Yalom, Marilyn 1932-

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Yalom, Marilyn 1932-

(Marilyn K. Yalom)

PERSONAL: Born March 10, 1932, in Chicago, IL; daughter of Samuel (in business) and Celia (a home-maker; maiden name, Katz) Koenick; married Irvin Yalom (a psychiatrist), June 26, 1954; children: four. Education: Wellesley College, B.A. (with honors), 1954; Harvard University, M.A.T., 1956; Johns Hopkins University, Ph.D., 1963; also received the Diplôme de Litterature Contémporaine from the University of Paris/Sorbonne, 1953.

ADDRESSES: Home—951 Matadero, Palo Alto, CA 94306. Office—Institute for Research on Women and Gender, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305.

CAREER: University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI, lecturer in French, 1961–62; California State University, Hayward, CA, assistant professor, 1963–67, associate professor, 1967–71, professor of French, 1971–76; Stanford University, Stanford, CA, Institute for Research on Women and Gender, deputy director, 1976–87, senior scholar, 1987–.

AWARDS, HONORS: Resident, Rockefeller Research and Conference Center, Bellagio, Italy, 1988; travel grant, American Council of Learned Societies, 1992; Officier des Palmes Academiques, the French government, 1992.


(Author of introduction) Irvin D. Yalom and Ginny El-kin, editors, Every Day Gets a Little Closer, Basic Books (New York, NY), 1974.

(Editor, with Erna O. Hellerstein, Leslie Parker Hume, Karen M. Offen, and others) Victorian Women: A Documentary Account of Women's Lives in Nineteenth-Century England, France, and the United States, Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 1981.

(Editor, with Barrie Thorne) Rethinking the Family: Some Feminist Questions, Longman (New York, NY), 1982, 2nd edition, Northeastern University Press (Boston, MA), 1992.

(Editor and contributor) Women Writers of the West Coast: Speaking of Their Lives and Careers, Capra (Santa Barbara, CA), 1983.

(Contributor and coeditor, with Diane Middlebrook) Coming to Light: American Women Poets in the Twentieth Century, University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 1985.

Maternity, Mortality, and the Literature of Madness, Pennsylvania State University Press (University Park, PA), 1985.

(Editor) Rebecca Kosier Newcomer, A Mother's Journal for Her Son, 1887–1908, Capra Press (Santa Barbara, CA), 1988.

Le Temps des Orages: Aristocrates, Bourgeoises, et Paysannes, Editions Maren Sell (Paris, France), 1989.

(Contributor and coeditor, with Susan Groag Bell) Revealing Lives: Autobiography, Biography, and Gender, State University of New York Press (Albany, NY), 1991.

Blood Sisters: The French Revolution in Women's Memory, Basic Books (New York, NY), 1993.

A History of the Breast, Knopf (New York, NY), 1997.

A History of the Wife, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.

(Editor, with Laura Carstensen) Inside the American Couple: New Thinking, New Challenges, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 2002.

The Birth of the Chess Queen: A History, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.

Contributor of numerous articles and essays to multiple books and periodicals. Yalom's works have been translated into twenty languages.

SIDELIGHTS: Marilyn Yalom is a scholar of French and feminist studies best known for her work as part of the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at Stanford University. Yalom has principally studied the history of women as partners in marriage, but she has also published popular scholarly studies of such pertinent topics as a history of the female breast and a study of the role women played in the French Revolution and its aftermath. In the Journal of Comparative Family Studies, Ann Goetting suggested that Yalom's body of work "is designed to draw readers into two decades of feminist thinking about the family."

Yalom drew a large audience with her 1997 title, A History of the Breast. The study covered thousands of years of history, from the Stone Age to the present, exploring how women's breasts have evolved from objects of infant nurture to objects of erotic desire. To quote Benjamin Roberts in the Journal of Social History, Yalom's book "takes her readers on an adventurous journey to the source of men's infatuation with the bosom which eventually evolved into what is crudely known as the tits and ass culture of the late-twentieth-century Western society. With an eclectic range of sources varying from iconography and biblical scriptures to treatises by moralists, Yalom allows us in this innovative study to look at breasts from sacred, erotic, domestic, political, psychological, commercialized, medical, and liberated perspectives." Roberts found the book "fascinating and enlightening," noting that "Yalom's flare for telling and tongue-in-cheek humor offers an added enjoyment." In the New York Times Book Review, Natalie Angier described A History of the Breast as "a fascinating cultural, political and artistic history of our most symbolically freighted body part." Angier added: "Ms. Yalom's stately romp through history is variously enlightening, amusing and enraging…. This exhilarating burst of female takes on the breast underscores what is so lacking in the historical material: women's voices and women's vision." A Publishers Weekly reviewer concluded: "This enlightening, often surprising cultural history will compel men and women to think differently about the breast."

