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Helen Yglesias

In her many novels, Helen Yglesias returned to the themes of her own life: women defying convention and finding the courage to start over. Born Helen Bassine, Yglesias took a trip to Europe and Palestine at age seventeen, but soon began grinding away at nondescript jobs, escaping only through the novels she read at the public library. She married Bernard Cole in 1937, divorced him in 1950, married Jose Yglesias later that year, and divorced Yglesias in 1992. She was a member of the Young Communist League from 1936–1952 and worked as a book reviewer and editor for the Daily Worker. From 1965–1969 she worked as literary editor for the Nation, but quit to focus full-time on her writing, publishing her first novel, How She Died, in 1972. She followed this with six more novels and memoirs, including the critical favorite Sweetsir in 1981, in which the last in a series of battered wives finally fights back and kills her husband. She described her final novel, 1999’s The Girls, as “a feminist novel about aging.”

Helen Yglesias
Full image
Helen Yglesias.
Photograph by Margaret Joskow, courtesy of Rafael Yglesias.
Date of Birth
March 29, 1915
Place of Birth
New York, New York
Date of Death
March 28, 2008

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Helen Yglesias." (Viewed on November 21, 2018) <>.


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