Psychologist Marie Babare Edwards found herself suddenly single after an 11-year marriage went sour. But instead of feeling lost and devastated, she felt empowered. And, according to a recent L.A. Times and Boston Globe article, she also felt in sync with the then 43 million other unmarried people in the U.S. who shared her status and who “wrestled with life in a couple’s world.”
A single mother, raising a young son alone after her divorce, Edwards expressed the sentiment that she felt like “a fifth wheel.” The article states that she tired of constantly hearing the phrase, “How come you’re not married?”
Those personal experiences triggered a fervent desire to demonstrate to others that not everyone’s destiny is to live their lives as half of a “Noah’s Ark twosome,” as she declared in a1974 L.A. Times article profile entitled, “ A Singles’ Lib Manifesto.” In fact, she soon became an ardent advocate for equality for those who were unmarried.
In 1971, twenty years before it became a subject for academic study, Edwards began her first seminars at USC’s College of Continuing Education. The topic was a radical one for the time: “The Challenge of Being Single.” In the 1974 Times article, Edwards said she wanted to raise consciousness for single people, to let them know “it’s OK to be single.”
In 1974, after a series of workshops and 3,000 interviews with singles, she published her self-help book, “The Challenge of Being Single,” co-authored with journalist Eleanor Hoover.
In her book, she tackles many subjects that still confront singles today: health insurance, loneliness, taxes, marriage as a “panacea,” adversity from family and friends. Chapters address such topics as “Myth No. 1: All Single Women Want to Get Married” or “Freedom — The Greatest Advantage to Being Single.”
The New York Times reviewed “The Challenge of Being Single” and applauded her “innovative and intelligent techniques for handling the social and emotional problems that commonly beset singles.”
The book is still used as a source in university social studies classes, including those of sociologist E. Kay Trimberger, author of “The New Single Woman” (2005, Beacon Press) who calls Edwards, “a pioneer, writing about the social issues of singles before it was popular.”
Edwards recognized the legacy of her seminars through the 70’s at USC and with her book. She wrote, “My most significant contribution as a psychologist was to help individuals and institutions appreciate singlehood as an alternate and viable lifestyle.”
The remarkable Edwards was born January 2, 1919 in Tacoma, Wash., daughter of Nick Babare, a ship builder and independent oil operator and his wife, the former Mary Mardesich. She was raised in eastern Texas and earned bachelor and masters’ degrees from Stanford University. In 1950 she moved to Los Angeles and lived in Culver City.
When she inherited her father’s oil business, she left the field of psychology. She also came close to remarrying several times, but never did. She could honestly say — as she did many times — “I love my single life.”
Edwards died Dec. 31, 2008 in Hollywood, two days before her 90th birthday. Hers was a rich and full life and we Singulars reap the rewards of her social pioneering legacy.