Monday, October 31, 2005

Joan Kennedy Taylor, a major libertarian intellectual and a staunch advocate of individualist feminism, died on Saturday, October 29, 2005 in New York City. She had suffered in recent years from cancer and in recent weeks from related kidney failure. Joan was born in Manhattan on December 21, 1926, the daughter of composer, music critic, and radio personality Deems Taylor and Mary Kennedy, an actress and poet. Unsurprisingly, given such parents, she conceived an early interest in spending her own life in the theatre -- and leading the footloose, bohemian lifestyle that choice often entailed. This desire was only intensified when, in 1939, at the age of 12, she spent two weeks in Hollywood with her father, who was there to film his scenes as the tuxedoed master of ceremonies and narrator of Walt Disney's Fantasia.

Joan completed her first eight grades of school on eight different campuses -- in settings as diverse as New York City; Ellsworth, Maine; Paris; and Peking. For high school, though, she settled down for at least a few years at St. Timothy's, a strict boarding school in suburban Baltimore. Later, during the 1940s, her father's biographer, James Pegolotti, tells us, "Joan [...] completed four years at Barnard College on Manhattan's Upper West Side, across Broadway from Columbia University. While at Barnard, through her father's connections, she gained a role or two in radio dramas, advancing her interest in making acting a lifetime career. At the same time she began dating Donald Cook, a psychology major at Columbia, and during her senior year, in fall 1947, they became engaged." (308)

A year after that, "in September 1948 at a Unitarian church in Manhattan," they said their wedding vows. Another year later, "[i]n January 1950 Michael Cook was born and the couple rented an apartment near Columbia. Donald now had become a part-time instructor there while continuing graduate studies, and Joan gained some supporting roles on live television series, such as I Remember Mama [...]." (309)

The marriage did not endure. The Cooks were separated by 1952, divorced by 1953. And though Taylor had won some roles in radio and TV dramas and done some stage work as well, she had begun to wonder, well before her 30th birthday, late in 1956, whether acting was her true vocation, her true calling, after all. Like her mother, she had a talent not only for acting, but also for writing. And beginning in 1955 with a job in the publicity department of Alfred A. Knopf, she turned her attention increasingly to the world of writing and publishing.

Knopf, which had opened its doors in 1915 as an independent publishing firm, had long since been developing a kind of dependence on the much larger Random House, the company owned by Alfred Knopf's longtime personal friend Bennett Cerf. In 1960 the two firms would merge, and the Knopf imprint would become a subsidiary of Random House. But close cooperation between the two houses had been nothing unusual for several years before the merger became official.

And so it was that "[a]s a publicity assistant at Knopf, Joan read an advance copy of [Ayn] Rand's Atlas Shrugged [published by Random House in September 1957] and found the book fascinating. She wrote a letter of appreciation to the author, who responded by inviting her to lunch. The two women established a friendship, partly because of Joan's deep interest in Rand's [...] 'Objectivism.' For Joan, Rand blended literary aptitude and economic philosophy into an attractive package." (317-318)

Joan introduced her new friend to her father, and the two quickly became fast friends, getting together for evenings spent "[s]itting and listening to recordings of his works." According to Pegolotti, Rand asked Deems Taylor "to consider writing an opera based on her short science-fiction novel Anthem. The plot looked to a distant future when 'I' is lost from the language and only 'We' is used. The hero is the one who rediscovers 'I.' Rand suggested a Schoenberg-type modernist music for the 'non-I' portion, and then a change to romantic melodies of a Rachmaninoff-type when 'I' is rediscovered. But Taylor declined." (318)

Early in 1958, the psychologist Nathaniel Branden founded a new organization called Nathaniel Branden Lectures (it would change its name three years later to the Nathaniel Branden Institute - NBI) and began offering a course in the "Basic Principles of Objectivism." Joan Kennedy Taylor was among the first students to sign up. Another was a "talented writer and jack-of-all-trades" (319) named David Dawson, whom Joan had known since the early 1950s, and who had often helped to care for little Michael when his parents were busy with their careers. Joan and David tied the knot later in 1958 and remained happily married for more than twenty years – until Dawson's sudden death from a heart attack in 1979.

During the five years Joan spent between husbands, 1955-1958, she was not without male companionship. Her parents' many contacts in the literary world and her own close relations with Columbia University (the campus across the street from her own alma mater, the campus where she had met her first husband, the father of her child) brought her into contact with several of the most famous of the Beat Generation writers just before and just after they had made their first big splash as literary figures. She dated novelist Jack Kerouac a few times during the summer of 1957 and is said to have stayed up all night with him on the eve of the publication of On the Road, waiting for the first reviews. She told me on one occasion about a double date she had gone on with Kerouac and his friend Allen Ginsberg. Ginsberg, she said, was trying to become heterosexual on the advice of his psychiatrist. He later made advances to her, she said, asking her to initiate him into heterosexual sex. She declined.

