Gail Sheehy, the journalist, commentator, and pop sociologist whose best-selling Passages helped millions navigate their lives from early adulthood to middle age and beyond, has passed away. She was 83 years old. Sheehy, the widow of New York magazine founder Clay Felker, died Monday of complications from pneumonia in Southampton, New York, according to her daughter, Maura Sheehy.
Her book, Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life was published in 1976 and immediately caught on with a generation torn by the cultural revolution of the time, sorting through mid-life struggles, marital problems, changing gender roles, and questions about identity. As Sheehy noted in the book’s foreword, close studies of childhood and old age were widely available, but far less scrutiny had been given to the prime years of work and relationships.
When not writing books, Sheehy was a popular lecturer and television commentator and a well-traveled journalist specializing in psychological portraits of public figures. For New York magazine, Vanity Fair, and other publications, she interviewed everyone from Bill and Hillary Clinton to Margaret Thatcher to Mikhail Gorbachev. Her 1972 cover story for New York on Jacqueline Kennedy’s impoverished relatives Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale and Edith “Little Edie” Bouvier Beale helped inspire the documentary and Broadway show “Grey Gardens.”
Sheehy’s honors included the National Magazine Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and a citation from the American Psychological Association.