The Ruth Suckow Memorial Association (RSMA) 2013 Cherie Dargan
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The Ruth Suckow Memorial Association (RSMA) 2013 Cherie Dargan



This presentation looks at the founding of the Ruth Suckow Memorial Association and some of its early leaders and scholars, who wrote about Ruth Suckow and her work. It includes some highlights of ...

This presentation looks at the founding of the Ruth Suckow Memorial Association and some of its early leaders and scholars, who wrote about Ruth Suckow and her work. It includes some highlights of more recent activities.



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The Ruth Suckow Memorial Association (RSMA) 2013 Cherie Dargan The Ruth Suckow Memorial Association (RSMA) 2013 Cherie Dargan Presentation Transcript

  • The Ruth Suckow Memorial Association (RSMA) Cherie Dargan Associate Professor, Communications Hawkeye Community College Waterloo, Iowa 50704
  • Overview of the presentation • We will look at the origins of our organization, including some of the early leaders. • We will highlight some of the accomplishments of the past 40 years, such as the centennial celebration in 1992. • We will also note the more recent developments, as we’ve used the internet to create a website & use social media.
  • Who was Ruth Suckow? • A writer from Iowa who lived from August 6, 1892-January 23, 1960. • She wrote about the ordinary people living in small towns and on the farm. • She published her short stories, poetry, essays, and novels in the decades between 1924 and 1959.
  • Ruth Suckow, 1892-1960
  • Overview of Ruth Suckow’s life • Ruth was a famous Iowa author who wrote during the 1920s-1950s • She lived in a number of cities in Iowa: her father was a minister and they moved several times to take on a new church • She also traveled extensively around the country, living in New York, New Mexico, Iowa, Massachusetts, Colorado, Arizona and California first as a single woman and then after marrying Ferner Nuhn • They settled in Cedar Falls for almost a decade, where Ferner helped his father with the family business • She wrote richly descriptive stories about the lives of people in the small towns and farms of Iowa during the early 1900s
  • Overview of her life, cont. • She taught at the local university in Cedar Falls (Iowa Teachers' College, which later became the University of Northern Iowa). • She wrote a dozen books, and after her death, two were reprinted by the University of Iowa press. An additional book was published, collecting 11 of her short stories. • In addition, she wrote numerous articles, reviews, and essays. • She was published in a number of popular magazines.
  • Suckow's husband: Ferner Nuhn • Literary critic, artist and author • He was younger than Ruth but they soon found they had a lot in common, and enjoyed spending time together. • After they met, she wrote to a friend that Ferner likes cats too!
  • They met in Earlville • Ruth learned about the apiary (beekeeping) business in Denver while attending college; she kept bees in Earlville for 6 years or more, spending her winters in New York city, writing. • Ferner had read her work, and wrote to ask if he could meet her. • After exchanging letters, he drove his Model T to Earlville to meet Ruth in 1926.
  • Ferner and Ruth marry • They married in 1929: he was in his mid 20s and she was in her mid 30s. • They traveled extensively, going to a number of writers’ workshops and retreats, living out west in New Mexico and out East in New England. • They were friends with Robert and Frances Frost, and other poets, artists, & writers.
  • Work in Washington, D. C. • They lived in Washington for two years in the mid 1930s, while Ferner worked for the Dept. of Agriculture, under fellow Iowan Henry Wallace. • He wrote and edited articles, brochures, and other material. • He also helped Wallace write a book. • Ruth served on the Farm Tenancy Commission for President Roosevelt.
  • World War II • Ruth had not supported the first World War and it created tension between her and her father. • She reached out to the conscientious objectors in 1943 and visited several work camps where they were gathered on the West Coast. • • A Brief description of their activities and friendships
  • Their life together • When his father became ill, Ruth and Ferner returned to Cedar Falls, Iowa—his hometown. • They made friends, got involved in the community, and enjoyed their life together for almost a decade there.
  • Ferner's portrait of Ruth • This portrait shows Ruth holding a cat. • It is part of a series of portraits done while at a retreat for writers and artists.
  • Health Problems • Ruth developed arthritis and Ferner had allergies, so in the late 1940s they moved west, hoping a milder climate would help both of them. • They first settled in Arizona and later moved to Claremont, California. • Ruth continued to write. • Ferner taught at the local college.
  • Retirement to California • They both became active in the Friends (Quakers) and Ferner began writing pamphlets for the national organization • She published her memoir & a collection of short stories in 1952, Some Others and Myself. • In 1959 Viking Press brought out The John Wood Case, her last novel, which concerned an embezzlement case in a church.
  • Her death • Ruth died in 1960. She was at work on a new novel at the point of her death. • She is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Cedar Falls, Iowa, next to her father, William Suckow. • Source: Wikipedia article on Ruth Suckow
  • Suckow graves in Greenwood Cemetery
  • How did the RSMA get established? • Ferner worked to ensure that Ruth’s stories would not be forgotten. • The Earlville Library was renamed the Earlville-Ruth Suckow Memorial library in 1964, in the little town where they had met.
