In Memoriam: Elisabeth Young-Bruehl

We at Yale University Press are very sad to report the untimely passing of Elisabeth Young-Bruehl last Thursday, December 1, at age 65. As a psychoanalyst and philosopher, Young-Bruehl brought her interest in the ideologies of prejudice to her many books, including her YUP biographies of Anna Freud and mentor Hannah Arendt.

Combining not only psychology and philosophy, but literature, history, law, feminism, humanism, and above all social conscience, Young-Bruehl was a vocal advocate of anti-prejudice thought, most recently giving a talk for the New York Institute for the Humanities to discuss the work behind her last and forthcoming book, Childism: Confronting Prejudice Against Children. Early reader Diane Ravitch, author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System, wrote “Childism is an alarming analysis of the policies and behaviors that are so harmful to our children. Young-Bruehl’s deeply humane insights should be required reading for policymakers and parents.”

Only a month ago, we posted an article to our blog in response to the front page story about recent deaths connected to the disciplinary practices espoused in a book on child rearing, relating it to Childism, which explores the mistreatment of children as comparable to other forms of discrimination like racism, sexism, and homophobia. The post started quite a buzz on Facebook and Twitter from users anxious to engage with the controversial nature of the book, and of course, spanking.

“The struggle against childism is one of the most important battles we will ever wage, for it is a fight for the future,” writes Elisabeth in the Introduction to her new book. Next month, when we publish Childism, we will also have an interview with Young-Bruehl, conducted earlier this fall. Reading all the social media attention had excited Elisabeth to contribute more blog pieces on the book, but in her memory, we will champion her cause to not only raise awareness within our society, but to suggest and provide ways that we can fight oppression of children. We have been well-advised by Elisabeth’s echo from Dominique Browning’s memorial post on Young-Bruehl’s “Who’s Afraid of Social Democracy?” blog: “Cherish the time you have. Cherish this world. Be gentle, but be strong. Live in love.”

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