Barbara Ehrenreich, the muckraking author, activist and journalist who in such notable works as “Nickel and Dimed” and “Bait and Switch” challenged conventional thinking about class, religion and the very idea of an American dream, has died at age 81.
Ehrenreich died Thursday morning in Alexandria, Virginia, according to her son, the author and journalist Ben Ehrenreich. She had recently suffered a stroke.
“She was, she made clear, ready to go,” Ben Ehrenreich tweeted Friday. “She was never much for thoughts and prayers, but you can honor her memory by loving one another, and by fighting like hell.”
Barbara Ehrenreich was a Montana native, raised in a union household where family rules included “never cross a picket line and never vote Republican.”
A prolific author who regularly turned out books and newspaper and magazine articles, she was a longtime proponent of liberal causes from economic equality to abortion rights. For “Nickel and Dimed,” one of her best known books, she worked in minimum wage jobs so she could learn firsthand the struggles of the working poor, whom she called “the major philanthropists of our society.”
“They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high,” she wrote. “To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone.”