Sandoz, Mari, 1896-1966

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1896-05-11
Death 1966-03-10
Americans
English

Biographical notes:

Pulitzer Prize-winning author on pioneer Nebraska and the West.

From the description of Papers, 1954-1969. (Denver Public Library). WorldCat record id: 16577314

Novelist and historian of Nebraska and the Great Plains.

From the description of Papers, 1864-1976 (bulk 1931-1966). (University of Nebraska - Lincoln). WorldCat record id: 32074871

Award winning author and historian Mari Sandoz (1896-1966) was born on the Mirage Flats south of Hay Springs, Nebraska and later moved with her family to the Nebraska Sandhills. She studied at Chadron State College and at the University of Nebraska. Her honors include the degree of Doctor of Literature from the University of Nebraska, as well as the Award for Distinguished Service, Native Sons and Daughters of Nebraska and the Western Heritage Award. Sandoz headed Advanced Novel Writing at the Writers Institute at the University of Wisconsin and served on the staff of writers' conferences at the Universities of Colorado (April 1958 Sandoz letter regarding Writer's Conference noted in related material below) and Indiana. Sandoz authored 23 books centered on frontier life on the High Plains of the American West.

From the guide to the Mari Sandoz Letter to Francis Wolle (MS 128), 24 October 1961, (University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries. Special Collections Dept.)

American author.

From the description of Correspondence, 1959-1961. (University of Nevada, Reno). WorldCat record id: 42909070

Mari Susette Sandoz (1896-1966) was an American novelist and chronicler of pioneer and Indian life on the Nebraska Plains. Born on the Sandoz homestead in northwestern Nebraska, Sandoz was the eldest daughter of Swiss immigrant parents Jules Ami and Mary Elizabeth (Fehr) Sandoz. She started school at nine and wrote her first story shortly thereafter. She taught in country schools, attended business college, and at intervals between 1922 and 1931 studied at the University of Nebraska, supporting herself with part-time and full-time jobs, including research on the Sioux and other work for the Nebraska State Historical Society.

In 1935 the publication of Old Jules, a biography of her pioneer father, established her as an important writer on the American West and won the Atlantic Monthly prize. Her second book, the novel Slogum House, was published in 1937. From 1943 until the 1960s Sandoz spent half her time in New York City, returning to Nebraska to gather material for her writing.

Besides numerous short stories and magazine contributions, Mari Sandoz wrote Love Song to the Plains (1961), Old Jules Country (1965), and These Were the Sioux (1961). Her novels include The Tom-Walker (1947), Winter Thunder (1954), The Horsecatcher (1957), and Son of the Gamblin' Man (1960). In 1964 the publication of The Beaver Men marked the completion of her Great Plains series (previous titles in the series were Crazy Horse, Cheyenne Autumn, The Buffalo Hunters, The Cattlemen, and Old Jules ).

For further biographical information, see the "Autobiographical sketch of Mari Sandoz' early years" in Hostiles and Friendlies: Selected Short Writings of Mari Sandoz (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1959)

From the guide to the Mari Sandoz Collection, 1935-1965, (Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries)

Mari Sandoz was born 11 May 1896 on the family homestead in Sheridan County in northwestern Nebraska. Upon completing her elementary education, she qualified as a teacher and taught for the next seven years in rural schools in Sheridan and Cheyenne Counties in western Nebraska. She married in 1914, but the marriage was dissolved five years later.

Although she never attended high school, she avidly aspired to have a college education. She was able to persuade the University of Nebraska officials to admit her and, for some ten years, between 1922 and 1932, she attended classes as a part time student, but never received her degree. She supported herself during the period at Lincoln, Nebraska as a worker in a drug laboratory, as an English assistant, as a research assistant in the Nebraska State Historical Society, and as a proofreader of the Nebraska State Journal .

Her writing career - or rather, experimentation with writing - began early. She had her first story published in a newspaper when she was ten years old. In spite of her father's violent disapproval of her artistic endeavors, she continued writing. In 1927, the Prairie Schooner carried in its first issue her short story The Vine.

Her literary recognition came with the publication of Old Jules, a biography of her father. The manuscript of the book was rejected over and over again by publishers until it was finally accepted, and it won the Atlantic nonfiction prize in the amount of five thousand dollars in 1935.