Meanwhile, as a result of the contacts she had made among students of Ayn Rand's philosophy, she had begun paying more attention than she ever had before to the world of politics. During the presidential campaign of 1964, in which she favored the Republican candidate, Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, she helped to found the Metropolitan Young Republican Club of New York and served as editor of the group's newsletter. The following year, she introduced various radical changes to the newsletter and transformed it into the independent libertarian political magazine Persuasion, which she published on a monthly basis, with the assistance of David Dawson and Avis Brick, for the next three years. Later that year, Persuasion became the first and only political magazine ever personally endorsed and recommended by Ayn Rand. In the December 1965 issue of The Objectivist Newsletter, Rand wrote that Persuasion "does a remarkable educational job in tying current political events to wider principles, evaluating specific events in a rational frame-of-reference, and maintaining a high degree of consistency. It is of particular interest and value to all those who are eager to fight on the level of practical politics, but flounder hopelessly for lack of proper material."

When Joan closed Persuasion in 1968, it was not because her interest in writing about political ideas and issues had waned in the slightest, but rather because she wanted to devote more time to her newest passion: the writing of musical plays. Working with the composer George Broderick, she created a musical version of the Oscar Wilde short story "The Canterville Ghost," as well as another musical, North Star, based on the underground railroad that transported escaped slaves to freedom during the years before the U.S. Civil War. Neither of these musicals has been produced to date.

In 1977, Joan returned to political writing, taking a position as an associate editor on another monthly, The Libertarian Review. Over the next few years, she would follow this publication, and its eccentric, gifted editor-in-chief, Roy A. Childs, Jr., across the country and back, from New York to San Francisco and from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. When The Libertarian Review ceased publication at the end of 1981, she embarked on a career as an editor and freelance writer which occupied her for the rest of her life.

As publications director at the Manhattan Institute in the early 1980s, she shepherded a new book on welfare policy by a virtually unknown writer she had discovered named Charles Murray - a book called Losing Ground -- from manuscript to the national bestseller lists. At the Foundation for Economic Education in the mid-1980s, she served as editorial director of the book publishing progam and as an editor of the foundation's venerable monthly magazine, The Freeman. Throughout the 1980s, she was heard, along with such luminaries as Nat Hentoff, Nicholas Von Hoffman, Michael Kinsley, Julian Bond, and Senator William Proxmire, as a regular commentator on current issues and events on the nationally syndicated daily radio program Byline.

And all along, she was writing - for the Wall Street Journal, for the Washington Times, for Reason and Inquiry and Success and American Enterprise, and for scholarly publications like the Stanford Law & Policy Review, the CommLaw Conspectus: Journal of Communications Law and Policy, and the Journal of Information Ethics. She wrote monographs on feminist issues for the Cato Institute and the Hoover Institution. She contributed essays to a number of scholarly books.

And she wrote her own books, too. Reclaiming the Mainstream: Individualist Feminism Rediscovered (1992) elaborated her theory that the true origins of American feminism lay in the mid-19th century, when men and women of the "classical liberal" persuasion, many of them also involved in the abolitionist movement, began calling for an end to government policies that held women back. Today, she argued, feminists should return to their classical liberal roots, for they will find that opportunity and equality for women are best maximized through reliance on individual rights and the free market, rather than reliance on laws and government programs.

Her last book, What to Do When You Don't Want to Call the Cops: A Non-Adversarial Approach to Sexual Harassment, was published by New York University Press in 1999.

During the last fifteen years of her life, in addition to her writing and lecturing, Joan devoted much of her time to volunteer work for feminist organizations. From 1989 to 2003 she was national coordinator of the Association of Libertarian Feminists, and throughout the 1990s she served as a vice president and member of the board of directors of Feminists for Free Expression, a group of which she was a founding member.

For more than twenty years, ever since the death of Ayn Rand in 1982, Joan Kennedy Taylor was the leading woman intellectual in the libertarian movement. Only two other figures -- Sharon Presley and Wendy McElroy -- could make a claim to comparable stature. Her death is an irreparable loss to the movement she did so much to advance.


James A. Pegolotti, Deems Taylor: A Biography (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2003.

Ayn Rand, "A Recommendation." The Objectivist Newsletter, Vol. 4 No. 12, December 1965, p. 8.

Here is a remembrance from a friend of Joan. If you have your own memories to share, please post them here as comments. (If you have any trouble, e-mail Chris Whitten at

I shall miss Joan. I first met her in the late 1950s and was struck, not only by her intelligence and drive, but by the wonderful sunniness of her disposition. In good times and in bad in the years that followed, her impish grin seemed to say: "It's really pretty good, isn't it?" She always convinced me.

Joan had a talent for friendship. She was a loyal and caring friend -- as Roy Childs would attest, and as I, when she stood by me and defended me through one of the most difficult times of my life, also gratefully attest.

Rest well, dear Joan.

Barbara Branden


Blogger Wendy said...

Joan was a very bright light. Feminism and the lives of her many friends will be a little darker for her absence. I was lucky enough to sit beside her at a Liberty Fund conference in the summer of 2004 at Niagara-on-the-Lake. It was clear to me that Joan was in extremely ill health. Indeed, we spoke of her cancer at length. I am so glad I was able to tell her at that time how much her work and the example of her life meant to me. How very much I admired her both personally and professionally. We even laughed about an old debate on the ERA in which we had gone head-on-head. Rest in peace, Joan.

