Betty Miles, a writer whose books for children and young adults addressed issues like sexism, racism and censorship after she had emerged from the 1950s to become a feminist, died July 19 at her home in Shelburne, Vermont. She was 90.
Her death was confirmed by her daughter Ellen Miles.
In many of her more than two dozen books, Miles aimed to entertain young people while also helping them navigate the complex realities of society.
“In my books I want to present characters who can serve as models — not because they are exceptionally brave or righteous, but precisely because they are ordinary kids dealing with everyday worries and embarrassments,” she wrote in the autobiography series “Something About the Author.”
Her protagonists often stood up to prejudice or narrow-mindedness, even when they were initially reluctant to do so.
She began publishing picture books in 1958 and produced her first novel, “The Real Me,” in 1974. It stemmed from her frustration at pervasive sexism.
The book’s heroine, a teenager named Barbara Fisher, takes a stand after she is denied a newspaper route, barred from her school’s tennis team because she is a girl and forced to take instead a gym class called Slimnastics.
“Suddenly I began to notice how many things were unfair to girls, and how angry people got if you complained about it,” Barbara thinks to herself in one passage.
Miles also wrote books that focused on race relations.
Elizabeth Louise Baker was born in Chicago on May 16, 1928, to David and Helen (Otte) Baker. She spent her early years in Baghdad before returning to the United States, where she lived in living in Ohio, Baltimore and Missouri.
She attended Antioch College in Ohio, where she studied literature and journalism.
While in college she worked as a reporter and editor for local newspapers. At Antioch, she met Matt Miles. They married in 1949 and, after graduating, moved to New York City.
Matt Miles died in 1996. In addition to her daughter Ellen, Betty Miles is survived by another daughter, Sara Miles; a son, David; and three granddaughters.