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Biographer Hazel Rowley has died

March 20, 2011 |  4:02 pm

Franklinandeleanor Biographer Hazel Rowley died March 1 in Manhattan. Her most recent book, "Franklin and Eleanor," reached No.  18 on the L.A. Times bestseller list.

Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in October,  "Franklin and Eleanor" was a dual biography of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, "one of the most inspiring couples of all times," which looked at their marriage as a "bold and radical partnership."

Reviewing "Franklin and Eleanor," Wendy Smith wrote: 

The author's ambition is commendable, her admiration for both Roosevelts evident. Her narrative, however, labors under substantial handicaps. As was the case with Rowley's previous biography, "Tête-à-Tête: Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre," the vast majority of the material has been covered in many other books.

Rowley herself found some of those prior biographies to be lacking insight. In a November interview with The Oregonian in Portland, she said:

I was surprised that so many scholars have swallowed the myth that Eleanor was a reluctant first lady, supposedly dismayed by the 1932 election results that catapulted her and FDR into the White House. And I am surprised (appalled, really) by the condescending tone with which so many Americans talk about this truly bold, unconventional marriage.

Rowley was the author of two additional biographies: "Christina Stead," about the Australian author, and "Richard Wright," about the author of the landmark novel "Native Son."

Rowley was born in London and moved with her family to Australia when she was 8. Her book "Christina Stead" won the Australian  National Book Award. She later moved to New York, where she lived for many years.

According to the New York Times, Rowley had suffered a series of strokes after an undiagnosed infection. She was 59.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

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