6:14 AM  
Blogger Friends of Joan said...

From Joe Wright

From the Objectivist Newsletter: Vol. 4 No. 12 December 1965
A Recommendation.

One cannot recommend a magazine or a periodical over whose future content one has no control – except conditionally or provisionally, in the form of a mere hypothesis based on past performance. Since there is no automatic guarantee of philosophical consistency, one can recommend a periodical only with the following warning to the readers: this publication deserves your attention, but we cannot guarantee or underwrite its future ideological position; judge for yourself.

With this reservation, I want to recommend to your attention a modest little periodical which I have watched for almost a year and found to be excellent in its particular field. It is called Persuasion. It is published monthly, in mimeographed form, by a private group, edited by Joan Kennedy Taylor, and distributed by the Metropolitan Young Republican Club.

Although Miss Taylor and some of the contributors are former NBI students, Persuasion is their own independent venture, speaks only for itself and has no connection with Objectivism other than the fact that its contributors may have accepted some Objectivist principles.

It is not a philosophical or theoretical, but specifically a political publication. Its value lies in an intellectual approach to concrete political problems. It does a remarkable educational job in tying current issues to wider principles, evaluating specific events in a rational frame-of-reference, and maintaining a high degree of consistency. It is of particular interest and value to all those who are eager to fight on the level of practical politics, but flounder hopelessly for lack of proper material.

I recommend it especially to the attention of Young Republican Clubs and other political youth groups or to those among them who are seriously concerned with the art of plitical argumentation.

For further details, contact Joan Kennedy Taylor, Persuasion, Inc. 160 West 86th Street, New York, N. Y. 10024

Ayn Rand

Joan Kennedy Taylor died this week.

She and her husband/companion David (whose last name I can't remember) provided writing classes which I attended. My first essay was entitled, "How to Have Your Rights and Eat Them Too," but since I had just arrived from KY with a certain accent, Joan was flabbergasted as to why I was proposing "How to Have Your Riots and Eat Them Too." I learned a lot about writing from Joan. And I admired David's sculpture of skyscrapers in Plexiglas many of which were fountains lighted from below. I remember attending a party where one of his Plexiglas fountains dispensed wine for the attendees. Surprisingly, I met Joan a few years ago and briefly shared memories about those writing classes and David's sculptures. She told me that David had died some years ago.

I have all issues of Persuasion and they live up to Ayn Rand's recommendation. Persuasion should be considered the first of many magazines and newsletters that came about because of Objectivism and a predecessor, for example, to The Intellectual Activist.

11:07 AM  
Blogger Friends of Joan said...

Duncan Scott said

Kennedy Taylor was interviewed for The Objectivist History Project on April 4th, 2004. Excerpts from the interview were shown at The Objectivist Center Summer Seminar in Vancouver in July 2004, with Miss Kennedy Taylor attending. She spoke of her close relationship with Ayn Rand, of her father, composer Deems Taylor, and his friendship with Rand in his later years. She described efforts by Objectivists to end the military draft which ultimately proved successful.

12:21 PM  
Blogger Sharon Presley said...

Joan was both a dear friend and colleague for many years. No one worked more tirelessly in the cause of libertarianism and libertarian feminism than Joan. Always a lady (in the best sense of the word), dignified, polite but at the same time approachable and unassuming. As a friend, she was delightful and full of fun. I too remember Joan's impish grin fondly. She was a good friend to me and supported and comforted me throughout a nightmare law suit (that I eventually won to her delight). No one could ask for a better friend.

Joan was just simply a wonderful person and I'll miss her very much.

6:16 PM  
Blogger Jeff Riggenbach said...

From Walter Block:

My life and that of Joan Kennedy Taylor intersected
through the intermediation of Roy Childs, a friend of
both of ours. Roy, Joan and I would hang out together
while we all three were in New York City. I had long
admired her from afar, and treasured the fact that I
was a friend of hers.

2:21 AM  
Blogger Friends of Joan said...

from Erika Holzer to Andrea Rich

Hank and I were terribly saddened to hear about Joan's death. (I knew from
you, Andrea, that she was in the hospital and very very ill.)

As you probably know, we lost touch with Joan and so many of our old
objectivist and libertarian friends when we moved to Santa Fe. I do
remember, Andrea, that either you assigned Joan to write a short review of
my novel "Double Crossing" for Laissez Faire Books or she volunteered, but
in any event, she was MOST gracious in what she wrote and I was always
grateful and told her so, as this was the period when I was being lambasted
by the Left for the anticommunist human rights theme of the book.

She had so many wonderful qualities, but what I loved best about her was her
can-do enthusiasm and generosity. There was a sort of luminosity about her.

Hank reminds me she was the founder of the Metropolitan Young Republican
Club, which was mostly made up of objectivists.

