Veteran Feminists of America

Eleanor Foa Dienstag


The feminist movement transformed my life as a wife, mother, sister, daughter and writer.

In 1970, as a married woman with two children, I moved -unhappily and reluctantly- from New York City to Rochester, New York because of a job opportunity for my husband. I was back in New York for a visit, pushing my baby in a stroller when I came upon the March down Fifth Avenue. I had already committed myself to the Women's Movement and published an article in Ms. Magazine on the subject of being an "uprooted wife." When I saw all my peers assembled for the March I decided I absolutely had to be a part of it, picked up a "Women Unite" shopping bag (now framed and on my wall), and marched. The event galvanized me to further action.

Back in Rochester I joined the local NOW chapter, organized and participated in a series of sit-ins and, most importantly, covered the movement as a free-lance writer, writing essays, news stories and feature stories from a feminist point of view. In 1974, for example, I wrote a long pioneering piece on radical mastectomies, which pointed out how male doctors were not giving women less-radical treatment options, options that were already being offered in Canada.

In 1974, I walked away from a 17-year marriage with few assets and two children, ages 9 and 5, to support. In 1976, I published a feminist memoir, Whither Thou Goest: The Story of an Uprooted Wife (E P Dutton). In it I confronted an issue that had never been written about from a wife's perspective -following a husband because ofhis career. The book created a furor and became an instant best seller in Rochester. It was widely and favorably reviewed by, among others, the New York Times and Business Week for its insights into marriage and the corporate life. A lecture tour and regional book tour followed publication. The book went into several printings and was picked up by several book clubs.

In 1978, after a 3-year custody battle, I moved back to New York City as a single mother and made a leap from the life of a free-lance writer to the life of a corporate writer. As I used to say, I had to support "the wife and kids." I served as chief speech writer to the CEO of American Express for five years. In 1983, I formed Eleanor Foa Associates, which provides top-tier writing for global and not-for-profit clients, including American Express, Ann Taylor, Chase, Citibank, Columbia Business School, the H.J. Heinz Company, the John A. Hartford Foundation, IBM, K-Mart, Merrill Lynch, Seagram and Sears.

As an award-winning speech writer, I have worked with and written for dozens of Fortune 500 senior executives, including the CEOs of American Express, Seagram, IBM, RJR Nabisco, Merrill Lynch, and K-Mart.

I am the author of a number corporate histories, among them: Poets and Writers: Celebrating and Serving America's Poets and Writers for Thirty Years, and In Good Company: 125 Years at the Heinz Table (Warner Books).

I have also continued to pursue my career as a New York-based independent journalist and author. My articles, essays, profiles, columns, book reviews and op-ed pieces have appeared in a range of publications, including the New York Times, Harper's, the New York Observer, the New Republic, McCall's, Travel and Leisure, Frequent Flyer and Working Woman. For three-and-a-halfyears I contributed a monthly column on "Living Alone," to New Choices, a national magazine for men and women over-50. I am now writing a book for over-50 singles, whose key message is that you can be happy and live a fulfilling life as an over-50 single. I consider it an ongoing product of my feminist perspective.

I am past-president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), and have been awarded literary residencies at Yaddo and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA). I am a graduate of Smith College, where I majored in history, the mother of two boys and grandmother of four.

I think of the 1970s as a golden age for women of my generation- a fabulous time to be a woman. The movement was not only personally empowering. It brought vast social and economic change, especially in the workplace. That, in turn, enabled me - and millions of women after me -to leave our marriages, earn decent wages in formerly male-onlyjobs (I believe I was the first female speech writer on Wall Street), and support our children, many of whom -like my sons -have turned out to be wonderfully feminist husbands and fathers.



Back to Fabulous Feminists Table of Contents