Edith Mendel Stern
1901 – 1975
A prolific writer as well as an activist in the mental health field, Edith Stern authored four novels and many guides for laypeople on the subjects of mental illness, aging, and handicapped children. She also wrote numerous articles for popular magazines, including Collier’s, Reader’s Digest, the Saturday Evening Post, Literary Digest and Redbook.
Born Edith Mendel in New York on June 24, 1901, she received a B.A. from Barnard College in 1922. She joined the staff of the Alfred A. Knopf publishing house, then, after a few years with the editorial departments of other houses, published the first of a series of novels, Purse Strings (1927). This was followed by Scarlet Heels (1928), Men Are Clumsy Lovers (1934) and Escape from Youth (1935).
Edith Mendel married William A. Stern II, who was a lawyer with the Justice Department. Her interest in later life turned to technical books on the subject of mental health, the best known being Mental Illness: A Guide for the Family, which was published in 1942. Immensely popular, the book was revised five times before her death. Her other how-to books include The Attendant’s Guide (1943); The Housemother’s Guide and The Mental Hospital: A Guide for the Citizen (1947); The Handicapped Child: A Guide for Parents (1950); You and Your Aging Parents with Mabel Ross (1952, revised in 1965); Notes for After 50 (1955); and A Full Life After 65 (1963).
Edith Stern was a member of the Maryland Board of Mental Hygiene and a consultant to the National Institute of Mental Health, as well as a director of the Epilepsy League. After her husband’s death, she remained in the Washington area, where she died on February 8, 1975, at age seventy-four.
Obituary. NYTimes, February 14, 1975, 35:3; UJE; WWIAJ (1938); WWWIA 6.