‘Myth busting’ writer, activist Ehrenreich dies

Published 4:14 pm Tuesday, September 6, 2022

NEW YORK (AP) — Barbara Ehrenreich, the author, activist and self-described “myth buster” who in such notable works as “Nickel and Dimed” and “Bait and Switch” challenged conventional thinking about class 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.

A prolific author who regularly turned out books and newspaper and magazine articles, Ehrenreich honed an accessible prose style that brought her a wide readership for otherwise unsettling and unsentimental ideas.

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A proponent of liberal causes from unions to abortion rights, Ehrenreich often drew upon her own experiences to communicate her ideas.

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.”

Ehrenreich wrote for The New York Times, The Nation, Vogue and many other publications, and her other books included “The Worst Years of Our Lives: Irreverent Notes from a Decade of Greed,” “Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War” and “Fear of Falling: The Inner Life of the Middle Class.”