Nancy Friday, author of once-shocking ‘My Secret Garden,’ dies at 83

Nancy Friday, author of the book "The Power of Beauty," at the Bel Air Hotel during a book promotion tour.
(Robert Durell / Los Angeles Times)

Nancy Friday, a journalist and author whose best-selling “My Secret Garden” was a landmark compilation of women’s sexual fantasies, has died at age 84.

Friday died Sunday morning in her Manhattan apartment, said her literary agent, Robert Thixton. She was 84 and died of complications from Alzheimer’s.

“My Secret Garden: Women’s Sexual Fantasies,” explicit letters and interviews gathered by Friday, was published in 1973 and is widely regarded as the first major book to compile women’s sexual fantasies.


It was an era of erotic candor, from Dr. David Reuben’s “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask)” to Erica Jong’s novel “Fear of Flying.” But Friday’s book was still shocking, with its graphic detail of everything from rape to bestiality.

“My Secret Garden” was described at the time as a dirty book with the clean parts edited out. It was panned by Ms. magazine, which declared that “this woman is not a feminist,” yet sold millions of copies and made Friday a celebrity.

Her other books included “Women On Top,” ’’Jealousy” and “Beyond My Control.”

Friday was married twice, to author Bill Manville and Time magazine executive Norman Pearlstine. Both marriages ended in divorce.

A Pittsburgh native who grew up in Charleston, S.C., Friday was a graduate of Wellesley College and worked as a newspaper and magazine reporter and in public relations in the 1960s and ’70s before the era’s sexual revolution gave her the idea for a book, which became “My Secret Garden.”

“I do think a lot of women are likely to begin fantasizing after reading this book,” Friday told the New York Times in 1973. “Or rather, become aware that they have been fantasizing all along, and that these sudden odd ideas or notions they have up to now forgotten, or repressed, are indeed fantasies.”