55. Ayn Rand

100 Women of Influence

Ayn Rand was a writer and philosopher, best known for her famous novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.

Born Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum in 1905, to a Russian Jewish family, she began writing screenplays and novels as a child. Her family was badly affected by the Russian Revolution of 1917, which left them in poverty and struggling at times to eat. Nevertheless, Rand managed to study and graduated from university, majoring in History, in 1924. After visiting relatives in the United States the following year, Ayn decided that she wanted to stay. A chance meeting with famous director, Cecile B. Demille led to a job as a junior screenwriter in Hollywood and she made a name for herself as a screenwriter and novelist in the subsequent years. Her first major success was with her book, The Fountainhead, which took her seven years to write. Atlas Shrugged, an international best-seller about a dystopian America, followed, and is widely considered her greatest work, despite receiving a number of negative reviews at the time.

Though Rand did not loudly proclaim her Judaism, she never denied it and it is clear that she felt connected to Judaism, and the Jewish culture, throughout her life – the first public cause that she ever donated to with her own money, was to the State of Israel.

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