As the author of several books on social inequalities woven into the English language, Rosalie Maggio has always known what to say.
She has often lectured to high school classes about choosing inclusive words over sexist options – for example, “staff hours” instead of “labor.” At a lecture for her daughter’s class, a student mocked, saying, “Men have been around much longer than women,” family members recalled. Maggio didn’t skip a beat.
“She laughed,” said her daughter, Katie Koskenmaki of Oakland, Calif. “And she pointed out the obvious problem with that statement in her usual sardonic way.”
Longtime Minnesotan, Maggio, of La Crescenta, Calif., Died on September 18 at the age of 77 from pancreatic cancer.
“She was a Renaissance phenomenon,” said her sister, Mary Maggio of Bloomington. “She knew everything. She spoke French in her sleep.”
Born November 8, 1943, the oldest of eight siblings, Maggio grew up in Fort Dodge, Iowa, and studied French at St. Catherine’s University in St. Paul. One of his books, a biography of French athlete and combat pilot Marie Marvingt, has been published in both French and English.
She began her professional career editing a journal that published research on ophthalmology, while writing children’s books and magazines.
Maggio has always been interested in quotes, and when she consulted the reference book “Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations”, she was dismayed to find only a handful of quotes from women. “It was very, very biased, and I think it turned her off,” said Mary Maggio.
Maggio made it his mission to rectify the situation and began collecting quotes from reading thousands of books. In 1996, she published “The New Beacon Book of Quotations by Women”, containing 16,000 observations, inspirations and witticisms from eminent women. She also launched a website, quotesbywomen.com, with more than 44,000 entries.
Maggio worked prolifically. Her daughter remembers hearing the hum of Maggio’s electric typewriter every morning in their St. Paul home.
She has devoted much of the last three decades of her career exposing racist, ageist and sexist language – and offering alternatives, in works such as “The Nonsexist Word Finder” and “Unspinning the Spin: The Women’s Media Center’s Guide to Fair and Precise Language“, which is scheduled for a digital reissue this month.
In the preface to “Spin,” Ms. Magazine’s co-founders, Robin Morgan and Gloria Steinem, wrote not only about the book’s indispensable nature for writers, editors, students, teachers and activists, but also on the playfulness that Maggio has incorporated into his discoveries. The tone of the book, they write, “reflects not only Maggio’s dedication to fair and precise language, but also his delight in words and their power – and his sense of humor.”
But Maggio knew his work was not appreciated by everyone, at a time when political correctness was becoming a divisive buzzword. “She was called the word police,” said Mary Maggio.
As always, she knew exactly what to say. In the introduction to “Spin”, Maggio anticipated his critics with a wink:
“A common complaint today is: ‘A person cannot say anything more! In fact, a person can. And people do. While we have anti-smear laws for fruits and vegetables, we don’t have them for people, which means you can say horrible things about people, yell insults in their faces, and no one will. stop you. You can get dirty looks and criticism, but, hey, you can take it. “
Along with her sister and daughter Katie, survivors include her husband, David Koskenmaki; children Liz Koskenmaki and Matt Koskenmaki; and brothers Frank, Patrick, Kevin, Paul, Mark and Matt. A private service will take place later.
Sharyn Jackson • 612-673-4853