Ellen Willis

Biography of Ellen Willis

Ellen Jane Willis (December 14, 1941 – November 9, 2006) was an American left-wing political essayist, journalist, activist, feminist, and pop music critic.

Willis was born in Manhattan to a Jewish family, and grew up in the boroughs of the Bronx and Queens in New York City. Her father was a police lieutenant in the New York City Police Department. Willis attended Barnard College as an undergraduate and did graduate study at University of California, Berkeley, where she studied comparative literature for a semester but left graduate school shortly afterwards.

In the late 1960s and 1970s, she was the first pop music critic for The New Yorker, and later wrote for, among others, the Village Voice, The Nation, Rolling Stone, Slate, and Salon, as well as Dissent, where she was also on the editorial board. She was the author of several books of collected essays.

At the time of her death, she was a professor in the journalism department of New York University and the head of its Center for Cultural Reporting and Criticism. She lived in Queens with her husband Stanley Aronowitz and her daughter, Nona Willis-Aronowitz.

On November 9, 2006 she died of lung cancer. Her papers were deposited in the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, in the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University in 2008.

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