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a road trip, a blog, a book

Emma, 1985-2008

December 26th, 2008 · 15 Comments

My co-author of GIRLdrive, close friend, and intellectual soulmate Emma Bee Bernstein died on December 20th, 2008, in Venice, Italy. Unable to give Emma a fitting tribute on GIRLdrive until now (Emma had changed the password), I am finally able to honor her after my initial shock. The past six months had been an unimaginable nightmare for Emma, as she trudged through emotional turmoil and circumstantial stress almost daily, without allowing herself a minute of respite or peace of mind.

Yet I want to believe that her despair was in spite of GIRLdrive, feminism, and our work together. During many bonding work sessions or long car rides, Emma confessed to me that this project was one of the main positive forces in her life. She cared so much about the fate of women and feminism in this country; Emma had many sides to her, but at her core was a fervently idealistic soul. I can only hope to bring forth her passion as I finish up our book, and somehow keep her misty-eyed utopianism alive amidst very real tragedy.

The other positive forces in her life, of course, were her countless loved ones. Emma touched and was touched by so many people, it’s unbelievable. I’ve been reminded of this daily for the last six days, as dozens of people important to her have reached out to me.

Love you girl. I will miss our adventures more than you can imagine.


Courtney Martin of Feministing, one of our GIRLdrive interviewees, has written an amazingly insightful and honest tribute to Emma, linked here.

Her close friend Sam has set up a Flickr album to remember her through photos, the medium through which Emma reflected her artistic vision.

For New Yorkers, there will be a service on Wednesday, December 31st at 10:30 am, at the Plaza Jewish Community Chapel at 630 Amsterdam Ave (at 91st Street).

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15 responses so far ↓

  • 1 jess // Dec 27, 2008 at 10:55 am

    this is shocking. im so sorry to hear this, nona.

  • 2 Jane Vargas, Ph.D. // Dec 27, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    I am so terribly sad to hear of Emma’s passing, Nona. You two came to my apartment in San Francisco and interviewed my daughter Rebecca and me. I was struck by the life force, beauty, energy, smarts, and savvy you two possessed. As the mother of two daughters your and Emma’s age, I’m especially saddened to learn that Emma suffered such heavy emotional burdens. Please continue the project, Nona, and see its completion; there couldn’t be a better tribute to your dear friend. In sympathy and with great warmth,

    Jane Vargas

  • 3 Maria-Elena // Dec 28, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    Nona…Susan just e-mailed me the terrible, unbelievable news. As I told her mom, all I knew of Emma was her vivacity and intelligence, and I had no idea that she was going through such turmoil. I feel all I can do–besides try to understand the inconceivable grief that her family and closest friends must be experiencing right now–is send along my love, and also hopes that you follow through on GIRLdrive as a testament to the influence that Emma exerted during her short time here.

  • 4 whatsername // Dec 29, 2008 at 12:33 am

    I’m so sorry. :(

  • 5 Courtney // Dec 29, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    I am so, so sorry for the loss of your friend. I can’t imagine what you are going through. You are in my thoughts.

  • 6 Guerrilla Girls On Tour // Dec 29, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    Guerrilla Girls On Tour mourns the loss of the young feminist voice and spirit of Emma Bee Bernstein. We send to you, Nona, and all the feminist fans of Emma and GIRLdrive our love and support. – GGOT’s

  • 7 Anonymous // Dec 29, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    how did emma die? so sad….

  • 8 Anonymous // Dec 30, 2008 at 10:28 am

    I’m so sorry. My thoughts are with you.

  • 9 kat // Dec 30, 2008 at 11:34 am

    I think about Emma and miss her every day. I know how important this project was to her. She talked with me about the book each time we spoke. If I can do anything to help bring it to completion as she would want, I’m here to help.

    Kat Griefen

  • 10 Big T // Dec 30, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    I sigh. I don’t know what to say. It just breaks my heart. Peace to you, my sisters. I’m so sorry she struggled with such pain. I wish I could have been there to try and change her mind, if I could have.

  • 11 John // Dec 30, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    So sad to hear this

  • 12 Anonymous // Jan 3, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    There are no words – Emma’s spirit will survive in all of us who strive for the positive ideals of feminism and artistic ventures.

  • 13 Laurie // Jan 4, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    I’m so sorry for your loss. As one of your interviewees, I remain inspired by your project and you both.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you, her family and friends.

    Austin, TX

  • 14 Kathleen // Jan 20, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    I had the pleasure of knowing Emma through her fervent volunteerism with a group of high school girls who were daring to dream for something more. During the spring of 2008 Emma and Nona gave their time talent and energy to the young ladies of Step Up Women’s Network “I Dream to…” Photojournalism program. People choose to volunteer for a number of reasons; some to build a resume and others to feel satisfied knowing they did their good deed for the week or the year. Neither of these things crossed Emma’s mind when she shared her time with our girls. Emma gave week after week because she forged a genuine and selfless connection with each young woman we worked with. She brought life, passion, curiosity, knowledge, humor, honesty and love to her time with us. She did more than show them how to take a picture or to share a unsuspecting quip about feminism – which she delightedly did often. Emma showed myself and those she touched how to deeply care and how to live life ignited with passion. The shortened duration of her existence with us is surely surpassed by the amount of life she managed to inspire in her few years.

    Kathleen Murphy

  • 15 Lin // Nov 22, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    almost one year she’s gone. Life is precious to everyone, even harsh at times, but, it just proves we have been here…
    bless u Nona~

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