University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department


Meridel Le Sueur Papers

1929 - 1942

 

Manuscript Collection Number: 409
Accessioned: Purchase, April 2000
Extent: .3 linear ft.
Content: Manuscript poems and stories, letters, postcards, photographs and other images
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: April 2001 by Gerald Cloud

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Special Collections, University of Delaware Library
Newark, Delaware 19717-5267
(302) 831-2229


Table of Contents


Biographical Note

The American writer Meridel Le Sueur was born on February 22, 1900, in Murray, Iowa; she died November 14, 1996, in Hudson, Wisconsin. As the author of short stories, poems, a novel, articles, essays, and reportage pieces, Le Sueur was a well-known and respected writer of the political left who published in magazines and journals such as American Mercury, Anvil, Dial, New Masses, New Republic, Scribner’s, Story, and Yale Review.

Le Sueur was raised in a climate of social activism: her mother, a college instructor, and her step-father, Alfred Le Sueur, a lawyer and founder of the Industrial Workers of the World, worked to support the socialist ideals that developed in the American Midwest at the beginning of the twentieth century. The Le Sueur family associated with figures such as Big Bill Haywood, Eugene Debs, Lincoln Steffens, and Emma Goldman; and Meridel’s writing inherited the spirit of the Socialist movement of the 1920s and 30s. The stories that Le Sueur published at this time — some of which were anthologized in O. Henry Prize Stories and O’Brien Best Stories — reflect her commitment to Midwestern populist values and feminism.

Le Sueur published consistently until 1947 when she was blacklisted by the House Committee on Un-American Activities. In spite of the blacklist Alfred Knopf continued to publish Le Sueur’s children’s books, but sales were not enough to provide her with an income and she turned to teaching as one means of supporting herself. Le Sueur described the post-war years as her "dark time" (Coiner 82-3).

The rise of radicalism in the 1960s and the Women’s movement in the 1970s brought revitalized attention to Le Sueur’s work and she continued producing new writing and publishing into her nineties. Much of Le Sueur’s work remains in print.

Doris Kirkpatrick

The American writer and journalist Doris Kirkpatrick was born August 29, 1902, in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. She is the author of the novel Honey in the Rock (1979) and three other works. Kirkpatrick worked as a journalist in Massachusetts and Vermont for over forty years and won several Associated Press awards for reporting.

Sources:

Coiner, Constance. Better Red: The Writing and Resistance of Tillie Olson and Meridel Le Sueur. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

Contemporary Authors Online. The Gale Group, 2000. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: The Gale Group. 2001. http://www.galenet.com/servlet/BioRC

Le Sueur, Meridel. Ripening, Selected works, 1927-1980. Introduction, Elaine Hedges. Old Westbury, NY: The Feminist Press, 1982.

For information related to Maridel Le Sueur and West End Press (Albuquerque, NM), please see the Manuscripts Librarian.


Scope and Content Note

The Meridel Le Sueur papers span the dates 1929 – 1942. The .3 linear feet of material in the collection consists of typescripts of Le Sueur’s poems and stories, sixty-three letters to her friend Doris Kirkpatrick (1902 – ), letters written to Le Sueur by others, photos and other images, news clippings and a periodical.

The collection is arranged in four series. The first series, Works by Meridel Le Sueur, is divided into two sections: poems and stories; both sections are ordered alphabetically by the title of the work. The second series, Letters to Doris Kirkpatrick, is also divided into two groups: dated letters and undated letters. Because Le Sueur did not date her correspondence postmarked dates from accompanying envelopes have been used to establish the chronology of approximately half of the letters in this series. Series three, Letters Written to Meridel Le Sueur, is ordered alphabetically by the last name of the correspondent; and the fourth series contains photos and proof sheet images of WPA-era murals.

The poems in the collection are typescript manuscripts, except for one tear-sheet of a published poem with Le Sueur’s signature at the bottom of the page. Also present is the poem “Bond Salesman,” which may have been written by Edgar Lee Masters, whose name appears in an unknown hand at the end of the typescript. The stories are also typescript manuscripts, some of which have autograph corrections and notes in LeSueur’s hand. Two items are of particular interest: first a typescript copy of “The Horse,” which varies from the version published in Story magazine (1939). The second item is Le Sueur’s mimeograph textbook You Can Write. In this brief manual Le Sueur gives her views on how and why to write, and step-by-step instruction on constructing a story. The collection also includes a single issue of The Anvil, “the pioneer magazine of stories for workers,” with the Le Sueur story “Sequel to Love.”

