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EPIC/SPS TALK: “A Difficult Woman: The Challenging Politics of Lillian Hellman” with Alice Kessler-Harris

In writing about playwright and memoirist Lillian Hellman, Columbia University professor Alice Kessler-Harris looks beyond the boundaries of Hellman’s life. She presents Hellman as a fascinating and flawed woman who was also a lens through which we can study a whole series of events and trends of the 20th century. She tackled serious issues, writing of corruption, fascism and the power of money in her most famous plays — "The Children’s Hour," "The Little Foxes" and "Watch on the Rhine." Hellman, who took courses at Columbia, was a self-made woman when that was a rarity. Kessler-Harris’s book, A Difficult Woman: The Challenging Life and Times of Lillian Hellman (Bloomsbury Press), makes it clear how complicated she was.

Kessler-Harris’ research focuses on women’s history, the labor movement and radical politics—all of which her subject exemplified. She is R. Gordon Hoxie Professor of American History, emerita; former president of the Organization of American Historians and the Labor and Working Class History Association. Her books include Out to Work: A History of Wage-Earning Women in the United States; and In Pursuit of Equity: Women, Men, and the Quest for Economic Citizenship in Twentieth Century America.

EPIC/SPS Talks, with discussion, are a collaboration between three organizations: Emeritus Professors in Columbia (EPIC); Columbia University School of Professional Studies (SPS); and Morningside Retirement and Health Services (MRHS). This is the third year for the series which is open to the public without charge. Talks are held in the MRHS Center at 100 LaSalle Street in Manhattan (enter through the door under green awning marked MRHS).

This event is free and will be followed by a reception.


Alice Kessler-Harris, Professor Emerita in American History in Honor of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Columbia University