The Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women

Features thousands of biographic and thematic essays on Jewish women around the world. Learn more

Janis Ian

b. April 7, 1951

by JWA Staff
Our work to expand the Encyclopedia is ongoing. We are providing this brief biography for Janis Ian until we are able to commission a full entry.

Janis Ian performing at a concert in Ireland in 1981. Photo courtesy of Eddie Mallin via Wikimedia Commons.

Folk musician Janis Ian won a Grammy in 1975 for her song “At Seventeen,” then won a second in 2013 for Society’s Child, her spoken word autobiography. Born Janis Eddy Fink, Ian learned to play instruments ranging from the guitar to the harpsichord as a child and wrote her first song at age twelve before composing her first hit single, “Society’s Child,” about an interracial relationship, at thirteen. Ian’s popularity crested in the late 1970s, with musical guest appearances on Saturday Night Live and further Grammy nominations. After breaking her recording contract with CBS in 1982, she spent a decade away from the spotlight, during which she suffered personal and financial setbacks, particularly after industry insiders declared her unmarketable because she was a lesbian. Finally, in 1993 she came out publically and mortgaged her house to record Breaking Silence, which discussed incest, abuse, and the Holocaust. Defying all expectations, the album became a critical and commercial success. Ian returned to recording an album every couple of years while collaborating with other artists. She also writes science fiction, and has published a number of short stories. In 2003 her Toronto wedding to longtime partner Patricia Snyder was the first lesbian marriage highlighted in the New York Times Vows section.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Janis Ian." (Viewed on June 9, 2023) <>.


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