially determined, ideologically reinforced by a system of male dominance called “patriarchy.”
An unforgettable feminist icon who paved the way for the rest of us, Kate died on September 6th, while in Paris with her spouse, Sophie Keir. It would have been her 83rd birthday on September 14th.
I spoke with Kate’s longtime friend, Eleanor Pam, about Kate’s life and work, over the phone from her home in New York.
Eleanor Pam was an early feminist pioneer and joined the National Organization For Women in 1966 with Kate Millett where, together, they founded and led NOW’s first Education Committee. She is currently the President of the Veteran Feminists of America, an organization of women who pioneered the modern American women’s movement. Eleanor is also a passionate advocate for women in prison who exposes and speaks out against gender discrimination, guard brutality, sexual harassment, and rape in the Corrections and Criminal Justice systems.