Ayn Rand: Worst. Aunt. Ever.

So in 1949, Ayn Rand’s unfortunate niece writes her to ask for a little loan to buy a dress. Rand, being Rand, replies by writing Atlas Shrugged in miniature, in a toothache-inducing screed about fiscal responsibility. She must have been so much fun at a party.

"Nature’s ballet. Simply marvelous to watch."

Vaux’s Swift Roost in Monroe, WA
"Yesterdays reading..These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to ..."

Jesus Founded a Church, Not a ..."
"Beautifully written, Mark. Amen."

Jesus Founded a Church, Not a ..."
"The type of Christians you describe are responsible for countless spiritual abortions."

Jesus Founded a Church, Not a ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Marthe Lépine

    Well, it seems to me that the letter is not that bad. It is of course totally devoid of love, which is to be expected from Ayn Rand. Some of the advice is actually good, but the way it is offered is guaranteed to turn off a teen… I saw a follow-up letter when I clicked the link, but I would have really liked to see the niece’s answer… However, in my opinion, the best gift Ms. Rand could offer her niece is to write her off from her life!

  • CJ

    The letter wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected given Mark’s description. The financial advice and talk about responsibility were spot on. The part about not having any obligations to your relatives is typical Randian nonsense, but pretty tame by her standards. I have an uncle of substantial means and most of the family treats him like an ATM. I wish he’d start sending letters like this.

    • T

      Calling people who ask for money without having to “earn” it the “most rotten person on earth” is not very Christlike

      • http://www.tom-hanna.org tomhanna

        True, but irrelevant as Rand was an atheist.

        • Agnus Dei, Lamb of God

          So Atheists are immune & exempt from acting merciful? Cool

          • http://www.tom-hanna.org tomhanna

            Not what I meant, but nice strawman. Being Christlike wasn’t a priority for her.

            • Agnus Dei, Lamb of God

              Not a strawman. I know several Atheists in my life who don’t go around systematically classifying people as “rotten” only because they disagree in ideology. Please don’t defend her behavior because she was Atheist (that’s offensive to Atheists). She made a god (yes, a god) of her very own “selfish” Self; she thought “selfishness” was the supreme virtue & she openly admitted that she hated most of humanity (we had to “earn” her approval). She even said she hated our Lord Jesus in a TV interview. Most of the Atheists I know would never go that far.
              The fact many American Catholics are sympathetic to Ayn Rand (but then totally hate & renounce Marx) is disgusting. Neither Rand nor Marx deserve defenses nor admiration. Pray for their souls.

              • entonces_99

                But I’ll bet those atheists don’t consider themselves under any obligation to be “Christlike.”

              • geraldine

                She didn’t ‘go around systematically classifying people as rotten’ because of ideological differences. She said she would regard a relative (who approached her) as rotten if she gave excuses instead of paying back a loan as promised.

                What Rand meant by selfishness was trying to live according to one’s own values. She had no objection to people helping other people voluntarily. She opposed doing harm. She opposed confiscating other people’s wealth in the name of charity or society (as her father’s pharmacy had been).

                That heart of yours is hard, my friend — try praying some more?

      • entonces_99

        Probably not a criticism that Rand, or any Jewish atheist, would find persuasive.

  • Joseph

    I’d probably nominate Margaret Sanger for worst aunt ever… she’d see you dead before you’d grow old enough to ask for a loan… especially if you were black.

    • Agnus Dei, Lamb of God

      Agreed. But Ayn Rand also supported the killing of unborn children (aka Abortion). There’s absolutely nothing “Objectivist” about Ayn Rand.

  • MarylandBill

    Well in fairness, $25 was quite a lot of money back in 1949 (about $250 in modern terms). That being said, what sort of relationship could the two of them have had that Ms. Rand could say she has no idea about what sort of person her niece was, but at the same time the niece would feel free to ask for that much money to buy a dress?

    • BaltimoreAubrey

      I believe it’s the type of relationship where the niece knew she had a rich aunt. Based on the letter, it seems like Ms. Rand had been taken advantage of by estranged relatives before. Long-winded and melodramatic? Yes. But I can’t necessarily blame her.

      • bill t

        “Based on the letter, it seems like Ms. Rand had been taken advantage of by estranged relatives before.”

        In short no.

        My parish priest related the following story to me from his own considerable reading on Rand and I picked it up from The New Republic.

        ” “No one helped me,” she wrote, “nor did I think at any time that it was anyone’s duty to help me.”

        But this was false. Rand spent her first months in this country subsisting on loans from relatives in Chicago, which she promised to repay lavishly when she struck it rich. (She reneged, never speaking to her Chicago family again.) ”

        [http://www.newrepublic.com/article/books-and-arts/wealthcare-0]

        Or better yet from the horses’ mouth

        [http://www.rev-know-it-all.com/2011/2011—05-22.html]

        • BaltimoreAubrey

          I read the excellent biography by Anne Heller. I’m aware that Rand never paid back the relatives who helped her when she first moved to the United States. I have a hard time seeing it as terribly hypocritical, though, mainly because she hadn’t yet worked out her philosophy yet.

