Barbara Ehrenreich, creator of ‘Nickel and Dimed,’ dies at 81

Barbara Ehrenreich, the creator, journalist and political activist whose groundbreaking work of immersive journalism, “Nickel and Dimed,” presaged and arguably helped spark the resurgence of the American labor motion, has died. She was 81.

Ehrenreich died Thursday in Alexandria, Va., after lately struggling a stroke, the Related Press reported Friday.

“Sad news. Barbara Ehrenreich, my one and only mother, died on September 1, a few days after her 81st birthday,” her son, creator and journalist Ben Ehrenreich, tweeted Friday.

“She was, she made clear, ready to go. She was never much for thoughts and prayers, but you can honor her memory by loving one another, and by fighting like hell,” he wrote.

Following information of her dying, writers, journalists and activists took to social media to pay their respects.

“Heartland” creator Sarah Smarsh known as Ehrenreich’s contributions to U.S. discourse round class and injustice “immeasurable. … May she rest in peace, & may we include class in every conversation about justice.”

Robert Reich, former U.S. secretary of Labor, known as her “inimitable. … Our abiding thanks to her for her contributions to the labor, progressive and women’s movements, her brilliant literary journalism, and her tenacious appeals to common sense. She will be sorely missed.”

“Barbara Ehrenreich changed my life in many ways,” tweeted New York state Rep. Emily Gallagher. “Not only was I forever inspired by ‘Nickel and Dimed,’ I recently took a deeper dive into her earlier feminist pamphlets and felt kinship by her relentless pursuit of socialist feminism. Thank you Barbara [heart emoji] we continue your work.”

The Montana-born author, additionally identified for “Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream” and “Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer,” rallied for increased minimal wage, pushed towards white privilege and challenged typical excited about race, faith, class, American exceptionalism, gender politics, the mechanics of pleasure and the hole between wealthy and poor.

A proponent of liberal causes akin to financial equality and abortion rights, Ehrenreich wrote 20 books and was additionally the founding editor of the Financial Hardship Reporting Undertaking. She often contributed to the Los Angeles Instances and different publications akin to Mom Jones and the Nation.

Her 1989 e-book, “Fear of Falling: The Inner Life of the Middle Class,” was nominated for a Nationwide Guide Critics Circle Award. Her 2001 bestseller, “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America,” traced her personal journey as a waitress and lodge housekeeper, amongst different low-income jobs, and have become one in all her best-known works.

In that e-book, she wrote “to be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone.” She realized — and wrote — that dwelling on $7 an hour was not a method to stay in any respect.

In a 2001 assessment for The Instances, Stephen Metcalf known as the e-book “thoroughly enjoyable, written with an affable, up-your-nose brio throughout. Ehrenreich is a superb and relaxed stylist, and she has a tremendous sense of rueful humor. … Social critics often sting but just as often lack real antiseptic power. Not so Ehrenreich, an old-time southpaw, a leftie without a trace of the apologetic squeak that’s recently crept into the voice of the left — and crept in while conservatives have stertorously monopolized phrases like ‘civilized society.’”

In 2009, Ehrenreich requested in The Instances if feminism had “been replaced by the pink-ribbon breast cancer cult,” hoping to ignite a brand new girls’s well being motion. In 2014, she requested “how do we reconcile the mystical experience with daily life” for a memoir that she by no means got down to write, considering the shape was too self-involved.

Nonetheless, she crafted “Living With a Wild God: A Nonbeliever’s Search for the Truth About Everything,” a private historical past and religious inquiry that pulled from journals she wrote between the ages of 14 and 24.

In a 2014 assessment of the e-book, David L. Ulin, a former Instances books editor and critic, emphasised that the memoir was “not a book of faith. Educated as a scientist, trained as a reporter, Ehrenreich does not believe in what she cannot see. As such, she turns to philosophy, chemistry and physics; she traces the influence of her home life, which was dysfunctional (both parents were alcoholics) but encouraged asking questions and thinking for oneself.”

Barbara Alexander was born in Butte, Mont., in 1941, to a mom who was a homemaker and a father who was a copper miner earlier than incomes a PhD from Carnegie Mellon College and changing into the director of analysis at Gillette.

In response to the Related Press, she was raised in a union family the place household guidelines included “never cross a picket line and never vote Republican.”

She additionally mentioned she was born and raised into atheism “by people who had derived their own atheism from a proud tradition of working-class rejection of authority in all its forms, whether vested in bosses or priests, gods or demons.” She was a pupil activist, was educated as a scientist — she studied physics at Reed Faculty and earned a PhD in mobile biology from Rockefeller College in 1968 — however educated as a instructor and reporter.

After getting her doctorate, she joined a gaggle of activists making an attempt to enhance healthcare for poor New Yorkers, which cemented her love of reporting and writing. “Health seemed related to biology,” she advised the Washington Publish in 2005.

Her 1983 e-book, “The Hearts of Men: American Dreams and the Flight From Commitment,” helped her get assignments on the New York Instances and launched her journalism profession. She wrote an everyday column for Time from 1990 to 1997. Her most notable books from that interval embrace “Fear of Falling” and “Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War.”

Barbara Ehrenreich in New York in 2007.

(Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg by way of Getty Pictures)

In 2019, after the discharge of “Natural Causes,” she explored “Silicon Valley syndrome,” or “towering hubris,” the pursuit of not simply extending the standard of life however dwelling eternally.

The prolific creator advised The Instances that when she realized she was sufficiently old to die, she determined she would put up with no extra “suffering, annoyance and boredom” in pursuit of an extended life. As a substitute, she opted to decide on the meals she appreciated, the train that sufficed and the physician visits that addressed the pains she really felt. On the time, she had simply launched “Natural Causes.”

Ehrenreich was motivated by a need to make clear atypical folks in addition to the “overlooked and the forgotten,” her editor, Sara Bershtel, advised the New York Instances.

She is survived by her son and her daughter, Rosa Brooks.