NEW YORK — Hazel Rowley, a biographer whose subjects ranged from a
neglected Australian writer to a famous African-American one, and from a
distinguished pair of French philosophers and their romantic entanglements to a
distinguished American presidential couple and their (possible) romantic entanglements,
died March 1 in Manhattan. She was 59.
Dr. Rowley died after a series of strokes resulting from an undiagnosed
infection. Reared in Australia, Dr. Rowley had lived in Manhattan in recent
She wrote four biographies of charismatic 20th-century figures. “Franklin
and Eleanor: An Extraordinary Marriage,’’ was published in October.
Dr. Rowley’s first biography, “Christina Stead,’’ appeared in Australia in
1993 and in the United States the next year. It examined an overlooked writer
whose novel, “The Man Who Loved Children’’ (1940), studies a narcissistic father
and his family.
Her next biography, “Richard Wright: The Life and Times’’ (2001), was about
the American writer whose fiction (including the novel “Native Son’’) and
nonfiction look unflinchingly at the black experience.
In “Tete-a-Tete: Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre’’ (2005), she
explored the long and erotically multifaceted partnership of two great
Dr. Rowley’s most recent book, “Franklin and Eleanor,’’ also explores a
long and somewhat unorthodox partnership. Dr. Rowley was often asked what united
the diverse subjects of her books. “For those who have read all four, the thread
is clear,’’ she wrote in an introductory passage on her website, hazelrowley.com
. “They were
courageous people, who all, in some way, felt ‘outsiders’ in society. Above all,
they were passionate people who cared about the world and felt angry about its
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