Author Helen Garson: She banded with her female colleagues to form what they called “The Women’s Mafia.”

A death notice from the family of author Helen Garson in the Washington Post:

Author and long-time George Mason University professor Helen S. Garson will be buried on April 27 2021 at Arlington National Cemetery. Garson, lauded for her biographies of Truman Capote and Oprah Winfrey, lived her life in New York, Maryland and Virginia. She died on October 19, two days shy of her 94th birthday….

Novelist Richard Bausch, whose acclaimed 2008 novel, “Peace,” was adapted for the movie “Recon” in 2019, called his former professor and colleague “a beautiful person and a great teacher” and “versatile and vastly learned.” Garson…grew up in New York and Washington, DC, and graduated from the University of Georgia before earning her doctorate in English at the University of Maryland, where she won a fellowship and taught while starting her family with husband H. Neil Garson….

She started teaching English at George Mason University in 1967. She became the university’s first woman administrator when she accepted the role of associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, but stepped down from that position in 1976, saying she wanted to return to teaching. At that time, she noted, “Men have to see women working along beside of them and recognize that women will and can be professional.”

Garson retired from GMU as a tenured professor in May 1992. At her retirement party, she admitted: “All was not happy, happy love. … For women, working in academia was … not always separate, but certainly always unequal.” She said she had banded with her female colleagues to form what they called “The Women’s Mafia.” “We plotted, we lobbied; we agonized, got angry and disillusioned, and eventually disbanded, believing we had failed,” she said in her farewell speech. “But of course, we didn’t.”

The same year, Garson authored her first book, an analysis of the novels and stories of the writer and actor Truman Capote. Part biography and part reader’s guide, her book, according to The International Fiction Review, is “sensible, restrained and informed and provides an excellent introduction to an important contemporary writer.” In 1994, Garson penned a similar reader companion-style analysis of the works of novelist Tom Clancy. In 2004, she published a biography of talk show star Oprah Winfrey and updated it with a second edition in 2011.

“I love writing. I love the discipline. I love language,” she told her local newspaper, The Town Courier, after retiring to the Gaithersburg suburb Kentlands. “I can spend an entire day on one page.

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