I'm sorry we can't remember more history but I'm confident you both have a
great deal of information on that. I don't know Joan's early relationship
with Ayn Rand because Hank and I were latecomers to that inner circle.


12:10 PM  
Blogger Friends of Joan said...

I felt so lucky that Joan agreed to be my friend. In the years after Roy's death, we hung around together a lot: Broadway shows, movies, lunches and dinners. She always focused on the most important feature of whatever we were watching (much preferred The Aviator to my vote for Million Dollar Baby last year because it showed that when Hughes needed to be functional, as at the Senate hearings, he was perfectly capable of being so. And that in the final analysis, the Eastwood movie was the story of a failure to live).

Joan never failed to live. She had great joie de vivre, a brilliant and incisive mind, and she was always ready to have fun.

The last couple of months were brutal for her and I'm so glad she's now at peace. Even though there's going to be a huge hole in my life from now on.
Andrea Millen Rich

12:20 PM  
Blogger sciabarra said...

I will miss her immensely. I blogged on her passing at Notablog, and would like to share that link with you:

12:48 PM  
Blogger sciabarra said...

Sorry, the link was too long:

12:50 PM  
Blogger Friends of Joan said...

From Reason Online

Joan Kennedy Taylor: An Appreciation
The late writer and editor was also great mentor and friend
Charles Murray

Joan Kennedy Taylor died last Saturday at the age of 78, ending a life of extraordinary intellectual achievement. Inspired by her parents (her mother was an actress and her father was composer Deems Taylor), she began her career in the theatre. She soon turned to the written word, however, and it was as an editor at Knopf that she saw an unpublished manuscript entitled Atlas Shrugged. She wrote a fan letter to its author, and so began a decade-long association with Ayn Rand’s circle. In the late 1960s she launched the libertarian magazine Persuasion, and subsequently became a member of the editorial staffs of Libertarian Review and The Freeman. From the 1980s onward, she increasingly devoted her efforts to advancing an individualist vision of feminism, serving as national coordinator of the Association of Libertarian Feminists and helping to found Feminists for Free Expression. Her prolific writings included the books Reclaiming the Mainstream: Individualist Feminism Rediscovered (1992) and Sexual Harassment: A Non-Adversarial Approach (2001). Charles Murray remembers a mentor and friend:

Many years after our friendship began, I saw a photograph of Joan Kennedy Taylor as a young woman. The shock of recognition was instantaneous. Dagny Taggart. I was looking at the cleanly defined planes, gravity, intensity, and radiant beauty that had been in my mind's eye since I had first read Atlas Shrugged as a teenager.

Joan was not Dagny. She laughed too much, for one thing, and was a devoted mother for another. But otherwise she was a Randian heroine.

Many people visit the world of ideas during their workday. Joan inhabited that world continuously. If she was your houseguest, you had better be prepared to talk about von Mises before the coffee was ready, and then to keep on talking about serious thinkers (embarrassingly many of whom you had never heard of) and about serious ideas for the rest of the day. I count myself as one of the people Joan cared about, but the last time I saw her—our first meeting in more than a year, and we both knew it would be our last—any catching-up had to wait. I had sent her the manuscript of my new book, and as we sat down, her first words—I'm not exaggerating here—after "Hello, so good to see you," were, "Now, in chapter one…" Caring about her friends meant caring about their work. There was nothing impersonal in this. She would get around to asking about the family later and be absorbed in the answers (for years, she sent our children Christmas presents). But ideas came first.

In the battle for liberty, Joan fought in the trenches. She had a public side to her work through her books and her years as a commentator for the Cato Institute's syndicated radio program Byline for ten years. Her book Reclaiming the Mainstream was a superb statement of what feminism should be about. But much of what she accomplished, especially when she was directing publications at the Manhattan Institute and later at the Foundation for Economic Education, was to find others a place to stand—a place from which, with a little luck, they could nudge the world.

I do not know how many places she found for others. I do know that it was her phone call to me in the late summer of 1982, asking if I wanted to make a book out of an article I had written, that led to my book Losing Ground. Bill Hammett, then president of the fledgling Manhattan Institute, scraped up money to let me pay the rent while Joan found a publisher in Basic Books and gave me editorial feedback as she saw chunks of the draft. She never pushed me to come up with the conclusions she preferred; she scrupulously avoided anything that smacked of intellectual pressure. But I will never forget the day I first saw her after she had read the draft chapters of Part IV, the ones that argued for scrapping the welfare state. I cannot remember her exact words. I do remember that her face was glowing and that she said something like "This is what I knew you could do." I also know that no praise has ever meant more to me.

William Dean Howells once said of Mark Twain that, good as Twain's written work might be, Twain's conversation over the dinner table was more brilliant yet. In the same way, Joan's greatest genius was expressed not in her written work, but in the way she lived her life. Joan was a part of Ayn Rand's circle for years. I do not know what specific aspects of Objectivism she retained and which she modified in her own beliefs, but she lived the essence of Rand's concept of happiness as the moral purpose of life, productive achievement as life's noblest activity, and reason as her absolute.

