FREDA KIRCHWEY, 1893-1976
Freda Kirchwey (Mary Frederika Kirchwey), journalist, was born at Lake Placid, New York, on September 26, 1893, one of four children of George Washington and Dora Child (Wendell) Kirchwey. Her father was a noted criminologist and dean of Columbia University's School of Law. FK attended the Horace Mann School in New York City, and received her B.A. from Barnard College in 1915. She spent a year as a general reporter and Sunday feature writer for the New York Morning Telegraph, 1915-1916, and later became a member of the editorial staff of a New York magazine, Every Week, 1917-1918. After a short stint with the Sunday Tribune in 1918, FK joined The Nation, a liberal weekly magazine, and except for a leave of absence in 1929-1932, remained there until she retired in 1955.
FK began her career at The Nation clipping articles for the International Relations Section, but soon advanced to associate editor. She served as managing editor from 1922 to 1938, also becoming vice-president in 1922. She was literary editor, 1928-1929; editor, 1932-1937; editor and publisher, 1937-1943; and editor, 1943-1955.
FK left The Nation in 1955, but continued to support many liberal causes, serving as vice-chairman of the Committee for a Democratic Spain, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and the Committee for World Development and World Disarmament. FK was also a member of other groups, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the American Civil Liberties Union, the League of Women Voters, and the International League for the Rights of Man. In recognition of her contribution to liberal opinion in the United States, FK received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Rollins College in 1944; she was also made Chevalier of The French Legion of Honor in 1946.
FK married Evans Clark (1888-1970), director of the Twentieth Century Fund and editor for The New York Times in 1915. Of their three sons only Michael Kirchwey Clark (1919- ) survived childhood. The Clarks traveled widely in Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East, but maintained their home in New York city until 1970, when Evans Clark died while on vacation in Nyon, Switzerland. After Clark's death, FK lived first with her sister, Dorothy Kirchwey Brown in Boston, Massachusetts, and then in Nova Scotia. She died in a St. Petersburg, Florida, nursing home, on January 3, 1976.
The Nation, one of the oldest continuing weekly magazines in the United States, was founded by Edwin Lawrence Godkin in 1865 to "inquire critically into the 'state of the Nation' and the world at large." The Nation of Godkin's era attacked the Granges, the Populists, trade union, socialists, and suffragists; it was not until 1918 that Oswald Garrison Villard, grandson of William Lloyd Garrison, having purchased the magazine from a group of stockholders, began to transform it into a leading voice of liberal opinion (see #362-363).
In January 1933, editorial control and management of The Nation passed to a board of four editors that included FK. In 1935 Villard sold The Nation to banker Maurice Wertheim, who in turn sold it to FK two years later. FK became editor and publisher but, plagued by deficits resulting from the increase in prices brought on by World War II, decided to transfer ownership to The Nation Associates, a non-profit membership corporation founded in 1943. FK remained president of The Nation Associates, and with director Lillie Schultz worked to raise funds both to cover The Nation's deficit and to pay for forums, dinners, conferences, and reports that supported important liberal causes. Following The Nation's ninetieth birthday in 1955, FK approved the sale of the magazine to George Kirstein and turned over editorial control to Carey McWilliams.
From the guide to the Papers, 1871-1972, (Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute)
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