Katha Pollitt is an award-winning poet and essayist, and long-time columnist for the Nation magazine. Born in Brooklyn, New York, Pollitt studied philosophy at Harvard and received an MFA in writing from Columbia University. She began contributing to the Nation in 1980, serving as editor of the Books & the Arts section, and has been writing her biweekly column, “Subject to Debate,” since 1995. Known for her feminist criticism, Pollitt frequently writes about abortion rights, the media, U.S. foreign policy, poverty, and welfare reform—both in her column and in other major publications, including the New Yorker, the New York Times, and the Atlantic. Her essays, collected in four books spanning thirteen years, have received numerous acclaimed nominations and awards. She’s also written two books of poetry. The first, Antarctic Traveller, won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1982. The second, The Mind-Body Problem, was published by Random House in 2009.
Pollitt was a signatory to Humanist Manifesto III in 2003 and was named this year’s Humanist Heroine by the Feminist Caucus of the American Humanist Association for, as she put it, “four decades laboring in the atheistical vineyards.” The following was adapted from her June 1 speech in acceptance of the award.