The letters to Doris Kirkpatrick, a close friend and fellow writer, include details of both Le Sueur’s daily and professional life during the height of her productivity as a writer. In the letters Le Sueur writes with an open and intimate tone on subjects that include politics, literature, writing, having children, her family, and her financial struggles. Le Sueur’s interest in the working classes is reflected in the letters, and she describes the Midwestern towns and people she encounters with frank compassion. The letters also indicate that Le Sueur and Kirkpatrick exchanged rough drafts of works in progress. Le Sueur offered Kirkpatrick editorial advice and support, and Kirkpatrick appears to have provided similar assistance to Le Sueur.

The letters that Meridel Le Sueur received from other correspondents deal mostly with Le Sueur’s writing and editorial work at Midwest. Letters from Sherwood Anderson, John Dos Passos, Angelo Herndon, and Prudencio de Pereda are included in the collection. Two letters from the writer and Anvil editor Jack Conroy, one addressed to Le Sueur, the other to Kirkpatrick, discuss publishing matters and the difficulty of managing a little magazine.

The final series includes two photographs of WPA wall murals and several proof sheets of similar images. There is also a 1964 photograph of civil rights activist Julian Bond dating from the period of his involvement with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).


Contents List

Folder -- Contents

          Works by Meridel Le Sueur

F1   Poetry – arranged alphabetically by title of poem

     “Afternoon in Summer,” n.d.
     Typescript, 2 pp.

    “The Dance of St. Paul,” n.d.
     Typescript, 2 pp.

     “Feet,” n.d.
     Typescript, 1 p.
          
     “November,” n.d.
     Typescript, 1 p.
          
     “Spring,” n.d.
     Tear-sheet, signed “Meridel Le Sueur, 1 p.
          
     “Bond Salesman,” n.d. [Masters, Edgar Lee]
     Typescript with autograph notes, 1 p.
     Date crossed out “mber 16 1926. / sed September 10 1929.”
     “Edgar Lee Masters” in unknown hand, “send copy” in Le
     Sueur’s hand.
     
     
     Stories – arranged alphabetically by title of story

F2   “Christmas and the Child,” n.d.
     Short story.  Typescript, 14 pp.
     Published in Parents, December 1934.
     
F3   “The Horse,” n.d.
     Short story.  Typescript with autograph corrections and
     notes in Le Sueur’s hand, 70 pp.
     Bound in green wrappers with cord binding.  Published in
     Story July-August 1939, vol. 15, no. 39.
     
F4   “O Lovely Life,” n.d.
     Short story.  Typescript with dedication “for Doris,” below
     the title on page 1, 17 pp.
     Includes typescript letter, 1 p., with signed autograph note
     from Le Sueur to Kirkpatrick: “This is a bum copy you won’t
     be able to read ”  Letter filed in F12.
     
F5   “Plum Pit,” n.d.
     Short story.  Typescript with autograph corrections and the
     inscription “Lets all be living [p---t] / Love / Meridel le
     Sueur,” 9 pp.
 
F6   “Spring,” n.d.
     Short story.  Typescript, 13 pp.

F7   “Sequel to Love,” 1935
     Anvil, January-February, 1935
     
F8   “Wild Buffalo,” n.d.
     Short story.  Typescript, 11 p.
          
          
     Other writings by Meridel Le Sueur
          
F9   “Buried Riches of U.S. Literature,” The Worker, December 23,
     1945
     News clipping of article by Le Sueur.
          
     Manuscript News, October 1935
     Newsletter, article by Le Sueur with notes in her hand.
          
F10  You Can Write, n.d.
     Spiral-bound mimeograph (preservation copy), 34 pp.
     Manual for writing stories.  Original transferred to printed
     collections in Special Collections.


