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Jewesses with Attitude

Thank You, Judy Blume

Best-selling author Judy Blume is among the Jewesses with attitude featured in “MAKERS: Women Who Make America,” the film that premieres on PBS tomorrow night.

Blume’s characters accompanied me while I navigated my way through puberty. They pondered the same questions I was too afraid to ask aloud, and seemed to understand the awkwardness I felt. As I watched video clips of an interview with her on the MAKERS website and listened as she recalled everything from her career choice to her relationship with her mother, I began to see her as something more than a childhood hero: I recognized her as a down-to-earth woman, who struggled to find success and happiness.

Blume married young and had two children by the time she was my age—25. Like many middle-class women of her generation, she was expected to stay at home and not pursue a career. But she felt unfulfilled by her roles as a suburban wife and mother and sought an outlet for her pent-up ambition and creativity. Every day, after she sent her children off to school, she sat at her typewriter and wrote stories. Although she followed the progress of the women’s movement and subscribed to Ms. Magazine, at that point she didn’t take an active part. “I felt that my own little feminist movement was brewing inside of me,” she says.

As the only woman in her cul-de-sac who was working for pay, Blume was already crossing boundaries, and in her writing, she violated all kinds of taboos. For a woman of my generation, who is used to talking about everything, it’s hard to imagine that when Blume was in her 20s, birth control, menstruation, and orgasm were all strictly off limits.  Yet she dared to write candidly about puberty, portrayed responsible sex, and created female characters who enjoyed it. “Damn, I wanted girls to have a good time. I was a girl," she says with a laugh. Despite angry letters complaining, “How dare you let your character have an orgasm!” and efforts to ban her books, Blume continued to write about sexual coming-of-age. I and millions of other readers are thankful that she did.

As a young woman, I am humbled by Blume’s courage and perseverance. I respect Judy Blume even more now than I did as a pre-teen because I can identify with her personal story. Her biography is a lesson in determination, something we all need as we endeavor to find fulfillment.

The film is streaming in three parts on the MAKERS website, and DVD's can be purchased from shoppbs.org for $24.99. 

Blume, Judy - still image [media]
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Judy Blume's ability to write from the perspective of her youthful readers has guaranteed her status as one of American children's most popular authors, while simultaneously making her the target of—and a defender against—censorship.

Photographer: Sigrid Estrada; Institution: Judy Blume

How to cite this page

Perlman, Shani. "Thank You, Judy Blume." 25 February 2013. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on September 17, 2014) <http://jwa.org/blog/thank-you-judy-blume>.

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