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Virginia "Ginny" Heinlein (April 22, 1916 – January 18, 2003), born Virginia Doris Gerstenfeld, was an American chemist, biochemist, engineer, and the third wife of Robert A. Heinlein, a prominent and successful author often considered as one of the "Big Three" of science fiction (along with Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke).

Virginia Heinlein
Heinlein Tahiti 2.jpg
Robert and Virginia Heinlein in Tahiti, 1980.
Virginia Doris Gerstenfeld

(1916-04-22)April 22, 1916
Brooklyn, New York, United States
DiedJanuary 18, 2003(2003-01-18) (aged 86)
Florida, United States
EducationNew York University [1]
OccupationChemist, biochemist, lieutenant commander USN [2]
Known forFounder of The Heinlein Society
Robert A. Heinlein (m. 1948–1988)

Life and careerEdit

Born to George and Jeanne Gerstenfeld, Virginia was raised in Brooklyn with her brother Leon. A redheaded organic chemist and biochemist, she served as an inspiration for many of the active and talented red-haired women in Heinlein's stories.[3] She met Robert when they both worked at the Naval Air Experimental Station in Philadelphia when she was a lieutenant in the WAVES in the U.S. Navy in World War II. She moved to Los Angeles in 1946 to take an advanced degree, where Heinlein had already relocated after the war. They married on October 21, 1948 in Raton, New Mexico. Shortly thereafter they moved to Colorado, but in 1965 her health was chronically affected by the altitude, so the couple moved to Bonny Doon, California.

Prior to a trip to the Soviet Union, where they happened to be when Francis Gary Powers was shot down, Virginia learned to speak Russian, which proved invaluable in talking with local citizens. She was highly esteemed among her husband's fans for her exceptional willingness to correspond with them, a practice that continued until her last days, with activity in a Usenet newsgroup devoted to Heinlein fans. She was touched when other users sent her Mother's Day greetings as an homage to her bestowing the title of "Heinlein's Children" on Robert's fans worldwide.

After Robert's death in 1988, she moved from California to Florida,[4] where she edited a collection of his letters and writings, published in 1989 as Grumbles from the Grave.[5] She authorised the publication of Tramp Royale[6] and longer editions of previously published works Stranger in a Strange Land,[7] The Puppet Masters, and Red Planet. She established a literary society in her husband's name, the Heinlein Society.[1]


  1. ^ a b James, PhD., Robert (2001–2007). "Biographies of Robert and Virginia Heinlein". The Heinlein Society. Retrieved 2007-10-18.
  2. ^ Woo, Elaine (26 January 2003). "Virginia Heinlein, 86; Wife, Muse and Literary Guardian of Celebrated Science Fiction Writer". Retrieved 4 June 2018 – via LA Times.
  3. ^ Woo, Elaine (2003-01-26), "Virginia Heinlein, 86; Wife, Muse and Literary Guardian of Celebrated Science Fiction Writer (free abstract)", Los Angeles Times, pp. B14
  4. ^ Drum, Kevin (2003-01-20), "Virginia Heinlein", The Washington Monthly
  5. ^ "BOOK REVIEW : A Shallow Peek Into a Sci-Fi Grand Master". Retrieved 2 August 2013.
  6. ^ "Tramp Royale". Retrieved 2 August 2013.
  7. ^ "Robert Heinlein's softer side". Retrieved 2 August 2013.

External linksEdit