Henderson, Alice Corbin, 1881-1949Alternative names
American poet, editor, and writer on Southwestern topics.
From the description of Papers, 1861-1987 (bulk 1920-1949). (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (HRC); University of Texas at Austin). WorldCat record id: 122349020
Note: The initials ACH for Alice R. Corbin Henderson, WPH for her husband, William Penhallow Henderson, and AHR for her daughter, Alice Oliver Henderson Evans Rossin Colquitt are used throughout this inventory. AHR identified herself in her correspondence as Alice Henderson Rossin from 1938 until the late 1980s, which is why the initials AHR are used.
Alice Corbin was born to Lula Hebe Carradine and Fillmore Mallory Corbin in St. Louis, Missouri, on April 16, 1881. After the death of her mother in 1884, ACH was sent to Chicago to live with her father's cousin, Alice Mallory Richardson. When Fillmore Corbin remarried in 1891, Alice joined the family in Kansas, staying until 1894 when she returned to Chicago. After high school graduation, Harriet C. Brainard (who later married William Vaughn Moody), ACH's English teacher, persuaded her to attend the University of Chicago. In 1898 ACH published her first book of poetry, The Linnet Songs. ACH lived with Miss Brainard for three years until her health forced her to move to a milder climate. The inflammation in her chest subsided and after a year at Sophie Newcomb College in New Orleans, ACH returned to Chicago. Writing reviews for the Chicago Tribune and Evening Post provided the income for ACH to rent a studio at the Academy of Fine Arts in 1904, where she met William Penhallow Henderson.
WPH had accepted a teaching position at the Academy after spending two years abroad studying European art on a scholarship. On October 14, 1905, WPH and ACH were married. Daughter Alice was born on January 27, 1907, and was their only child. During this time, ACH worked on plays for children with plots based on Biblical stories and published Adam's Dream in 1908. That same year Andersen's Best Fairy Tales was also published. This joint effort of ACH's translations and WPH's illustrations provided the necessary income for the family to travel in Europe from July 1910 until September 1911.
A second volume of poetry, The Spinning Woman of the Sky was published in 1912. In that same year ACH became assistant editor to Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, with Harriet Monroe, founder and editor-in-chief. In 1916, ACH was diagnosed as having tuberculosis, causing her to leave Chicago permanently. The Sunmount Sanatorium in Santa Fe, New Mexico, was recommended by her doctor as an excellent facility. In 1917, ACH and Monroe published the anthology The New Poetry with new editions published in 1923 and 1932. She continued working on the magazine Poetry long distance until 1922.
The Hendersons moved to Santa Fe, NM, for ACH to recuperate and found the area optimal for both her health and their work. Dedication to New Mexico and the concerns of the region became a life-long passion of the Henderson family. In the early 1920s they became active in the civil rights of Native Americans. This was not just a political interest, for one can see the effects of their involvement with New Mexico in their work. Red Earth, Poems of New Mexico was published in 1920 and is an example of how New Mexico affected ACH. The Turquoise Trail, An Anthology of New Mexico Poetry, was published in 1928.
William and Alice Henderson were both very involved with the perpetuation of local New Mexican traditions and customs. WPH's style of architecture, the content in his drawings, and other projects illustrate his interpretations of New Mexico. ACH demonstrated her affections for the area through her writings, by creating the Poet's Round-up, establishing the Writer's Edition (which published her The Sun Turns West in 1933 and A Child's Bouquet in 1935), and in her involvement with the Works Progress Administration Federal Writers Project, New Mexico: a Guide to the Colorful State (1940). In the late 1930s, the Hendersons and Mary C. Wheelwright established the House of Navajo Religion, a museum of Indian culture and spirituality. WPH helped design the building and the sand painting panels inside, and ACH was the curator when it was completed. Another Henderson project was the formation of the Eugene Manlove Rhodes Memorial Association and the erection of a monument to this Southwestern writer on his grave site in New Mexico. The Hendersons joined efforts again in 1937 with WPH illustrating ACH's Brothers of Light, her last published book.
WPH gained exposure as an architect and furniture designer and builder through the business he developed with his first son-in-law, John Evans. Alice Oliver Henderson married John Evans, Mabel Dodge Luhan's only son, in December of 1922. Even though the marriage was short-lived, it established a life-long relationship between Luhan and the Hendersons. John and Alice Evans lived in Santa Fe where their first two daughters were born, Natalie on January 8, 1924, and Nancy on February 23, 1925. John Evans, Edwin Brooks, and WPH began the Pueblo-Spanish Building Company in 1925, and that fall the Evans family moved to Buffalo, NY, John Evans's family home. The Evans's third daughter, Letitia, was born on November 6, 1926.
The Pueblo-Spanish Building Company was a growing concern with WPH designing furniture and buildings until the stock market crash of 1929. The Crash of 1929 severely affected the stability of the company as customers could not afford to have projects completed, including the Diamond Club, a hotel for which WPH had drawn blueprints. John Evans lost most of his personal investments in the crash and declared bankruptcy. Evans's departure from the company and the financial constraints of the times eventually caused the company to fold. Fortunately, WPH had established his reputation not only as an artist, but also as an architect, and furniture designer and builder.
The 1930s were years of financial struggle for the Hendersons. Caring for their three granddaughters while Alice and John Evans divorced compounded the Hendersons' economic difficulties, although Evans's grandmother, Sara Montague, provided some financial support for the children. The divorce was finalized in December 1933. Alice Evans married Edgar Lewis Rossin on June 3, 1938. They lived in New York City and raised her three daughters, while his son lived with them occasionally.
ACH's health was unsound throughout much of her life. There were many periods when she was simply too weak to work, and the need to work to overcome financial problems created additional stress. WPH's death in 1943 of a heart attack further weakened her will, and she became increasingly unwell until her death in 1949.
After ACH died, AHR moved back to New Mexico and became involved with many projects such as the Museum of New Mexico Foundation (1962-1980) and a revival of the Poet's Round-up in 1968. She also produced the play Husband's Don't Count in London in 1958. Some of AHR's activities focused on her parents' work, including maintaining copyright status of ACH's works, exhibiting her father's work, and assisting with the biographies of her parents. AHR married Carlton Colquitt sometime during the mid-1980s.
For further information on the Hendersons see: Witter Bynner and Oliver La Farge's An Appreciation: Alice Corbin Henderson (galley), Ina Sizer Cassidy Alice Corbin Henderson (box 13.4), T. M. Pearce's Biography of Alice Corbin Henderson (box 55.5), David Bell's biography of William Penhallow Henderson (box 55.7), other articles about WPH (box 55.8), and William Penhallow Henderson, Master Colorist of Santa Fe in the HRC book collection.
From the guide to the Alice Corbin Henderson Collection TXRC92-A24., 1861-1987, (Harry Ransom Center University of Texas at Austin)
- Art, American--Southwest, New
- American Poetry
- Architecture--New Mexico--Santa Fe
- American Literature--New Mexico
- Women Authors, American--Southwest, New
- Indians of North America--New Mexico--Religion and mythology
- Indians of North America--Poetry
- Indians of North America--New Mexico--Civil rights
- American Poetry--Periodicals
- American Poetry--New Mexico
- Authors, American
- Women Authors, American
- Authors, American--Southwest, New
- American Poetry--20th century
- American Poetry--20th Century
- Navajo Indians
- Indians of North America--Civil Rights
- American Literature
- Art, American
- Indians of North America--Religion and Mythology
- New Mexico--Santa Fe (as recorded)
- Southwest, New (as recorded)
- New Mexico (as recorded)