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Radical Woman of the Day: Ayn Rand

On this day in 1905 was born Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum, who later renamed herself Ayn Rand, author of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged and founder of Objectivism.

Rand was born in Saint Petersburg before the advent of Communism, but her family had to flee to Crimea after the October Revolution. Rand attended high school there and had already decided she was an atheist when her family returned to Saint Petersburg after her graduation. With greater education opportunities now open to women, she studied history at Petrograd State University (as it was then called), graduating in 1924.

Having begun writing screenplays at the age of eight, Rand studied at the State Technicum for Screen Arts during her first postgraduate year, and in the fall of 1925 she visited America. She managed to stay in the United States for several years, travelling to Hollywood and beginning work in the film business. (She landed her first job, as a movie extra, as a result of a chance meeting with Cecil B. DeMille.) Rand eventually married Frank O’Connor in 1929 and became a United States citizen in 1931. She wrote several screenplays and worked as a script doctor during the remainder of the 1930s, also publishing her first novel, We the Living, in 1936.

In 1938 The Fountainhead was published in England, but it was not published in the United States until 1943. Its success, and the even greater subsequent success of Atlas Shrugged, launched Rand’s new career as a philosopher, lecturer, and ongoing figure of controversy.

Via the Radical Women’s History Project.