Author, journalist, popular lecturer is my professional handle. In my 50 years as a writer [Wow, she’s that old?] I have done thousands of interviews and written 16 books, most notably Passages, a revolutionary book that changed the way millions of women and men around the world look at the stages of their lives. If you haven’t read it, you may have seen it on your mother’s bookshelf!
It’s still relevant.
Passages remained on The New York Times Bestseller List for more than three years and has been reprinted in 28 languages. A Library of Congress survey named Passages one of the ten most influential books of our times. In New Passages (1995), I revisited the stages of adult life and mapped out a completely new frontier, from age 50 onward, entitled our Second Adulthood.
Here’s what a New York Times book reviewer and Princeton professor Elaine Showalter wrote about the impact of Sheehy’s books:
In 1976, in her best seller Passages, the journalist Gail Sheehy invented a new way of thinking about the phases of adult life…[as] ‘a series of developmental stages and tasks, critical turning points along the life cycle when one’s opportunity for growth is also heightened‘ […] Women embraced Sheehy’s thinking and incorporated it into their expectations…. The New York Times June 7, 1998
Wearing my journalist hat, I have been a contributing editor to Vanity Fair for three decades. I culminated a decade of following Hillary Clinton with the biography, Hillary’s Choice, exploring the personal ambitions and vulnerabilities that drive the world’s most public woman. I’ve written about the character and psychology of presidential candidates from Robert Kennedy to Barack Obama and world leaders from Margaret Thatcher to Saddam Hussein.
I figured it was about time I turned the lens on myself and wrote a memoir about my own passages. The book is called DARING: My Passages. It will be published in September 2014 by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins. I hope it inspires young women to dream big, take risks, outlive the early failures, and build toward success with meaning and social purpose by midlife. More about my books if you care to read on:
I like daring to start new conversations: In my book, Silent Passage, I broke the taboo surrounding menopause and opened a dialogue vital to maturing women’s health. In Understanding Men’s Passages I prompted men to reveal their fears of decreasing economic relevance and their pleasure in the emotional closeness of contemporary fatherhood.
In 2006 I drove across country to interview a hundred of the 750 women who answered my survey on sex and passion for life after age 50. I couldn’t shut them up! Nobody ever asked them before. I published their lusty stories in Sex and the Seasoned Woman.
While acting as the caregiver for my husband through multiple battles with cancer, I wrote my most personal book, Passages in Caregiving (2010). It tells the story of the eight stages of our journey and the deepening of our love and hard-won courage. But it also tells the stories of many other successful caregivers and their concrete strategies for saving their own health and sanity while performing this most demanding and potentially ennobling role.
Now, the awards:
- Seven time recipient of New York Newswomen’s Club Front Page Award for Distinguished Journalism
- Washington Journalism Review Award for Best Magazine Writer in America
- New York Public Library Literary Lions Award
- 1973 The National Magazine Award for Reporting Excellence
- 1994 Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Dartmouth
- 1997 Hospital for Special Surgery Award For Groundbreaking Work In Women’s Health
- 2002 American Psychological Associations Presidential Citation
- American Society on Aging Leadership Award (2011)
- Books for a Better Life “Lifetime Achievement Award” (2012)
NOTE: I’ve also made a lot of instructive mistakes. See About the Book