This month Crazy Woman Cellars celebrates the fierce author, philosopher and intellect Ayn Rand. Ayn Rand was her pen name, as she was born Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum on February 2, 1905 in communist Russia. She was 12 years old during the October Revolution in Russia, which destroyed her family life as she knew it. Her father’s business, like most businesses, was seized by the government. Her family fled to Crimea, and she learned to despise the ideals of communism. She was a superb student, and decided she would become a writer by the time she was 9 years old. Despite her family’s desperate living conditions, including near starvation, she graduated from Leningrad State University in October 1924 with a major in history and a minor in philosophy. She was mesmerized by the idea of America- specifically capitalism, property rights and freedom of speech. She emigrated to America in 1926, and met her husband Frank O’Connor. They married in 1929 and spent the rest of their lives together.
While Rand is celebrated for her novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, she wrote two prior novels that have sold millions of copies, and authored a stage play on Broadway. As to Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, they are simply two of the most influential novels of the 20th Century. In these two novels, Ms. Rand blended page turning stories with a philosophy she developed on her own (albeit heavily influenced by Aristotle) called Objectivism. These two novels shaped thinking in academia, and were required reading in most high schools and universities in America for half a century. Her philosophy, while highly controversial today, was heavily influenced by her upbringing in Communist Russia. Simply put, she believed passionately in small government, and the idea that man should live his life based on reason and rational thinking. She believed a person’s accomplishments should be loudly celebrated, and that they should pursue happiness for themselves, rather than rely upon others to provide it for them. You can still see her on YouTube, debating the likes of Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes or Phil Donahue. In a time when women did not debate men on TV, she handily mopped the floor with them. The famous economists Ludwig Von Mises once referred to Rand as “the most courageous man in America”.
Rand’s influence was so great that Chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan was said to have been a student of her writings and his policies reputedly reflected some of her ideals. She passed away on March 6th, 1982.
Ms. Rand, while controversial, was one of the most influential writers of the 20thCentury, was one of the most vocal women of her time, and made a significant dent in the universe. We celebrate her passion, courage, and originality.