It is with a heavy heart that I report that our longtime columnist Alison Piepmeier has passed away after a seven-year fight with brain cancer. Alison’s husband Brian McGee reported the news today on Facebook writing, “Alison died this morning at home, as I kissed her and stroked her cheek. Her parents and older brother were here and able to say goodbye. She died peacefully, surrounded by the love of her family and friends.”
As her students and readers of her “Feminism, Y’all” column know, Alison was a force of nature. The director of the Women’s and Gender Studies and associate professor of English at the College of Charleston, Alison was a dedicated activist and scholar. For the City Paper, she tackled difficult subjects such as same-sex parenting, women’s rights, disabled child-rearing, and the controversy over CofC freshman reading assignment Fun Home.
But the thing that always made Alison different, at least to me, was her sense of humor and humanity. One week she was encouraging people to support Black Lives Matter activists, while the next she might write about her love of romance novels. She was aware of her own contradictions and she embraced them.
Over the past year, Alison’s columns focused on her fight with cancer. Openly and — though Alison might roll her eyes at the term — bravely, she talked about all the difficult parts of knowing her time on earth was ending — finding comfort in baking muffins, trepidation over losing her hair, accepting that her daughter Maybelle would lose her mother, rejecting the idea of being brave simply due to a diagnosis, and ultimately facing the fact that there were no more treatment options left.
In July she wrote her farewell column, “Thank you for my beautiful life.” In it she talked about watching her daughter experience her first princess party, and the great irony of appreciating such an event as a feminist scholar.
I am happy, so happy, to have experienced a princess party. I am so sorry there won’t be more of them for me, if only because I would never turn down the chance to experience the pure joy of my daughter singing “Let It Go” over and over.
I hope this won’t be my last column. Perhaps, though, knowing that it might be is a gift I should accept.
She ended by saying, “If there’s a heaven, or whatever, I’ll see you there.” Her touching story was picked up by ABC News and US Weekly.
While I graduated from the College of Charleston during Alison’s tenure, I never had the great opportunity to study under her, but I have a lot of friends who did, and those who took her classes five, even 10 years ago, still speak about Alison with a certain kind of awe. She was that kind of professor, that kind of writer, that kind of human.
She will be greatly missed.
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Stay cool. Support City Paper.
City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.