Pioneering Hampstead feminist dies aged 80

Writers’ writer and trail-blazing feminist Eva Figes has died aged 80.

The Hampstead author was hailed as a revolutionary for her critical writings, particularly seminal Patriarchal Attitudes: Women in Society in the vanguard of the second school of feminism.

A contemporary of Germaine Greer, Mrs Figes was also admired for her fiction, drawing on a tradition of European sensibility for novels Winter Journey and Light.

Her agent of almost 50 years Deborah Rogers said: “Patriarchal Attitudes created the most stir, it was very forward-thinking and advanced for its time. But I think she would probably want to be remembered for her novels too which were wonderful.”

Mrs Figes, who lived in Fitzjohn’s Avenue for most of her life, also became a prominent campaigner for the elderly in her later years. She wrote a piece for the Financial Times and appeared on Channel 4 News last year to criticise the way NHS staff treated the elderly.


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A few months later a national scandal about the neglect of the elderly hit the headlines.

Son Orlando Figes, a university professor, said: “She was a very principled person when she wanted her voice heard on things she believed in. Her writing about her treatment in hospital created waves and she was not afraid to speak out – she was quite a brave person in that way.”

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Mr Figes, who lives in Cambridge, said he would often clash with his mother over her outspoken anti-Israel views.

“It was a source of conflict with her friends and with me, she was very courageous in that way,” said her son.

“It made her quite a difficult person – all her friends would say there were ups and downs – but I think everyone respected and admired her for, holding to her beliefs.”

Mrs Figes was born in Berlin to a Jewish family. Her father was arrested following Kristallnacht and she fled to Germany, finding her first lodgings in Broadhurst Gardens in West Hampstead.

She spent the war years in Cirencester and later wrote a book about her memories there called Little Eden: A Child in Wartime.

After the war she took up a place at Queen Mary in London and met her husband John, who attended university King’s College London. The pair had two children Orlando and Kate before divorcing in the early 1960s.

Mrs Figes moved in to her home in Fitzjohn’s Avenue where she lived until her death last Tuesday (August 28).

She is survived by son Orlando and daughter Kate.

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