Ayn Rand

On this date in 1905, Ayn Rand (née Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum) was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, to a nonobservant Jewish family. She became an atheist as a teenager. Immigrating to the United States in 1921, she renamed herself Ayn (rhymes with “mine”) after a Finnish woman; the “Rand” was inspired by her Remington-Rand typewriter. She worked for Hollywood studios intermittently for 20 years, starting as an extra for Cecil B. DeMille and progressing to screenwriter. She married actor Frank O’Connor in 1929 in “a ‘proper’ nonreligious ceremony in a judge’s chambers.”

Rand’s first novel We the Living (1936) was not initially successful. The Fountainhead (1943) secured her place in literature, followed by Atlas Shrugged (1957). Rand’s novels promote her philosophy of Objectivism, promulgated in John Galt’s famous speech from Atlas Shrugged. Galt termed faith “a short-circuit destroying the mind.” Rand’s lecture “Faith and Force: the Destroyers of the Modern World” was delivered at Yale University in 1960.

During her lifetime, Rand’s writing provoked praise and condemnation, but more of the latter. In 2009, GQ critic Tom Carson described her books as “capitalism’s version of middlebrow religious novels” such as Ben-Hur and the “Left Behind” series. After undergoing surgery for lung cancer in 1974, she died of heart failure in 1982.

Freedom From Religion Foundation