Up to the end. We concluded that last visit by going out to dinner—Joan, her son Michael, my wife Catherine, and me—at a chic Chelsea restaurant. Joan had barely eaten in weeks. She had just gotten out of the hospital, where she had been given nourishment intravenously. But she was looking good in a little black dress, and was still in full conversational flight about the new book as we sat down. When I told the waiter I wanted a martini, straight up, with a twist, the words were barely out of my mouth before Joan said, "I'll have the same." She drank every drop, and followed it up by eating every bite of every course. Joan did not go quietly into that good night. She did not rage against it either. As life's end approached, she worked on a new project and then went out and had a good time. When our hour comes, may all of us who say the right things about the meaning of life affirm them so buoyantly.

Charles Murray is W.H. Brady Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and author, most recently, of Human Accomplishment (HarperCollins).


12:51 PM  
Blogger Friends of Joan said...

If for no other reason than her ability to coax ideas in written form out of Roy Childs, Joan's place in heaven would be assured. But there was much more than that, starting with her own persuasive, passionate, and well-structured writings, her persistent and dignified stand for freedom, and her commitment to culture and freedom. When we met to discuss promotion of her book on "Sexual Harassment: A Non-Adversarial Approach," I remember being again impressed by her commitment to finding solutions to problems and conflicts that preserved both dignity and freedom. I also fondly recall the island of calm she often was back at Libertarian Review.

Joan was a lovely lady and a true and loyal friend of liberty. She will be sorely missed.

Tom G. Palmer

5:18 PM  
Blogger Jon Carriel said...

As a result of Ayn Rand's endorsement of Persuasion, I met Joan and David Dawson in 1966, when I was a sophomore at NYU. Though I was just a college kid and they were real grown-ups, we developed a rapport that was far more comfortable than I felt with any others of the Objectivist milieu. I joined their Metropolitan Young Republican Club -- Yes! I was a teenage Republican! -- and enjoyed David's seminars and organized a campus presentation for him. A couple years later, the Objectivists blew their pressure cooker to smithereens, and I was pleased to find Joan and David in Lee Shulman's bi-monthly group therapy sessions with me. We all got some good yoks out of our common experience of not wanting to choose one "side" or the other, but finding that not choosing sides automatically settled us on That Side, the bad bad Side, and no amount of quoting Rand on the virtues of independent thinking and believing only the direct evidence of your senses would ever get you off it. (Settled Randism's hash for good and all, far as I was concerned!) I read Lee & Joan's book, read David's quite good plays, and (along with young Michael Cook) played a lead in "The Canterville Ghost," which Joan had written with the delightful George Broderick.

Our paths diverged in the early '70s. I decided that three years of shrinking my head were quite enough (and perhaps the problem was to expand it), and Joan and David left the city for Massachusetts. Alas, I never saw David again. However, after years of holding the Libertarian Party at arm's length, I broke down in the mid-'80s and decided to Do Something for The Cause. A reunion with Joan was one of not all that many good things that happened as a result of three years of serious participation in the LP. When she moved back to Manhattan, I became the "publisher" of her ALF Newsletter -- which meant that four evenings a year we'd get together and knock her essays into presentably-formatted columns.

A quirk I always found amusing (that perhaps some neurosurgeon will have to explain to me): Joan was undeniably brilliant, and could convincingly discuss the proper direction for the libertarian or the feminist movement (or the USA -- whatever!), but she had the worst sense of geography of anyone I've ever met! We met many, many times in my Midtown office, and each time she'd require directions to the xerox and the rest room. She went sailing on my boat once, on the Hudson, just north of the city; and after hours of looking at two parallel shorelines, she flabbergasted me by innocently inquiring if we were on a river!

By the time Joan asked me to help with the ALF Newsletter (and to become one of her stable of PC gurus), I'd had it with Objectivism, with gay lib, and with the Libertarian Party. I still honored many of the ideas, but the institutions? Oy! Why throw good time after bad? Yet I nonetheless yearned to contribute in some form other than writing checks, and I realized that one institution I could always believe in ... was Joan Kennedy Taylor.

In all the years since, she never let me down, and I'll forever miss the chance to contribute in that modest but greatly rewarding way again.

7:45 PM  
Blogger Friends of Joan said...

Just got back from Joan's funeral. Stockbridge is famed as among the loveliest of all New England towns, and on an unseasonably gentle fall afternoon it was easy to see why she loved it so. Inside the First Congregational Church, with its stark white interior of perfect proportions, a plaque proclaims that the parish's second minister was none other than celebrated theologian Jonathan Edwards ("Sinner in the Hands of an Angry God", 1741). I don't know what Joan would have thought if asked about sharing the church with the spirit of J.E., but I'll bet she would have said something diplomatic and funny while smiling that smile of hers.