  • Ferner marries Georgia • After Ruth's death in 1960, Ferner remarried a wonderful woman named Georgeanna, (or Georgia) who was also Ruth's cousin. • Her husband had died a few years earlier.
  • Ferner & Georgia’s work • In 1966, he and Georgia worked with a group of people to form the Ruth Suckow Memorial Association (RSMA). • At first, it was focused only on the group in Earlville. • They worked together to preserve Ruth's legacy, collecting and organizing her papers for the Special Collections at the University of Iowa library.
  • Special Collections, Iowa City
  • The Ruth Suckow Memorial Association • Ferner and Georgia met with a group of people in Earlville: they discussed Suckow’s characters and stories and formed the Ruth Suckow Memorial Association (RSMA) in 1966. • The RSMA still gathers each June: members come from all over the Midwest.
  • Memorials to Ruth Suckow • Ferner and Georgia worked with the Ruth Suckow Memorial Association to establish several memorials to Ruth: • The Park in Earlville, Iowa (on the grounds where Ruth’s cottage & apiary once stood) • The Library in Earlville, Iowa • The birthplace in Hawarden, Iowa
  • Georgia & Ferner die • Georgeanna Dafoe Nuhn, a founding member of the RSMA, died on May 28, 1984 in Claremont, California. She was 79 years old. She is buried in Tecumseh Cemetery, Tecumseh, Johnson County, Nebraska. • Ferner moved into a retirement home in Claremont. He died at age 85 in 1989. • After a funeral in California, his body was returned to Iowa where he was buried beside his beloved Ruth in Greenwood cemetery in Cedar Falls. • However, it wasn’t until 2009 that a headstone matching Ruth’s was put in place.
  • Suckow’s grave—between Ferner and her father
  • Hawarden: the Suckow birthplace
  • Earlville: the Ruth Suckow Park
  • Earlville: Ruth Suckow Memorial Library
  • Dedicating the Ruth Suckow Park • Ferner and Georgia were there for the dedication of the Suckow park in Earlville, Iowa in 1982. • Here they are with Barbara, Ferner's niece, who has many wonderful memories and stories about her famous Aunt and Uncle.
  • Highlights of the RSMA’s achievements • Our group has been blessed with many talented, hard working people. • Some have been literature professors or writers, and others have ordinary people who liked reading Suckow’s stories. • Members have written about her life and work. • The group has advocated for several books to be reprinted. • They also began meeting annually to discuss her work and to –plan their projects. • They sponsored a play, “Just Suppose,” in 1992, on the Centennial of Suckow’s birth. • They got Suckow’s papers donated to the Special Collections at the University of Iowa, Iowa City.
  • “Just Suppose: the story of Iowa Novelist Ruth Suckow” • Rebecca Christian wrote a play in 1992, in honor of the Centennial of Suckow’s birth. • It was sponsored by the RSMA & the Hawarden Ruth Suckow Centennial Committee, as well as the Iowa Humanities Board. • It was a one woman play performed by Lenore Howard, and spans 1928 to 1959. • It was performed on August 6, 1992.
  • Early leaders & scholars in RSMA
  • Pictured on the previous slide • Clarence Andrews is the gentleman in the light blue jacket on the front row; he wrote a book about the literary history of Iowa that included a chapter on Ruth Suckow. • He titled her chapter, “The Poetry of Place” • Andrews calls her “close to being the best Iowa writer of fiction…” • (A Literary History of Iowa, University of Iowa Press, Iowa City, 1972)
  • Leedice Kissane, biographer • Next to Andrews is Leedice Kissane, seated in the middle of the front row. • She wrote the definitive biography of Ruth Suckow, one of the Twayne’s United States Authors series (1969, New York, Twayne Publishers) • Kissane describes Suckow’s writing style as “quiet and restrained, it was characterized by detachment and almost stark simplicity.” • She is sometimes called a regional writer and other times as a realistic writer. • All of her stories have Iowa settings for the most part.
  • Others in the picture • Ferner is in the back row, at the far end. The other two men are Joseph Wall, historian at Grinnell College, and Dale Bentz, from the University of Iowa Library. • Clarence and Leedice were both involved with the RSMA and their efforts as scholars helped to establish her literary legacy. • Margaret Kiesel, a teacher at Grinnell College, wrote articles about Suckow, edited its newsletter and served on the RSMA Board. She is seated on the end of the front row.
  • Why read Ruth Suckow today? • Today her writing has value for readers who enjoy good storytelling as well as for social historians looking for details about life in the early 20th century, particularly in the small towns of Iowa. • For those of us whose families have lived in Iowa for several generations, it is also a way to understand the daily lives of our parents, grand parents, and great grandparents.
  • Her place in American literature • Suckow is often called a regional writer, but she did not like the label. • She said that she wrote about "people, situations, and their meaning." • Her stories take place in the small towns and farms of Iowa, but her characters and storylines are universal. .