     Correspondence

F11  Letters to Doris Kirkpatrick, dated, arranged by date of
     letter 1933 – 1942 (31 items)
          
     28 Jun 1933, Lakeland, MN
     TL with envelope, 1 p.
          
     22 Mar 1934, Saint Paul, MN
     TLS with envelope, 1 p.
          
     15 Feb 1935, Saint Paul, MN
     TLS with envelope, 1 p.
          
     8 Apr 1935, Saint Paul, MN
     TLS with envelope, 1 p.
          
     22 Apr 1935, New York City
     PCS (typed)

     15 Jul 1935, Saint Paul, MN
     PCS (typed)
          
     4 Nov 1935, Marine on Saint Croix, MN
     PCS (typed).
          
     7 Nov 1935, Marine on Saint Croix, MN
     TLS with envelope, 1 p.
          
     [7 Nov 1935]
     TLS, 1 p.
     The letter refers to the “eighteenth anniversary of the
     Russian revolution today,” and is inscribed “Red November 7”
     in Le Sueur’s hand.
          
     8 Nov 1935, Marine on Saint Croix, MN
     PCS (typed)
          
     10 Jun 1936, Chicago
     PCS (autograph)
          
     [31 May 1938]
     TL on verso of “Report to the Workers’ Education
     Conference,” dated “May, 31, 1938.” 1 p.
          
     24 Aug 1938, Minneapolis, MN
     TL with envelope, 1 p.
          
     1 Sep 1938, Kenosha, WI
     PCS (autograph)
          
     1 Sep 1938, Kenosha, WI
     PCS (autograph) (to Deborah Le Sueur)
          
     1 Sep 1938, Kenosha, WI
     PCS (autograph) with pictograph drawings (to Judith
     Kirkpatrick)

     3 Sep 1938, Berlin, WI
     PC (typed)
          
     6 Sep 1938, Minneapolis, MN
     PCS (typed)
     
     19 Jun 1939, Saint Paul, MN
     PC (typed)
          
     29 Jun 1939, Lakeland, MN
     PC (typed)
          
     8 Feb 1939, Minneapolis, MN
     TL with envelope, 1 p.
          
     22 Jun 1939, Stillwater, MN
     TLS with envelope, 1 p.
          
     3 Jul 1939, Lakeland, MN
     PC (typed)
          
     9 Jul 1939, Saint Paul, MN
     PC (typed)
          
     19 Jul 1939, Lakeland, MN
     TL with envelope, 1 p.
          
     27 Jul 1939, Lakeland, MN
     TLS with envelope and autograph note, 1 p.
          
     21 Aug 1941, Minneapolis, MN
     TLS with envelope on Midwest stationery, 1 p.
          
     9 Sep 1941, Chicago
     TLS with envelope, 1 p.
          
     16 Sep 1941, Chicago
     TL with envelope, 1 p.
          
     Correspondence (cont’d)

     Letters to Doris Kirkpatrick, undated (32 items)
     
F12  11 May 1942, Minneapolis, MN
     TLS, 2 pp.
          
     5 Jan 1942, Saint Paul, MN
     PCS (autograph)

     “This is a bum copy,” n.d.
     TLS with autograph note, 1 p.
     This letter accompanied the story “O Lovely Life” housed in
     F4.
     
     “Masha went yesterday,” n.d.
     TLS, 1 p.
          
     “Thank you for the Colette books,” n.d.
     TLS, 1 p.
          
     “I want to reach the mail man,” n.d.
     TLS with autograph note, 1 leaf
          
     “I’ve just read Scotts,” n.d.
     TLS, 2 leaves
          
     “Well it is Monday,” n.d.
     TLS with autograph note and drawing of a Burro, 2 pp.
          
     “I have just finished,” n.d.
     TLS, 1 p. Story fragment on verso.
          
     “Well I’ve decided,” n.d.
     TLS, 2 pp.
          
     “I had a lovely dream,” n.d.
     ALS, 3 pp.
          
     “We have been selling,” n.d.
     TLS, 1 p.
     Stationery from Curtis Hotel, Minneapolis, MN
          
     “Love does not die,” n.d.
     TLS, 1 p.
          
     “Well the next forty,” n.d.
     TLS, 1 p.
          