The Trans-Missouri Series (or the Great Plains Series) that opened with Old Jules and was concluded with The Cattlemen in 1958 is undoubtedly Mari Sandoz' central achievement. She undertook the detailed, almost laboratory study of one region, i.e., the Trans-Missouri Country, from the early stages of human civilization to the recent times in order to learn more about the human nature in general. The Series also included Crazy Horse, Cheyenne Autumn, The Buffalo Hunters, and The Beaver Men . Crazy Horse, the biography of the Oglala Sioux Chieftain, was named, in 1954, as one of the Ten Best Books of the West. Cheyenne Autumn, depicting the struggle of a small band of homesick Indians on their way to their ancestral home, was made into a movie.

Mari Sandoz also wrote several novels. Slogum House, published in 1937, portrays realistically pioneering days in Nebraska. It was followed in 1939 by Capitol City, which was described by reviewers as an indictment of the sordidness of political and social life in a middle-western capitol. Other novels of note are Miss Morissa, The Tom-Walker, and Son of the Gamblin' Man .

The awards she received for her literary achievements were numerous. The National Achievement Award by the Westerners Chicago Corral in 1955 should be singled out as it recognized her contribution to the preservation of the cultural background of the American West through her writing, and for her unequalled achievement in having four of her books selected by Westerners in a nationwide poll as ranking in the One Hundred Best Books on the West.

In her busy writing career, Mari Sandoz also shared her literary talent with students. In 1941, she was a staff member of the Writers' Conference at the University of Colorado and in 1946 at the University of Indiana. Between 1947 and 1956, she was in charge of Advanced Novel Writing, Writers' Institute, Summer Session, University of Wisconsin. The University of Nebraska awarded her in 1950 an honorary degree of Doctor of Literature, and in 1954, Governor Robert B. Crosby declared August 23 as Mari Sandoz Day in Nebraska.

Sandoz traveled widely, mainly in pursuit of research materials for her books. Eventually she established a permanent home in New York's Greenwich Village to be close to essential libraries and archives, as well as to her publishers. In the eastern self-imposed exile she wrote about the West she loved.

Mari Sandoz died in her outpost in New York on 10 March 1966, after a lingering illness. According to her wish her body was buried on the Old Jules place in the Nebraska Sandhills.

From the guide to the Mari Sandoz Collection, 1864-1976 (bulk 1931-1966)

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Subjects:

  • Women historians--Nebraska--Biography
  • Cheyenne Indians
  • Women novelists, American
  • West (U.S.)--History--1848-1950
  • Indians of North America--Literary collections
  • Sioux Indians
  • Oglala Indians--Biography
  • Cattle trade--West (U.S.)
  • Nebraska--Social life and customs
  • American Bison
  • Women novelists, American--20th century--Biography
  • Hunting--West (U.S.)--History
  • Literature--American Fiction
  • Women authors, American--20th century--Correspondence
  • Sandoz, Mari, 1896-1966--Correspondence
  • Northwest, Canadian--History
  • Sandoz, Mari, 1896-1966--Childhood and youth
  • American literature--20th century
  • Crazy Horse, ca. 1842-1877--Portraits
  • Cheyenne Indians--Biography
  • Great Plains--History
  • Frontier and pioneer life--West (U.S.)
  • Authors, American--20th century--Correspondence
  • American fiction--West (U.S.)
  • Western stories
  • Oglala Indians
  • Fur trade--Northwest, Canadian
  • Cheyenne Indians--Government relations
  • Dakota Indians
  • Fur trade--North America--Maps
  • West (U.S.)--History--To 1848
  • Authors, American--20th century
  • Women authors
  • Sandhills (Neb.)--Literary collections
  • Women--Correspondence
  • Fur trade--West (U.S.)
  • Little Bighorn, Battle of the, Mont., 1876
  • Women authors, American--20th century--Archives
  • Pioneers--Nebraska--Biography
  • North America--History--Maps
  • Cheyenne Indians--History
  • Women authors, American

Occupations:

  • Authors
  • Novelists

Places:

  • West (U.S.) (as recorded)
  • West (U.S.) (as recorded)
  • Nebraska (as recorded)
  • Great Plains (as recorded)