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Grace Paley

A rare example of a writer deeply engaged with the world, Grace Paley made an impact as much through her activism as her writing. Paley dropped out of college, but a later course she took with W.H. Auden proved transformative: the poet suggested she use the language of her own time and community rather than mimicking other writers. Her first collection of short stories, The Little Disturbances of Man, published in 1959, was praised by Philip Roth and introduced the character Faith Darwin, a stand-in for the author whom Paley utilized in many stories throughout her career. Her writing earned her both Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, the PEN/Faulkner prize, and the honor of becoming the first State Author of New York. She taught writing at Sarah Lawrence, Columbia, Syracuse University, and the City College of New York. Paley’s activism spanned from protests against nuclear proliferation to the Vietnam War to the Iraq War, and from the fight for women’s equality to her co-founding of the Jewish Women’s Committee to End the Occupation of the West Bank.


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Activist and writer Grace Paley speaking to reporters.
Photo © Diana Mara Henry/

Date of Birth

Bronx, NY
United States

Date of Death
Writer, Poet, Activist

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Grace Paley." (Viewed on December 5, 2019) <>.


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