Author and former St. Paulite Rosalie Maggio dies at 77

Former St. Paulite Rosalie Maggio, who was 77, died of pancreatic cancer in September in her California home.

Maggio was the author of 24 books, including groundbreakers that insisted on inclusive language long before the subject became popular. Her titles include “How to Say It: Choice Words, Phrases, Sentences & Paragraphs,” which sold 3 million copies, and “The Nonsexist Word Finder: A Dictionary of Gender-Free Usage,” published in 1988, one of the first guides to using inclusive language. “Unspinning the Spin: The Women’s Media Center Guide to Fair and Accurate Language,” was published posthumously in October.

Rosalie Maggio (Courtesy photo)

Maggio first appeared in the Pioneer Press in 1993, when she talked about her book ‘The Bias-Free Word Finder.”

She suffered a lot of backlash against feminism, multiculturalism, inclusiveness and other trends we called then “political correctness.” Radio talk show callers told her she was mentally ill. Art critic John Simon accused her, during a public-radio show, of “writing like a pig.”

But Maggio, a graduate of what was then the College of St. Catherine, kept on writing about the importance of words while she and her husband, David Koskenmaki, and their three children lived in St. Paul from 1979 to 2001.

“I found that the more women were marginalized, the more dynamic their writing,” she told the Pioneer Press. “If you want imagery, fresh language, wild minds, look to lesbians, Black women, Asian-American women and Native Americans. They are doing the most experimental work, and they aren’t using the same cliches and expressions.”

Among Maggio’s other books are “The Music Box Christmas,” a children’s book that first appeared as a short story in the Pioneer Press, and “Marie Marvingt,” the biography of a pioneering French pilot, written in French.

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