Portola Valley author Autumn Stanley dies


Autumn Joy Stanley, a scholar, author and Portola Valley resident for 60 years, wrote many books, including at least three about notable women and more than two dozen for children.

Stanley died peacefully on Sept. 20 after a long illness, according to her daughter Holly Parnigoni.

A native of Jackson, Ohio, Stanley had a master's degree in English from Stanford University, according to an Almanac story from 1992. She worked in publishing for 11 years before leaving to concentrate on her own writing, the story says.

Her collected works also include cookbooks, murder mysteries and biographies. She honed her storytelling skills as a girl by telling "elaborate bedtime stories" to a younger sister who demanded them every evening, the story says.

Stanley's 1995 book, "Mothers and Daughters of Invention: Notes for a Revised History of Technology," examines over the book's 600 pages the role of women in developing technologies related to agriculture and horticulture as well as pregnancy, childbirth and contraception, not to mention software and artificial intelligence.

"Anthropologists now generally agree that women invented agriculture," Stanley writes in the introduction. "But since the myth of Man the Hunter/Provider dies so hard, I will review some of the support for my opening statement."

Stanley said that women deserve invention credits for, among other advances, the heart-lung machine, the dishwasher, the bulletproof vest and paper bags with flat bottoms.

Changing gears completely, Stanley wrote in the "The Princess with the Purple Hair," published in 2015, of the girl Clothilde, born to royal parents; her hair had hints of purple at birth, showed mauve in the sun at a year old, and at age 5, bloomed with the color of "wisteria in the shade."

The book relates the story of how Clothilde's mother hid her daughter's hair color from her father, who would deem her cursed if he ever saw it.

Stanley was appreciated for her love of family, beauty and photography, her daughter wrote, adding that her mother was also known for her kindness, her singing voice, her honesty and her community involvement.

"She will be sorely missed by all who knew her," she wrote. "Heaven has another angel now watching over us."

Stanley was preceded in death by her longtime companion David A. Brewer and is survived by her sister Dixie French of Kettering, Ohio; daughters Kathyrn Hickinbotham of Idaho Falls, Idaho, and Holly Parnigoni and Iris Beiswanger of Santa Rosa; son Kevin Simmons of Sebastopol; eight grandchildren; and 14 great-grandchildren.

Donations in her name may be made to the breast cancer fundraising nonprofit at Susan G. Komen


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Like this comment
Posted by Maggi
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Nov 8, 2018 at 3:35 am

I had the great privilege and joy of meeting Autumn in England, where I live, in 1994 or 1995, just about when her book, Mothers and Daughters of Invention, was published. She was my cousin, David Brewer's, lifelong companion. Autumn and David very kindly visited me in Oxford while I was still at university. I also had the good fortune to meet her a few years later in, if I remember correctly, Beaconsfield, with her wonderful daughter and son-in-law and with my Aunt Ellen as well in a warm and friendly home full of the happy presence of the Love of God. I was given a kind American welcome by all and will never forget a lovely day and evening spent with them all.

To Autumn's family, I send my heartfelt condolences along with deep gratitude and thanksgiving for the chance to be touched by a life so well spent with family in joy, music, study, stories, creativity, and a delighted openness of heart and mind. I am so very sorry that she is no longer walking among us, but feel absolutely certain that she dwells in Peace and Joy with God and His Angels. In fact, I expect they have already asked her to join their choir. I will never forget Autumn's rich and lovely voice. It glowed with warm fire like the season for which she was named. Autumn.

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