Women Died, Too, in 2012

Newspapers and blogs still focus on famous men, but we lost many notable women in 2012. Here’s a tribute to those fierce and fabulous femmes we’ll miss

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Etta James

Born: Jan. 25, 1938
Died: Jan. 20, 2012
Why we’ll miss her: The musical icon, inducted into the Rock and Roll, Blues and Grammy Halls of Fame, brought us enduring hits including At Last, Something’s Got a Hold On Me, Roll With Me Henry and Tell Mamma. She battled drug addiction, Alzheimer’s disease and leukemia, but she will be remembered as one of the greatest singers of our time.

 

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Whitney Houston

Born: Aug. 9, 1963
Died: Feb. 11, 2012
Why we’ll miss her: From her best-selling debut album in 1985, to her 1992 marriage to Bobby Brown, to her starring role in The Bodyguard to her reality TV stint, we were glued to Houston’s storied life and career. She won Grammys, American Music Awards and Emmys and left us with memorable performances including Saving All My Love for You, Greatest Love of All, How Will I Know, I Wanna Dance with Somebody, So Emotional, Didn’t We Almost Have It All and, of course, I Will Always Love You. She died as a result of accidental drowning due to cocaine use and heart disease, but her music will live for generations.
 

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Phyllis Diller

Born: July 17, 1917
Died: Aug. 20, 2012
Why we’ll miss her: The actress and comedian paved the way for female entertainers, starring in TV shows such as Phyllis Dillis, The Homely Friendmaker, The Phyllis Diller Show and The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show. She appeared in Hello, Dolly! on Broadway and provided many voices for animated movies. And, thankfully, she left us with a cache of memorable one-liners: “I want my children to have all the things I couldn’t afford. Then I want to move in with them.” Or: “The only time I ever enjoyed ironing was the day I accidentally got gin in the steam iron. Or: “"Burt Reynolds once asked me out. I was in his room." RIP, funny lady.

 

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Letitia Baldrige

Born: Feb. 9, 1926
Died: Oct. 29, 2012
Why we’ll miss her: Who could be a match for the elegant Jacqueline Kennedy? Her social secretary, Letitia Baldrige. Baldrige was also known for her syndicated column and books on manners, offering tips on everything from weddings to child rearing to social situations. She was involved with a number of charities, most notably helping Jane Goodall to raise money for wild chimpanzee habitat preservation. Baldrige died of cardiac complications at the age of 86.

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Nora Ephron

Born: May 19, 1941
Died: June 26, 2012
Why we’ll miss her: Ephron, a star journalist, essayist, playwright, director, producer, novelist and blogger knew how to make us laugh and cry. From Heartburn to Silkwood to When Harry Met Sally to Sleepless in Seattle to Julie & Julia, her work has left a lasting mark on popular culture. Ephron died of acute leukemia at the age of 71. “From her earliest days at New York City's newspapers to her biggest Hollywood successes, Nora always loved a good New York story,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement after her death, “and she could tell them like no one else."

 

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Helen Gurley Brown

Born: Feb. 18, 1922
Died: Aug. 13, 2012
Why we’ll miss her: Before there was Carrie Bradshaw, there was Helen Gurley Brown. The long-time editor of Cosmopolitan magazine had a best-selling book with Sex and the Single Girl in 1962, becoming a voice for the sexual revolution. We’ll remember her for her sharp commentary and witticisms. Among our favorites: “How could any woman not be a feminist? The girl I’m editing for wants to be known for herself. If that’s not a feminist message, I don’t know what is.” And: “Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere.”

 

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Sally Ride

Born: May 26, 1951
Died: July 23, 2012
Why we’ll miss her: The first American woman to go into space, back in 1983, Ride showed little girls everywhere that they, too, could be astronauts. Ride became a physics professor at the University of California, San Diego, co-wrote several books for children with her partner, Tam O’Shaughnessy and created Sally Ride Science, a program to entourage female students, especially, to go into careers in the math, technology and science fields. Inducted into both the Astronaut Hall of Fame and the Women’s Hall of Fame, Ride died at 61 of pancreatic cancer.

Image credit: Alan C. Heison / Shutterstock.com
 

Alan C. Heison / Shutterstock.com

Kitty Wells

Born: Aug. 30, 1919
Died: July 16, 2012
Why we’ll miss her: The first female country singer to top the U.S. country charts, Wells, who began her career as part of The Deason Sisters, was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and her hit “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” is part of the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress. The original Queen of Country Music, she helped inspire musicians such as Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, Taylor Swift and Miranda Lambert.
 

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Donna Summer

Born: Dec. 21, 1948
Died: May 17, 2012
Why we’ll miss her: The disco diva still has us dancing to hits such as Love to Love You Baby, She Works Hard for the Money, Hot Stuff, I Need Love, Bad Girls, and the nightclub anthem Last Dance. A member of the Dance Music Hall of Fame, and the winner of five Grammy Awards and six American Music Awards, Summer died of non-smoking related lung cancer at 63.

 

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Adrienne Rich

Born: May 16, 1929
Died: March 27, 2012
Why we’ll miss her: The American poet, essayist and feminist became involved in the civil rights, feminist and anti-war movements in the ‘60s, and won the National Book Award for Poetry for Diving Into the Wreck in 1974. She came out in the mid-‘70s, writing about lesbianism and the roles of women, and taught at Columbia, Brandeis, Rutgers, Cornell and Stanford. "Every generation has to do a lot of heavy lifting in order to ensure the freedoms and rights of all," poet D.A. Powell, told the San Francisco Chronicle after her death. "Adrienne did about five generations' worth. I thought she would live forever. Her work had that kind of power."

 

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Eve Arnold

Born: April 21, 1912
Died: Jan. 4, 2012
Why we’ll miss her: The photographer, perhaps best known for her images of Marilyn Monroe on the set of The Misfits, captured Hollywood icons including Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich and Isabella Rossellini. A regular contributor to publications such as Life, Look, Esquire and Harper’s Bazaar, she photographed the civil rights movement, as well as regions in China and the Soviet Union. Arnold was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Royal Photographic Society and was named Master Photographer by the International Center of Photography in New York. She died at age 99.

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Maeve Binchy

Born: May 28, 1940
Died: July 30, 2012
Why we’ll miss her: The popular Irish novelist found success with books including Evening Class, Scarlet Feather, Circle of Friends and Tara Road, selling more than 40 million copies. In 2010, she received a lifetime achievement award from the Irish Book Awards. We’ll remember her for her writing, but also for her keen observations, like this bit she told an Australian newspaper back in 2000: "I don't think you're happier if you're thin or beautiful or rich or married. You have to make your own happiness. My heroines do not become beautiful elegant swans, they become confident ducks and get on with life."

 

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Jenni Rivera

Born: July 2, 1969
Died: Dec. 9. 2012
Why we’ll miss her: The Mexican-American singing superstar was known as the “Diva of Banda,” selling more than 15 million records, and earning three Latin Grammy Award nominations. Killed in a plane crash near Monterrey, Mexico, she was just 43. A coach on Mexico’s version of The Voice, Rivera became a star in the banda genre, despite its dominance by male vocalists. “It doesn’t bother me at all that some people think I am too outspoken,” Rivera, born in Long Beach, Calif., said last year, according to The New York Times. “Actually, if they are thinking about me, it bothers them. But oh, well, they’ll get over it.”


 

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