Ellen Willis, 1941–2006

Ed Bradley wasn’t the only notable journalist to pass away yesterday. Ellen Willis — the New Yorker’s first rock critic, golden-era Village Voicer, radical feminist, and founder of the Cultural Reporting and Criticism program at NYU — died of lung cancer in her Queens home. “Ellen was an extraordinary generator of ideas,” said friend and fellow critic Robert Christgau. “All rock criticism shows her influence.” At the New Yorker, she pioneered a critical approach to the public persona of the artist, rather than the work itself. As a feminist, she co-founded two influential groups, Redstockings in 1969 and No More Nice Girls in the eighties, and famously wanted to “smash monogamy,” arguing in favor of pleasure, choice, and pornography. At NYU, she was respected by students who remember her as a formidable teacher and a shy mentor. “I really loved Ellen, because she was so nurturing, in a totally unsentimental and charmingly awkward way,” said former student James Westcott, who is now an editor at ArtReview in London. “She ‘got’ all of us and championed all of us.” Willis lived in Queens with her daughter Nona Willis-Aronowitz and husband, Stanley Aronowitz. She was 64.

Emma Pearse

Ellen Willis, 64, Journalist and Feminist, Dies [NYT]
Selected Writings [NYU.edu]