Eve Ensler was born in New York City in 1953. She was raised in a primarily Jewish community, and suffered extreme physical and sexual abuse by her father for a significant portion of her childhood. This experience impacted her profoundly--from her identification as a militant feminist in college to her struggles with drugs and alcohol. She graduated from Middlebury College in 1975, caught in a cycle of abusive relationships and addiction.
In 1978, she married Richard McDermott. He encouraged her to enter rehab. Ensler also adopted McDermott's teenage son from a previous marriage. Today, she credits her relationship with both McDermott and especially her stepson as emotionally healing her, ultimately helping her become a loving person. In 1988, Ensler and McDermott divorced.
Professionally, Ensler was a fringe playwright until she happened to have a conversation with a friend who was in menopause. This friend was lamenting her changing body, including her vagina, which prompted Ensler to ask other women about their vaginas--these conversation led to the creation of The Vagina Monologues in 1996. Originally a one-woman piece, the episodic, monologue-based show has been through several revisions and has been performed worldwide. Casts have included celebrities, often in conjunction with advocacy movements and charitable organizations. Ensler won the Obie Award for Best New Play for The Vagina Monologues.
Ensler's activism, combined with the popularity of The Vagina Monologues, inspired the V-Day Movement. First celebrated on Valentine's Day, 1998, V-Day is a global activist initiative that works to bring awareness to and ultimately end violence against women. In 2004, the documentary Until the Violence Stops brought further awareness to the movement. Ensler was featured. At the 65th Tony Awards in 2011, she won the Isabelle Stevenson Award for her work.
Ensler has continued to write about women, women's issues, and women's bodies. Her memoir In the Body of the World (2013) included her experience with uterine cancer in 2010. Most recently, her book The Apology (2019) imagines her father's apology for his abuse towards her. Ensler saw the book as a cathartic piece, and took the name "V," as she did not want to carry her father's name anymore.
Ensler has received multiple awards and honorary degrees for her work, including a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1999 and The Sandra Day O'Connor Award from the Arizona Foundation for Women in 2005. She continues to write plays, memoirs, essays, speak at events, and work in social activism.
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