Eva Figes, the author of Patriarchal Attitudes, died aged 80 in August 2012. Her book was published to popular British acclaim alongside several other signature books of women’s liberation, including The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer and The Dialectic of Sex by Shulamith Firestone. These publications signalled a new and critical mood amongst a growing number of women becoming involved in the international women’s liberation movement.
Figes’ book was a rather personal as well as a political critique of the structures of modern society, with an emphasis on the institution of marriage as an anachronism. Like Firestone and Greer, she also used Freud and other psychological theories to begin a radical critique of women’s oppression. Unlike Firestone and Greer, she herself had suffered within her marriage and had become a single parent, so the critique was convincingly personal too. Nowadays this kind of critique has become fundamental to feminist and sociological studies, but Figes was one of the first to voice these issues from a particular feminist standpoint. She shared a similar Jewish background to Firestone, giving them both a strong basis for radical critique. She was however a child refugee from Nazi Germany, having been born in Berlin to wealthy Jewish parents in April 1932. She arrived in the UK in March 1939 and had a lonely and poverty-stricken childhood throughout the war which gave her the basis to become a writer and subsequently novelist. Indeed, although Patriarchal Attitudes remains her most well-known book, she won prizes for her novels and other journalist writing. She also inspired her two children, Kate and Orlando Figes, to become writers and academics.
Miriam David, GEA Policy Officer