Nora Ephron, Pioneer Woman

“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”

Nora Ephron, one of America’s most beloved humorists, died today at the age of 71. Unconfined to the mere role of “writer”, Ephron transcended all genres. Journalist, screenwriter, novelist, playwright, essayist, blogger, she wore many hats, progressing from a young satirist in 1960s New York to one of the most powerful people in Hollywood. Many will remember her for the romantic comedies that warmed our hearts (Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail) but in her passing fellow female journalists remind us of the contributions Ephron made to the advancement of women. In a moving tribute to the writer in The Huffington Post, Lisa Belkin writes,

Most of all, she opened doors. By putting the female experience on the screen and on the page, she made it visible, and worthy, and she elevated it to the level of art. She took “women’s topics” — romance, relationships, food, motherhood, clothes, hair, friendship, aging, looking young — and declared that they were not only worthy of conversation, but they could draw at the box office, which is the only language Hollywood understands.

It’s hard to imagine where the funny women of the page and screen would be today without Nora Ephron to pave their way. Could Lena Dunham or Tina Fey be so side-splittingly hilarious without Ephron as a predecessor? She wrote unabashedly about the women’s realm, reveling in the woman’s view of sex and romance, allowing all of us to be not only funny, but honest and genuine too. She gave women a voice, and a witty one at that.

Ephron’s last two collections of essays, 2006’s I Feel Bad About My Neck and 2010’s I Remember Nothing, continued on in the same candid style as her earlier works, leaving nothing about her musings on aging to the imagination: “Today there are parts of Manhattan and Los Angeles where there are no gray-haired women at all… The amount of maintenance involving hair is genuinely overwhelming. Sometimes I think that not having to worry about your hair anymore is the secret upside of death.” Clues like this insinuated the end might be near, but for the rest of us it still came far too soon.

Ephron once wrote, “I always read the last page of a book first so that if I die before I finish I’ll know how it turned out.” We may have reached Nora’s last page, but I suspect and hope that young women everywhere will read her story for years to come.