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Meridel Le Sueur papers

Identifier: MSS 0409

Scope and Contents

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 –1984), 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 The 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).


  • Creation: 1929-1942


Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Access Information

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections Department, University of Delaware Library,

Meridel Le Sueur

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.

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

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

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. Kirkpatrick passed away in 1984.


.3 linear foot (1 box and oversize materials)


The papers of the American writer of the political left Meridel Le Sueur consist of typescripts of Le Sueur’s poems and stories, sixty-three letters to her friend writer and journalist Doris Kirkpatrick (1902-1984), letters written to Le Sueur by others, photos and other images, news clippings and a periodical.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased, April 2000

Materials in this Repository

MSS 0488, Neala Schleuning-Meridel La Sueur Collection

MSS 0124, John Malcolm Brinnin, Signatures Archive

MSS 0110, Pagany Archive

Materials in other Repositories

Meridel Le Sueur Papers. Minnesota Historical Society.

Shelving Summary

  1. Boxes 1: Shelved in manuscript boxes (3 inch)
  2. Oversize removals: Shelved in MSS oversize

Processing Information

Processed by Gerald Cloud, April 2001. Finding aid encoded by Anna Nuzzolese, December 2018.

Finding aid for Meridel Le Sueur papers
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
2018 December 20
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

181 South College Avenue
Newark DE 19717-5267 USA