In A History of the Wife, Yalom examines marriage in all its incarnations across the centuries, which is, according to Etelka Lehoczky in the Washington Post, "well-trodden but recently neglected ground." Lehoczky acknowledged Yalom for "refurbishing the classic feminist deconstruction of marriage" in her "entertaining" book. The critic added that Yalom "would like to create a 'New Wife,' to quote one of her chapter headings, by buttressing the romantic side of wifehood while dismantling its connotations of subservience." A Kirkus Reviews contributor deemed A History of the Wife "a useful and refreshingly cheerful overview of women's changing roles in marriage and society."

In The Birth of the Chess Queen: A History, Yalom traces the history of the game of chess, and demonstrates the correlation between the development of the most powerful game piece on the chess board—the queen—and the rise to power of real European queens. Yalom writes: "While there were few women rulers before the fifteenth century whose names can be definitely linked to the game, the reality of female rule was undoubtedly entwined with the emergence and evolution of the chess queen." In addition, Yalom offers explanations as to why the number of women who play chess has dwindled to a mere five percent of the world's chess players. In a World and I review, Doug Bandow noted that while he was not completely convinced of the validity of Yalom's thesis in The Birth of the Chess Queen, he felt that readers would "come away simultaneously entertained and enlightened." Sharing a similar opinion, an Economist reviewer commented, "Whether or not you buy its thesis, this is a well-researched and enjoyable book." Library Journal contributor Robert J. Andrews described the work as "a fascinating cultural account of the evolution of a game piece."

Yalom once told CA: "My move from a traditional career as a French professor to the broader arena of feminist scholarship was motivated by the women's movement in the mid-seventies. My book Maternity, Mortality, and the Literature of Madness focuses on ways in which the option or experience of motherhood plugs into mental illness, as communicated by women writers.

"My … book [Blood Sisters: The French Revolution in Women's Memory] is a study of women's memoirs of the French Revolution, following on the heels of one written in French on the same subject for the bicentennial of the Revolution Le Temps des orages, Maren Sell (Paris, 1989)."



Yalom, Marilyn, The Birth of the Chess Queen: A History, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.


Booklist, February 1, 1997, Donna Seaman, review of A History of the Breast, p. 912; March 1, 2004, Vanessa Bush, review of The Birth of the Chess Queen, p. 1132.

Economist, July 10, 2004, "Queening It: Women in Chess," review of The Birth of the Chess Queen, p. 76.

Journal of Comparative Family Studies, summer, 1995, Ann Goetting, review of Rethinking the Family: Some Feminist Questions, p. 289.

Journal of Social History, summer, 1999, Benjamin Roberts, review of A History of the Breast, p. 951.

Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 1996, review of A History of the Breast; December 15, 2000, review of A History of the Wife, p. 1754; February 15, 2004, review of The Birth of the Chess Queen, p. 171.

Library Journal, April 15, 2004, Robert J. Andrews, review of The Birth of the Chess Queen, p. 102.

New York Times Book Review, September 12, 1993, Hilary Mantel, "Liberté, Egalité, Sororité," review of Blood Sisters: The French Revolution on Women's Memory, p. 9; February 23, 1997, Natalie Angier, "Goddesses, Harlots, and Other Male Fantasies," review of A History of the Breast, p. 4.

Publishers Weekly, May 24, 1993, review of Blood Sisters, p. 78; December 16, 1996, review of A History of the Breast, p. 47; February 23, 2004, review of The Birth of the Chess Queen, p. 64.

San Francisco Chronicle, August 10, 2004, John McMurtrie, "In Chess, the Queen Rules," review of The Birth of the Chess Queen.

Washington Post Book World, February 18, 2001, Etelka Lehoczky, "Altared States," review of A History of the Wife, p. 13.

World and I, September, 2004, Doug Bandow, "Queenly Power Games: When Chess Queens and Female Rulers Held Sway," review of The Birth of the Chess Queen.


AnnOnline, http://www.annonline.com/ (February 25, 1997), "Biography: Marilyn Yalom."

Marilyn Yalom Home Page, http://www.wifehistory.com (March 8, 2006).

MetroActive Books, http://www.metroactive.com/ (February 27, 1997), Christina Waters, "Breast Intentions: An Historian Examines the Political and Sexual Legacy of the Creamy Orb," review of A History of the Breast.