There Was No Stopping Lillian B Rubin

Calla Lily ProfileArleen Solomon RotchinComment

She was a women who published her 12th book at 83 years old and sold her first painting at the age of 82.  She said that in her older years she went out and experienced things she had never done before. 

She believed that the timing of her work had influence upon her success and that the second wave of feminism allowed her to shine and helped break down the social barriers for women.

‘There were many intelligent women before me, but social constraints did not allow for their work.’

Rubin’s journey was very difficult at times.  She was raised by a single working-class mother who laboured in a nonunionized garment industry.  Her father, a furrier, died when she was five.  Her mother favoured her brother and often told her that girls shouldn’t be born.  Her advice to her daughter was that she should work until she found a husband.   Her mother, along with the rest of societal constraints, believed that post high school education was for a man. 

Lillian graduated high school at 15, married at 19 and gave birth to her daughter soon after.  Her marriage ended in divorce.

During the 50s she was inspired by lawyers who defended victims from ‘the witch hunt of the McCarthy era’ and at the age of 39 she applied to UC Berkley with the hope of becoming a lawyer someday.

But all that changed.  By 1967 Lillian had earned a bachelor’s degree, followed by a master’s in 1968 and a doctorate in sociology in 1971 when she was 47 years old.  She worked as a research sociologist for many years at the university’s Institute for the Study of Social Change.  She and her daughter were students together at the university at the same time.  When the anti-Vietnam War protests heated up, they joined a peaceful demonstration and ended up in jail with 70 other women including folk singer Joan Baez.  

She began writing when she was in graduate school.  Lillian was someone who had very strong opinions and no difficulty expressing them. 


One of her latest books ’60 on Up, The Truth about Aging in America’ was published when she was 83 years old.  She did not subscribe to the idea that 60 was the new 40.  As she said in the opening of her book, 

‘Getting old sucks!  It always has, it always will.  I look at people who are my age or even younger, and they look as if their life is finished.  Nobody tells you how to live in old age or how to be old.’