Afterwards there was a reception at a mountain retreat, hosted by Joan's son and daughter-in-law, Michael and Melissa. Some of the attendees were up from New York, as we were, but it was especially pleasing to meet longtime friends and neighbors from Stockbridge who were full of reminiscences about Joan's lively contributions to the Berkshire social and arts scene, such as the dramatists' workshop she ran for years with David Dawson. "She was the most beautiful ingenue," said Sally, a local friend of long standing who had known Joan's parents. "And she did love to get dressed up." Lois, the minister who presided over the service, mentioned that in 1970 Joan and she had gotten together and launched the women's movement in the Berkshires -- "one from the left, one from the right".

I posted some other comments about Joan earlier this week at my weblog:

Walter Olson

6:37 AM  
Blogger Walter Olson said...

Sorry, the link was too long, try this:

6:57 AM  
Blogger Friends of Joan said...

From Ann E W Stone

My deep friendship with Joan started as hers did with Ayn Rand, with a fan letter.

I had gotten a copy of her very recently published book, Reclaiming the Mainstream..., in 1992 through David Boaz at CATO. While reading it on a plane, her writing had such a profound impact on me that I yelled (out loud on a crowded plane), "That's me!", when I got to the section that described individualist feminists. When I came to my senses and looked around at the startled passengers I vowed that I had to meet this author...

Through my work earlier and then the group I had co-founded, Republcan's for Choice, I had been a member/follower of the women's movement for years, but until I read Joan's book I had never been comfortable with the label feminist...Joan had helped me find my place...

I wasn't sure what to expect when I wrote her but her reply was quick and to the point..."Let's have lunch next time I (Joan) am in DC."

With that first lunch came many more. I visited her in NYC and went to a variety of events with her...she stayed at my home in Alexandria, Virginia (when she wasn't taking a "vacation" in the DC suburbs with the Murrays) whenever she was in the DC area.

If there was a CATO event anywhere in the DC area when she was in town...Joan and I went together.

My family got to know and enjoy her as well...whether we were all discussing philosophy, current events, policy or just swapping stories...

She loved to hear my political war stories and I marveled at her tales about her famous and talented father and her participation in the Rand inner one of the few women who made it in...

One thing that might surprise some of her friends is that whenever she stayed the whole weekend, she would ask to go to church with me.

I will never forget her story about Ayn Rand and her father on the subject of religion and going to church. She said that Rand had chided her to never put down her father's faith and support for the church...I remember it as the only thing Joan ever mentioned that in any way involved Rand speaking well of religion. Joan said she, herself, took comfort in the ritual of the church service and enjoyed going with me.

Then there came that awful, yet wonderful, weekend. Joan called out of the blue to ask if she could come down and visit me. I told her that I was supposed to leave town on Saturday. Then she said to me "Ann, I have never asked this before, will you cancel those plans and visit with me?" I didn't know what was going on but of course I changed my plans. Shortly after she arrived at my home, she told me that she was diagnosed with cancer and wanted to spend quality time with her friends before events took their toll on her.

Since I lived so far from her I was privileged to be one of the first.

I was crushed and told her that surely there must be hope. She said she was going fight it as best she could but that she wanted to maximize each day and get to see as many friends as possible.

We talked at length about her family and growing up. She lamented that she now might not have enough time to finish organizing her father's papers. That had become her number one mission in life.

We talked about the sorry state of the women's movement and what was to be done...or as our mutual friend, Ed Crane, would say..."the Chick movement."

I reminded her of the impact she had had on me and my outlook. I also reminded her that through the cases of her books she had gotten sent to me...I had had her work sent to libraries in Embassies of the emerging democracies all over Eastern Europe... I always talked about Ayn Rand and Joan's books whenever I gave speeches to women's groups worldwide. I am still trying to get more of Rand's works into those libraries to counter some of the dribble that otherwise predominates those shelves.

The last time I saw Joan was at the black tie tribute to her at the Harvard Club in NYC. She looked radiant that night. I took loads of pictures of her, the speakers and her friends and a great picture of her and Michael, all of which I sent to her by email and on a disc. Her note of thanks back was very touching.

We talked after that by phone and by email but there were to be no more visits...she had scheduled some but each were canceled due to ill health.

Her great friend Andrea Rich alerted me recently that things were going downhill fast. And I thank her for letting me know that Joan was at peace in the end.

To her family, other friends and especially Michael, all I can say is that we were all blessed to have had her as a part of our lives. She will never die because of the great memories she has left with those whose lives she touched.

4:23 PM  
Blogger Friends of Joan said...

From Vince Miller

Although I knew Joan was in failing health I was still shocked and greatly saddened by her passing.

As many of her friends have noted, she had a wonderful, sunny disposition and a great sense of humor. It was fun to be with her.
After Joan spoke at our ISIL world conference in Sweden in 1986 I recall (on our return flight from Stockholm) being seated next to Joan and Karl Hess. Now that was a rare and memorable experience.
Joan regaled us with stories about her relationship with Ayn Rand, relating among them that Ayn had confided to her that she considered libertarianism to be the legitimate political wing of the Objectivist ethic – but that it was too early for electoral politics. How right she was.

I'll miss you Joan. Rest well.

5:12 AM  
Blogger phendine said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:27 AM  
Blogger Friends of Joan said...

