Le Sueur, Meridel

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1900-02-22
Death 1996-11-14
Americans
English

Biographical notes:

Meridel Le Sueur was born February 22, 1900, in Murray, Iowa. She did not finish high school, dropping out before the First World War. She began writing at the age of fifteen. Largely self-taught, Miss Le Sueur attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She came to know John Reed and met Theodore Dreiser and Edna St. Vincent Millay at Mabel Dodge's literary salon. She won acclaim in 1927 for her story Persephone and again in 1934 for The Horse. She was blacklisted during the McCarthy era. She died November 14, 1996, in Hudson, Wisconsin.Sources:Something About the Author V. 6:143 http://www.writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/50s/meridel-obit.html.

From the description of Meridel Le Sueur Papers 1947-1951. (University of Minnesota, Minneapolis). WorldCat record id: 462885723

Writer.

From the description of Reminiscences of Meridel Le Sueur : oral history, 1977. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 122343121

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.

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.

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.

From the guide to the Meridel Le Sueur Papers, 1929–1942, (University of Delaware Library - Special Collections)

Meridel Le Sueur was born February 22, 1900, in Murray, Iowa. She did not finish high school, dropping out before the First World War. She began writing at the age of fifteen. Largely self-taught, Miss Le Sueur attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She came to know John Reed and met Theodore Dreiser and Edna St. Vincent Millay at Mabel Dodge's literary salon. She won acclaim in 1927 for her story Persephone and again in 1934 for The Horse . She was blacklisted during the McCarthy era. She died November 14, 1996, in Hudson, Wisconsin.

Sources:

Something About the Author V. 6:143

http://www.writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/50s/meridel-obit.html

From the guide to the Meridel Le Sueur Papers, 1947-1951, (University of Minnesota Libraries Children's Literature Research Collections [clrc])

Meridel Le Sueur was born February 22, 1900, in the small town of Murray, Iowa. When Meridel was ten years old, her mother, Marian "Mary Del" (nee Lucy) Wharton (1877-1954), left Meridel's father, William Winston Wharton, an itinerant Church of Christ minister, taking Meridel and her younger brothers Mac and William Winston II (called Winston) with her. Meridel spent the next years in Perry, Oklahoma, at the home of her grandmother, Mary Antoinette Lucy, a third-generation Puritan, pioneer, and ardent temperance worker. A feminist socialist, Marian earned her living by traveling the Chautauqua circuit and lecturing on women's issues, including education, suffrage, and birth control. In 1914 the family moved to Fort Scott, Kansas, where Marian headed the English department at People's College. There she met and (in 1917) married Arthur Le Sueur, a lawyer and committed socialist, formerly mayor of Minot, North Dakota. After anti-socialist vigilantes destroyed the college during World War I, the family fled to St. Paul, Minnesota, where they worked with the Non-Partisan League and were hosts to meetings of Wobblies, anarchists, socialists, and union organizers.

After a year studying dance and physical fitness at the American College of Physical Education in Chicago, Illinois (1916-1917), Meridel moved to New York City, where she lived in an anarchist commune with Emma Goldman and studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Art. Her brief acting career included work on the New York stage and in Hollywood, where she was a stunt woman and an extra in films such as The Perils of Pauline and Last of the Mohicans . Wearied by Hollywood's superficiality, Le Sueur decided to concentrate on her writing, which she had pursued faithfully since her late teens. By 1924 she had joined the Communist Party and she soon began publishing in labor and left-wing journals such as The Worker and New Masses . Her writing career took off in May 1927 when her short story "Persephone" was published in Dial . Le Sueur became known for her stories, essays, and reportage focusing on the suffering of the working class, mainly women, and her distinctive, lyrical style, which set her apart from most of the socialist writers of the day.

Around 1926, Le Sueur married Harry Rice. Born Yasha Rubonoff, Rice was a Russian immigrant and a Marxist labor organizer Le Sueur met in St. Paul. She and Rice had two children, Rachel (1928) and Deborah (1930). Early in the 1930s, Le Sueur and Rice divorced.

Le Sueur continued to publish prolifically throughout the late 1920s and up until the end of World War II, when the onset of the Cold War brought with it the blacklisting and harassment of those involved in the socialist movement. During the height of the so-called Red Scare, Le Sueur made her living publishing children's books, teaching writing, and holding a variety of odd jobs. In the 1960s she traveled around the country, participating in campus protests and interviewing people, listening to their stories and struggles.

The freer political climate and the burgeoning feminist movement of the 1970s brought new attention to Le Sueur and her work. Le Sueur maintained an extensive correspondence with writers, artists, and activists, many of whom were drawn to her dedication to liberal political, economic, and environmental causes. During the period from the late 1970s through the 1990s, she published a number of anthologies and stories, including many written during the 1930s but rejected for publication at that time. Several of her works, including "The Girl," "Annunciation," and "The Dread Road" were adapted for the stage by other writers. Le Sueur continued to write and give interviews, readings, and talks around the country until her death on November 14, 1996.

Biographical information was taken from the introduction to Ripening: Selected Work, 1927-1980 and from Better Red: The Writing and Resistance of Tillie Olson and Meridel Le Sueur, as well as newspaper articles and other materials in the collection.

From the guide to the Meridel Le Sueur papers., 1902-1997., (Minnesota Historical Society)

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Subjects:

  • Women's rights
  • Feminist literature--United States
  • Communism--United States
  • Women authors, American
  • Feminist literature
  • Feminism and the arts--United States
  • Authors--Interviews
  • Communism
  • Socialism
  • Women authors--Interviews
  • Feminism and the arts
  • Feminism--United States
  • Feminism

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  • Authors

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  • United States (as recorded)