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Marie Edwards; psychologist advocated for singles

By Valerie J. Nelson
Los Angeles Times / March 2, 2009
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LOS ANGELES - Marie Babare Edwards, a psychologist who helped pioneer a "singles pride" movement in the 1970s through her book, "The Challenge of Being Single," and workshops she taught at the University of Southern California, died two days before her 90th birthday.

Ms. Edwards died Dec. 31 of complications related to old age at an assisted-living facility in Hollywood. Her family announced her death last week.

Not everyone is destined to march through life as half of a "Noah's Ark twosome," Ms. Edwards declared in a 1974 Los Angeles Times article about her work that ran under the headline "A Singles' Lib Manifesto."

She wasn't either. Divorced after 11 years of marriage, Ms. Edwards found herself suddenly in sync with a third of the adult US population that was single - then 43 million people - and wrestling with life in "a couple's world."

"I noted that many singles felt guilty because they were not married," Ms. Edwards later recalled, "that there were many myths and much misinformation about singles, . . . that singles needed someone to speak for them to formulate a new way of looking at singlehood."

As she regularly addressed singles groups, Ms. Edwards became an advocate for equal social status for the never or formerly married. She could not shake feeling "like a fifth wheel" as she began rearing her 9-year-old son alone. Like many singles, she tired of the brassy query: "How come you're not married?"

Two decades before the study of singles rights could even be considered an emerging field in academia, according to one specialist, Ms. Edwards held her first seminar on the subject. In 1971, she held "The Challenge of Being Single" through the University of South California's College of Continuing Education.

By holding the workshops, she aimed to raise the consciousness of singles, to show them they were not alone in their struggle for selfhood.

Ms. Edwards considered the book and seminars, held at USC through most of the 1970s, "my most significant contribution as a psychologist," she later wrote, because she helped "individuals and institutions . . . appreciate singlehood as an alternate and viable lifestyle."

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