Newsletter

Stay up to date with the latest from MAKERS delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for new stories from trailblazing women, a big dose of inspiration, and exclusive MAKERS content.

Newsletter Confirmation

Thank you for joining! Please check your inbox for our special welcome letter
with exclusive updates from MAKERS.

MAKERS Moment

Student Homophile League

Student Homophile League

More From Rita Mae

In this video

Brown discusses joining the Student Homophile League in the late 60s and her disappointment with her gay male peers.

Rita Mae's Biography

Favorite Saying: “Worse things have happened to nicer people.”
Advice to Young People: “Learn Latin. It is the basis of our culture [and] the undergirding of all that we do and are.”
Childhood Dream: To be a hunter.
Proudest  Accomplishment: Being able to lead her pack of fox hounds on the hunt.

Rita Mae Brown is an activist and author best known for her first novel Rubyfruit Jungle. She has written thirteen literary novels, more than two-dozen mysteries and several books of poetry and non-fiction.
 
Brown was born in 1944 on a farm in Hanover, Pennsylvania. She briefly attended the University of Florida before being expelled (allegedly for her participation in the civil rights movement but more likely for being openly gay). In 1964, she hitchhiked to New York City and initially lived out of her car. She earned a scholarship to New York University, where she studied classics and became deeply involved in the civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights and anti-war movements.
 
Shortly after taking an administrative position at the National Organization for Women, Brown was forced to resign by founder Betty Freidan, who called Brown and other lesbians the “Lavender Menace,” fearing their participation would be used against the women’s movement by outsiders. Brown then became involved with the radical women’s liberation groups forming, which called for the inclusion of lesbians. In 1971, she co-founded The Furies, a lesbian-feminist women’s house and collective in Washington D.C. that published a monthly newspaper.
 
In 1973, Brown published Rubyfruit Jungle, a coming-of-age tale that shocked many at the time with its frank and explicit depictions of lesbianism. Despite having been published on a small label without a marketing budget, the book became a smash success and is now considered a classic. Brown has been writing novels, screenplays and essays ever since. Some of her notable publications include the 1983 novel Sudden Death, a fictionalized account of her relationship with the tennis star Martina Navratilova, and the Mrs. Murphy series of mysteries, which she “co-authors” with her cat, Sneaky Pie.

Related Videos

Dong Mingzhu
Dong Mingzhu
Chairman and President, Gree Electric

As a young girl, Dong Mingzhu dreamed of joining the army to protect and defend her country. Widowed at 30, Dong went to South China to find work, leaving her son behind with her m...

Maria Klawe
Maria Klawe
President, Harvey Mudd College

Maria Klawe the fifth president of Harvey Mudd College. A renowned mathematician, computer scientist and scholar, Klawe is the first woman to lead the College since its 1955 found...

Lauri Burns
Lauri Burns
Teen Advocate

Lauri Burns is founder of the Teen Project, a non-profit organization that provides support for teens transitioning out of foster care. Having grown up in turmoil and abuse, Burns ...

Mazie Hirono
Mazie Hirono
U.S. Senator (D-Hawaii)

Mazie Hirono currently serves as a United States Senator from Hawaii. She is the first Asian-American woman, the first Buddhist, and the first woman from Hawaii to be elected to th...