Marge Piercy, a daughter of the Jewish millwright Robert Piercy and his wife, Bert Bunnin Piercy, grew up in a primarily African American, working-class Detroit neighborhood. Coming from a poor white family, she early realized that she was a minority member of her community, and this sense of minority status remained with her, in various forms, throughout her life. As a child Piercy learned to escape feelings of loneliness through reading. She was the first member of her family to go to college. More important, she broke from the pattern most of her friends followed, that of marrying young and often unwisely, having too many children, being dependent and docile, and living life as housewives who, as Piercy says in some of her poems, are property, like dogs with tags.
Piercy was an outstanding student who during her undergraduate career at the University of Michigan won the coveted Hopgood Prize in writing several times. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in 1957 she continued her studies at Northwestern University, where she received a master’s degree in 1958. Piercy realized early that her future was in writing, but it took a decade before she was able to support herself as a writer.
After completing her education Piercy supported herself as well as she could with odd jobs that left time for writing. During this period of great social unrest in the United States, particularly in Detroit, her hometown, she was an organizer for the radical Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and active in the Civil Rights movement that was developing its own strong rhetoric. As the decade advanced, however, Piercy came to realize that SDS and the Civil Rights movement were both based on a paradigm of male supremacy that she could not accept. By the end of the decade she had become a committed feminist. Because of her work in this arena many critics came to view her writing almost exclusively in its political rather than its artistic context.
Her first six novels, each with feminist protagonists, were rejected by every publisher to whom she sent them,...
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