Emily Sunstein: 82, a Biographer and Scholar, Dies





Emily W. Sunstein, an independent scholar known for writing biographies of an unconventional mother and her unconventional daughter — Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley — died on Saturday in Philadelphia. She was 82 and had lived in Philadelphia for many years.

The cause was complications of autoimmune vasculitis, an inflammation of the blood vessels, her daughter Kay Hymowitz said.

Ms. Sunstein’s first biography, “A Different Face: The Life of Mary Wollstonecraft,” was published in 1975 by Harper & Row. It chronicled the life of the mother, the noted British author and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-97), who died a few days after the birth of her daughter, the future Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.

Her second biography, “Mary Shelley: Romance and Reality” (Little, Brown, 1989), was the story of the daughter (1797-1851) who wrote “Frankenstein” and was the wife of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Reviewing the Mary Shelley biography in The New York Times Book Review, Carolyn Heilbrun wrote: “Ms. Sunstein has corrected the erroneous assumptions that have misled so many critics, myself (when young) included.” She added: “Ms. Sunstein is to be praised for looking anew at so misunderstood a life.”

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