Site content © Kate Millett 2012







“A poetic medtation upon the nature of pain and cruelty... A major contribution to psychojournalism.”

                                                          - Library Journal

“Grimly compelling, not to be ignored.”


- The New York Times Book Review


On October 26, 1965, the body of a sixteen-year-old girl named Sylvia Likens was found on a dirty mattress in a basement in Indianapolis, Indiana.  Starved, mutilated, covered with cigarette burns, the victim had been imprisoned and tortured to death by a gang of teenagers led by a woman named Gertrude Baniszewski, i whose care Sylvia and her younger sister Jenny, had been left wile their parents went off to work state fairs in the Midwest.

  Gertrude’s band of tormentors included some f her own seven children and two neighborhood boys.  On the abdomen of the young girl had been carved the words “I am a prostitute and proud of it.”

   With mesmerizing detail, Millett re-creates this American tragedy.  Shocking and poignant, The Basement rocks some of our most basic notions of family, morality, ad the cultural repression of female sexuality.

*   *   *

Kate Millet is a visual artist as well as a writer, she first approached the material of The Basement as a sculptor, creating five exhibitions around its themes before embarking on this book. The four-month long abuse, torture and eventual murder of 16 year old Sylvia Likens by the proprietors of a rooming house where she and her sister were left by their parents in 1965, is written about by Millett from several angles. The cruel facts, possible motivations and rationalizations of the perpetrators, and imagined reflections and reactions of the victim…

The Basement: Meditations on a Human Sacrifice

Simon and Schuster, NY

1st edition (August 31, 1979)

ISBN-10: 0671247638

ISBN-13: 978-0671247638

This title available here: $25.00 Plus S&H.




All proceeds from sales will go to support

The Millett Center for the Arts. 


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