          Most of us change our views and attitudes between our late teens and middle age, yet we don’t necessarily go back and make amends for things we did in our younger years. She should have, yes, but the Heller biography states that her Chicago relatives never reminded her, and it’s possible that she simply forgot. Once she had written her novels and achieved her success, she was pretty strict about not asking for favors and paying debts she owed.

          Either way, it has little to do with the letter at hand. Even if I owe money to someone else, it doesn’t mean that I’m obligated to give it to an estranged relative who wishes to buy a dress. Rand’s views are the absolute opposite of Christian charity and basic human decency, but this particular case is pretty ordinary. A relative asked for money, and she outlined when and how it should be paid back. That’s it.

          • Agnus Dei, Lamb of God

            Ayn Rand deserves absolutely NO rambling defenses from you (as she would’ve hated others speaking for her- she’s perfectly capable of speaking for her self). Ayn Rand goes against the whole complete meaning of Christian Grace (undeserved forgiveness & goodness). Ayn Rand’s philosophy, thoughts, & ideology were colder than a winter snow storm. Ayn Rand’s philosophy knows NO Mercy nor Grace. If God were Randian, we (including self-righteous Miss Ayn) would ALL be damned since we all rightly deserve to be damned.

            • BaltimoreAubrey

              I don’t know why you’re getting so bent out of shape. I said myself that “Rand’s views are the absolute opposite of Christian charity and basic human decency.” Perhaps you didn’t read down that far. Either way, as loathsome as she was, by principle I’m against things like knee-jerk reactions and ideological sniping. It’s petty. If someone wanted to skewer Rand’s worst ideals, there is plenty of written material from her with which to do it. In this case, though, she just asked an estranged niece to pay back the money she was lending. How horrible of her.

              • Agnus Dei, Lamb of God

                I don’t think she would ever want you or anybody else defending her. Respect her. Ayn Rand literally & most forcefully made a god (that’s right, a god) of HER very own “selfish” SELF. People who think so mightily of themselves deserve no defense whatsoever, ever. I pray for her soul’s repose, but her ideology was like Lucifer’s (she wanted herself as her own god). Should we start defending Lucifer too?

                • BaltimoreAubrey

                  You need to take a breath, my friend. Ayn Rand was a person and a sinner, just like the rest of us. Without the grace of Christ, we all put ourselves in God’s place. That’s the downfall of almost every person on the planet, and Rand was no different. She was a selfish capitalist, and she wasn’t the first, nor was she the last.

                  But people are people, and in our increasingly shrill society, people lose sight of that. We see everything in black and white, but if a bad person (and I have never challenged the fact that Rand was indeed a bad person) does something normal and innocuous, it doesn’t become evil just because an evil person did it. An estranged relative asked her for money, and she outlined the terms in which it would be paid back. Is that an outrageous act? No. There are many ways one can reveal Rand’s immorality. You don’t have to look far. But this letter isn’t really one of them, anymore than pointing to her pruning her gardenias would be.

            • entonces_99

              Ayn Rand deserves absolutely NO rambling defenses from you (as she would’ve hated others speaking for her- she’s perfectly capable of speaking for her self).

              Uh, not since 1982 she isn’t.

      • entonces_99

        I thought Rand was the only one of her immediate family to come to the United States, and that her two sisters stayed in the Soviet Union. Was Rand lending money to someone back in the old country? Or did one of her sisters manage to get out after all? (Barbara Branden’s biography recounts the story of how detente made it possible for one of her sisters to make contact with her and even come to the U.S. to visit her. Unfortunately, the two sisters didn’t really hit it off, as the younger sister, having lived more than 50 years under communism, had internalized enough of the governing ideology that she didn’t instantly agree with Rand’s paeans to capitalism. Maybe the third sister had emigrated to the US years earlier.)

        • BaltimoreAubrey

          This was stated right at the top of the link: “[Connie] Papurt is the daughter of Agnes Papurt, sister of Rand’s husband, Frank O’Connor.”

  • http://www.tom-hanna.org tomhanna

    From actually having read the full letter, I understood that the niece’s two older sisters had both borrowed money from Rand and failed to repay it. She didn’t say she wouldn’t loan it, she merely let her know that she expected her to act better than her sisters who clearly weren’t raised properly.

  • Cmcv

    Ayn Rand had to endure a lot of nonsense from pesky nieces. Doubtless she’s now in the bosom of Abraham.

  • Elmwood

    meh, she is over the top but in her defense, it is generally rude for people to ask you for a loan.