     “Was awfully glad,” n.d.
     TL, 1 p.

     “Morning. It is cold,” n.d.
     TLS, 1 p.
               “Well we are out,” n.d.
     TLS, 1 p.
          
     “Your description of the graduation,” n.d.
     TLS, 1 p.
          
     “Here are some notes,” n.d.
     TL, 1 p.
          
     “Don’t worry about me,” n.d.
     TLS, 1 p.
          
     “You seem a million,” n.d.
     TLS, 1 p.
     Farm Holiday News letterhead
          
     “I suppose you will,” n.d.
     TLS, 1 leaf
          
     “To my [great] astonishment,” n.d.
     TLS, 1 leaf
          
     “I can’t feel too awfully,” n.d.
     TLS, 1 p.
          
     “Don’t forget about,” n.d.
     TLS with autograph note, 1 p.
          
     “I am going,” n.d.
     TL with autograph note, 1 p.
          
    “The book Transitions,” n.d.
     TLS, 1 p.
          
     “Glad to hear,” n.d.
     TLS, 1 p.
     Including autograph note “We pay more / attention to out /
     pigs and cattle / than to our children.”
     
     “I don’t know anything about,” n.d.
     TLS, 1 p.
          
     “It seems so strange,” n.d.
     TL, 1 p.
          
     “Awfully glad to get,” n.d.
     TLS, 1 p.  Autograph note on verso
          
     “Well last night,” n.d.
     TLS with autograph notes, 2 pp.
          
     “I’ve forgotten everything,” n.d.
     TLS, 1 p.  Autograph note “An old letter – enclosed.”
     TL, 1 p.

F13  Empty envelopes, from Meridel Le Sueur to Doris Kirkpatrick,
     arranged chronologically, 1933 - 1942 (19 items)

F14  Letters to Meridel Le Sueur, arranged alphabetically by name
     of correspondent, 1929 - 1937 (13 items)
     
     Anderson, Sherwood
     TLS with autograph corrections and note, “I ------- also
     these thoughts / because ----- letter also seems to ------ -
     -----” in Anderson’s hand.  Inscription crossed out in
     pencil “Sherwood Anderson” written beneath in Le Sueur’s
     hand.  2 pp.
          
     “The Anvil”
     Mimeograph fundraising letter on “Anvil” stationery.
          
     Conroy, Jack
     --TLS, dated “Dec. 19, 1936,” 1 p.
     --TLS, dated “Dec. 2, 1939” to Doris Kirkpatrick, 1 p.
     Both letters discuss publishing matters.
          
     “The Daily Worker”
     Subscription renewal notice, signed by Circulation Manager
     Ira J. Wallach, 1 p.
          
     Dos Passos, John
     ALS, dated “Sept 28” on Hotel Lafayette stationery, 1 p.
          
     Fisher, Vardin
     TLS, 1 p.
     
     Herndon, Angelo
     TLS, 1 p.  Notes in Le Sueur’s hand on verso.
          
     Kelm, Karlton
     TLS, 1 leaf.  Dated “22 Aug.” on Kelm’s stationery.
          
     Latimer, Margery
     TLS, 2 pp.  Dated “1929” in unknown hand, with note in Le
     Sueur’s hand.
          
     Levin, Meyer
     ALS, 1 p.  Esquire magazine letterhead.
     
     Pereda, Prudencio de
     TLS, dated “April 13, 1937,” 1 p.
          
     [Suelrow], Ruth
     TLS, 1 p.


     Other Items
          
F15  Photograph of Julian Bond, Feb. 2 1964
     Verso stamped with date and “Parade.”  “Julian Bond / snick
     [SNCC] worker” in unknown hand.

     “Liberation”
     Photograph of WPA era mural, apparently in a library.
          
     Six Illustrations, Burton [Freund]
     Proof sheet (2 copies)
          
     “Indian Pyre,” by [Bob] White
     Photograph depicting a mural, with inscription on verso
     “Section of Temp--- Mural / Co-operative project T.R.A.P.
     [Treasury Relief Art Project] / Cedar Rapids.”
          
     Seven proof sheet images of WPA era murals
     

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