SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — Celebrated author and feminist Gloria Jean Watkins, commonly known as her pen name ‘bell hooks’, has died at the age of 69.
Her family made the announcement on Wednesday, saying they honored her “request to transition at home with family and friends by her side.”
A statement from Berea College said she died at her home in Berea, Kentucky, after an extended illness.
The college this year opened the bell hooks center on campus to celebrate her life, legacy, and contributions to the school.
She was born in Kentucky but studied in the Bay Area, receiving a bachelors degree from Stanford and a doctorate from UC Santa Cruz, where she also was a professor along with teaching at San Francisco State University.
“The students treated her like a queen, which in fact, she was,” SF State Professor Mark Johnson said in a statement. “She referred to these visits as ‘coming home.’ She also exhibited original watercolors with poems at the campus’ Fine Arts Gallery, the only exhibition of her art during her lifetime.
“She was a revolutionary and inspirational thinker. Her books are still widely read in Ethnic Studies and Education classes, as well as in many other disciplines. She maintained close and loving relationships with many academic faculty, staff and friends in the Bay Area over decades.”
hooks, whose pen name is intentionally uncapitalized, published her first book in 1981 titled “Aint I a Woman? Black Women and Feminism.” It’s described as a “classic work of feminist scholarship,” and a “must-read for all those interested in the nature of black womanhood,” according to publishing company Routledge.
Black womanhood, feminist theory and cultural criticism are integral to her work, with over 30 books published to her name, plus children’s books, poetry, and contributions to other texts.
Her pen name is a tribute to her great-grandmother.
“The family is honored that Gloria received numerous awards, honors, and international fame for her works as a poet, author, feminist, professor, cultural critic, and social activist. We are proud to just call her sister, friend, confidant, and influencer,” her family said.