Eulogy at her burial in Stockbridge, MA

My name is Gene Schwartz.

I first met Joan almost fifty years ago.

Dear Joan.

Known to all of us as the daughter of Deems and Mary.

The mother of Michael, who is joined by his wife, Melissa

Once wife to the late Donald.

Widow to her lifetime friend, admirer and lover, David, who proved himself early on as
the baby sitter and gofer to a single mother who then became his wife.

Steadfast sister in the Stockbridge women’s group whose members meant so much to her.

Champion for the rights and liberties of all, including the powerless as well as the powerful among us.

Joan, whose annual Christmas tree trimmings both here and in New York City brought plump turkeys and hungry friends together in vibrant networks – picking up conversations that had been suspended the year before as if it were yesterday;

Networks now bereaved of their spinner; turkeys to be carved at other tables.

I mention the turkeys, because cooking was not one of Joan’s favorite arts – but she bravely undertook the task each year, because as she did in all else, if something was to be done, it had to be done right. And nothing was worth the doing if its fruits could not be enjoyed.

Joan not only loved life, but she loved the idea of life.

Her own life was full of importances, as a result – the importance of family, of friendship, of thought and reason, of ideas and their consequence.

She lived comfortably, but modestly, enlivened by large purposes and small delights. Any of us who spent time with Joan could not help but notice the ease with which she could move from talk of fixing the boiler to fixing the world.

Most notably, I believe, and what leaves us all touched for an eternity by her presence in our lives, is what we know of what Joan did with hers, her remarkable grasp of literature, history, philosophy and politics, and her ability to present lucidly and indelibly a synopsis of the considerations in any situation.

Having completely exposed the flaw in your argument, in the event that were the case, she left you feeling that she had just steered you in the right direction.

Who is this woman who, in the last few years was feted at the Manhattan Institute for her contributions to its mission of bringing new authors of libertarian thought to the mainstream of publishing, and only recently in September received the Thomas Szasz Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Cause of Civil Liberties, presented at the George Mason University School of Law in Arlington.

For the facts of Joan’s life a good biography is now on the web, prepared by Jeff Riggenbach, a friend and colleague whom she met in the early years of her involvement in the Libertarian movement. You may have copies.

Riggenbach, in turn, draws some material from her father’s biographer, James Pegglotti, in his 2003 biography of Deems Taylor. Using some of their words in what follows, I will paint for you in broader strokes the outline of a lifetime that passed through the years of the Great Depression, the Second World War, the post-war awakening of the Beat Generation and the counterculture (or the real culture some would say), the birth of the intellectual libertarian and conservative movements in America, and the planting by one single remarkable woman, Ayn Rand, of an innovative and controversial literary voice and philosophical movement that has shaped the thinking of generations of young people who have read her novels.

Much of Joan’s social and professional life after she read Atlas Shrugged in 1957, wrote to Ayn Rand, and met and befriended her was shaped by Rand’s focus on the importance of reason as the means of our survival, of philosophy as the explication of our view of life, and of art and literature as the most persuasive vehicles through which human beings of talent can express and describe how they think life ought to be.

As were many of us, Joan and David were inspired by her teachings, developed profound lifetime friendships as a consequence.

Earlier, while completing four years at Barnard College, Joan had thought to pursue an acting career. This interest grew naturally out of her childhood experiences.

Born in 1926 in New York City, she was the daughter of the noted American composer and music critic, Deems Taylor, and of the Broadway actress and poet, Mary Kennedy – both of whom were among the colorful artists who populated the Algonquin Round Table group of that era. Given such parents, her early interest in the theater and leading a footloose bohemian lifestyle was appealing – although it would have been clear to all here that Joan was meant for a steadier path in life.

While at college she met Donald Cook, a psychology major at Columbia – destined to be the father of Michael – Michael, to whom was passed along the streak of the theatrical, those of you who know him may have noticed. Donald and Joan were married in 1948 and while Donald was teaching Joan gained some supporting roles on live television. Regrettably at the time, the marriage did not endure and they were divorced in 1953.

Meanwhile, Michael joined the family in 1950 and Joan continued her interest in radio, TV and the stage. She also began to question her calling. Like her mother, Mary, she had a gift for writing. And beginning in 1955 with a job in the publicity department of Alfred A. Knopf she turned her attention increasingly to the world of writing and publishing. It was also during that period of single motherhood, from 1953 – 1958 that she first met David Dawson at Columbia, who Michael recalls as having become instantly useful as a baby sitter and all about enabler.

She also met and enjoyed friendships with many of the emerging Beat Generation personalities such as Jack Kerouac and his friend Allan Ginsberg.

In 1959, she and David Dawson were married, forging a joyful and creative personal and professional partnership that lasted for more than twenty years until David’s untimely heart attack in 1979. She will be joining him today, at their resting place in the Stockbridge cemetery where, each year at Memorial day she would come and plant red and white impatiens to border the stone. She also, in earlier years would attend Sally Begley’s grand picnic up on the hill.

