Her•Story: Nora Ephron

And every so often I’m with a group of people and you just run out of things to say and I say, “How many people believe in God?” In fact, the way we play the game is you have to guess how many people at the table believe in God. And it’s always more than I think it’s going to be. I’m always a little surprised that it’s even three out of eight.

Nora Ephron (May 19, 1941 – June 26, 2012) was a director, producer, screenwriter, novelist, playwright, and journalist. She was best known for writing the screenplays When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle. Forever the motivator of woman and as a testament to feminism (qualities that Secular Woman holds dear) Ephron was quoted as saying, “Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim”.

Nora was born on May 19, 1941 in New York City to two Jewish screenwriters. Ephron, however, was not religious. “You can never have too much butter – that is my belief. If I have a religion, that’s it”. When she was four years old, she moved to Beverly Hills, CA. After she graduated from Beverly Hills High School in 1958, she moved to Massachusetts to attend Wellesley College, accompanied by her mother’s advice to avoid sororities and organized religion. There she majored in political science and wrote for the college’s newspaper.

After Nora graduated from college in 1962, she briefly interned in the White House and then became a “mail girl” at Newsweek for a year. Shortly after, she and a few friends started a satirical newspaper, which caught the attention of a New York Post editor who later hired Nora as a reporter. While working at the New York Post, she began writing essays for New York magazine, Esquire, The New York Times Magazine and other publications. Her humorous 1972 essay, “A Few Words About Breasts,” made her a household name. Over time, she began to create a name for herself as one of America’s best-known humorists. Now, also as a well-known essayist, she talked about a wide variety of subjects, including criticising her alma mater, Wellesley College, for turning out a generation of “docile” women.

Nora Ephron wrote her first screenplay for All the President’s Men at the request of Carl Bernstein, her then husband and Bob Woodward. Her script was not used in the end, but it did result in a screenwriting job offer by someone who had seen the script. In 1989, Nora experienced one of her greatest screenwriting success with When Harry Met Sally. She later transitioned to directing films in 1992 with This Is My Life, but the film turned out to be a box office disappointment. Still, ever vigilant, the next film she directed became a success: Sleepless in Seattle. These triumphs solidified Nora as the foremost creator of romantic comedies.

Along with her many acheivments in directing and screenwriting, Nora Ephron went on to pursue many projects, including playwriting. In 2006, she published a collection of essays, I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Reflections on Being a Woman, which quickly became number one on the New York Times best-seller list. She also blogged regularly for The Huffington Post.

Secular Woman highlights the life of Ms. Ephron who once said, “I certainly know I’m not going to be one of those people with a deathbed conversion”. Ephron died on June 26, 2012 from pneumonia, a complication resulting from acute myeloid leukemia.

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