Joan loved dressing up for a formal event, and that same weekend, for some years the Blantyre Castle auction afforded just the opportunity for her to sport her finest and her prettiest. Topped by a few glasses of bubbly, Joan was at her effervescent best, relaxing in her parlor later with some records of Cole Porter or Noel Coward, the light music and witty lyrics she and David reveled in so often, perhaps leavened with Deems’ Thee Centuries Suite, surrounded by her father’s paintings and sculptures, her own vast collection of books, some of Mary’s Chinese artifacts, and cherished Mike Brady paintings.

While she and David lived on West 86th street in Manhattan, Joan brought her failing father into their home for several years before he died. She was, incidentally, dutiful and devoted to both of her parents, tending later to a very independent and feisty mother , who for awhile had a house here in Stockbridge, and who remained active as a poet throughout her declining years.

On 86th street, David opened a marvelous workshop where he made and marketed Lucite recirculating fountains, held lectures on epistemology, and kept a small offset press used for printing the circulars and tracts that came out of his and Joan’s political and educational endeavors.

Into that shop, incidentally, came my young son and daughter to visit from time to time where, with wide-eyed wonder they marveled at this room full of contraptions from which they took home with them collections of David’s magic Lucite crystals.

Joan and David also had a clever cat with piercing black eyes named Person with whom I had a wary relationship when we shared their home together.

As you know, in addition to their apartment in New York, Joan bought a house in Stockbridge, and she and David spent whatever time they could turning it into what became their primary residence. They entered into the community with gusto and rapidly forged a lifetime of friendships.

During her years with David, they pursued the creative interests they brought with them into their marriage and the political interests in support of libertarian and conservative causes that grew out of it.

In an early expression of the courage of conviction, Joan was instrumental in founding the Metropolitan Young Republican club in 1964 – if you can imagine campaigning for Barry Goldwater in Manhattan in those years. Later that year she launched the independent libertarian Magazine, Persuasion, the only such publication personally endorsed by Ayn Rand, who observed that “it is of particular interest and value to all those eager to fight on the level of practical politics, but flounder hopelessly for lack of proper material.”

Through Persuasion, Joan revealed and sharpened her capacity to explain and illuminate the ideas that energize political action, and that anchored her writings on the goal of politics as an endeavor that seeks to protect and expand our rights in a free society.

During this time she also began work with the musician and composer George Broderick. Together they developed two musicals, one of Oscar Wilde’s short story “The Canterville Ghost, “ and an original play, North Star, based on the underground railroad that transported slaves north before the civil war. Both received dramatic tryouts but were not produced.

Then followed a series of positions in New York, San Francisco and Washington, DC -- first as associate editor with the Libertarian Review in 1977, then in the eighties as publications director for the Manhattan Institute, followed by editorial director of the book publishing program at the Foundation for Economic Education.

It was during that period, and after David’s death, that she worked with and befriended the gifted Libertarian Review editor, Roy A. Childs – for whom in his declining years she provided constant support -- and that she helped bring to the public the then unknown author Charles Murray’s first book, Losing Ground.

She continued writing for major newspapers and journals, and wrote two books of her own, Reclaiming the Mainstream: Individualist Feminism Rediscovered in 1992, and in 1999, What to Do When You Don’t Want to Call the Cops: A Non-Adversarial Approach to Sexual Harassment, published by the NYU Press.

During the last fifteen years of her life, in addition to writing and lecturing, Joan also devoted much of her time to two feminist organizations, as national coordinator of the Association of Libertarian Feminists, and as editor of its newsletter, and as a vice president and member of the board of directors of Feminists for Free Expression.

Riggenbach characterizes Joan, in the years following the death of Ayn Rand in 1982 as “the leading woman intellectual in the libertarian movement,” her death “an irreparable loss to the movement she did so much to advance.”

Here today, however, for all of us, we grieve at the untimely loss – untimely even at 78, for she surely would have been good for another twenty – of a woman who each of us could not help but prize for her friendship, wisdom, generosity, good nature and boundless optimism in the perfectibility of human society.

Joan was not without her weaknesses and vulnerabilities – she was, after all, a human being – but I remember her always sparkling in the joy of conversation, serenely absorbed in a book whenever there were spaces to fill, ready to lend a helping hand, rarely asking for anything in return – a diminutive woman whose personal integrity and belief in the power of good ideas never left me in doubt about her inner strength and courage.

I also loved Joan as a friend. She could do no wrong in my eyes. She was perhaps the most important mentor in my life.

Joan was not given to extended expressions of sentiment – you knew of her caring through her acknowledgment of your person and the respect and attention she would accord you. I think, though, she would want to thank so many of you who lent your support , advice and counsel – especially recently Andrea and Lois -- in the trying years and months as she fought the cancer that drew us all to gather here, and that took her on her final journey.

I think she would want you all to know, with a smile and a twinkle in her eyes, that she truly loved you for who you are.

And above and beyond, I know she was and would be proud of you, Michael, her son and best friend in the end, and your cherished partner, Melissa.

Bless you, Joan, and God speed.
November 4, 2005

12:19 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home