  • Iowa Women's Hall of Fame 1978 • Day, Jacqueline Jacqueline Day • Houghton, Dorothy Dorothy Houghton • Pendray, Carolyn Carolyn Pendray • Suckow, Ruth Ruth Suckow She was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1978
  • Her books Country People. New York: Knopf, 1924. The Odyssey of a Nice Girl. New York: Knopf, 1925. Iowa Interiors. New York: Knopf, 1926. The Bonney Family. New York: Knopf, 1928. Cora. New York: Knopf, 1929. The Kramer Girls. New York: Knopf, 1930. Children and Older People. New York: Knopf, 1931.
  • Her books, cont. The Folks. New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1934. Carry-Over. New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1936. New Hope. New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1936. Some Others and Myself. New York: Rinehart, 1952. [short stories and "A Memoir"] The John Wood Case. New York: Viking, 1959.
  • Her Other Work • She wrote 40 short stories and critical essays • She also wrote Three novelettes • She wrote numerous short articles for a variety of publications
  • Recent accomplishments of RSMA • Mike Dargan created the first Suckow website in the early 2000s; Cherie Dargan took it over, and recreated it. ( • We started a blog and later a Facebook page. • We began posting some of Suckow’s stories for download on the website, and hope to expand those offerings. • Mike wrote the Wikipedia article about Ruth Suckow. • Cherie wrote the Wikipedia article about Ferner. • We began scanning in old documents and archiving them.
  • RSMA Annual Meetings
  • Rural Lit Rally Rural Lit RALLY, an organization devoted to promoting the literature of yesterday, found our website the summer of 2012 and contacted us.
  • Rural Lit Rally Project, Fall 2012 • Rural Lit Rally wanted to feature Suckow on their website in August and September. • In addition, they wanted to find a way to interact with some readers about Suckow’s writing. • Cherie Dargan’s Intro to Literature class at Hawkeye Community College read one of Ruth Suckow’s stories, “A Rural Community” as part of their Fiction unit. • They discussed the story on a special Facebook page with members of the Rural Lit Rally organization.
  • Rural Lit Rally Project, cont. • Students were intrigued to find that there were adults out there who liked to read, and enjoyed interacting with the Rural Lit Rally members. • A few of our RSMA members were also involved in discussing the story online. • At the end of the semester, students were surveyed about the experience, and the additional discussion resulted in them remembering more details about the story.
  • Iowa Public Radio--Talk of Iowa Several of the participants were interviewed on Iowa Public Radio about the project: Cherie Dargan, RSMA webmaster, and Dr. Paul Theobald, Project Director, and his wife Maureen. It was a great opportunity to discuss Suckow’s life and career, and promote both organizations and websites.
  • Follow up activity • Later, Rural Lit Rally put together a display about Writers with an Iowa Connection, and sent it to the Hawkeye Community of College Library, where it was on display during the late Spring and summer of 2013.
  • Rural Lit Rally exhibit at Hawkeye Community College Library
  • Rural Lit Rally Website In addition, Cherie was featured on the Rural Lit Rally website, in an interview about her work with the Ruth Suckow Memorial Association this Spring; she is the webmaster for the Ruth Suckow website.
  • Annual meeting 2013 • We have met in several communities for our annual meeting, including Earlville, Grinnell and most frequently in Cedar Falls. • This year we went to the birthplace in Hawarden, Iowa, which is in Northwestern Iowa.
  • Earlville: Suckow Park & Library
  • Park in Earlville
  • Birthplace now part of Calliope Village
  • Birthplace in Hawarden
  • Front room and office
  • Annual meeting 2013 • Here is Barbara Lounsberry, retired UNI Professor, writer, Suckow scholar, and the President of the Ruth Suckow Memorial Association. • She is standing on the porch of the birthplace in Hawarden, Iowa.
  • The Birthplace in Hawarden Here is Cherie, visiting the birthplace for the Ruth Suckow Memorial Association's annual meeting in June.
  • Our partners in Hawarden • Mary is a long time Board member and has worked hard to help restore the house. • Here she poses with our guide, Jamie Strong, the President of the big Sioux River Valley Historical Association, the group that cares for Calliope Village. • The Birthplace is open for tours on selected days in the Summer.
  • On display in the House
  • The kitchen
  • Dining area and sewing room
  • Front room and display case
  • Bedroom and office
  • Kitchen and sewing room
  • Front rooms
  • Want to know more about us?
  • Want to join? • /home/how-to-contact-us • Membership costs $15 a year • Go the link on the website for more details
  • Sources • The Ruth Suckow website, • Back issues of the annual Ruth Suckow newsletter • “Ruth Suckow,” Wikipedia entry. w
  • Sources on Ruth Suckow • Christian, Rebecca. Just suppose, the story of Iowa novelist Ruth Suckow : a one-woman show in two acts. 1992. • Christian, Rebecca. "She wrote of Iowa and of Life.“ The Iowan, September 30, 1992. • Grant, Dorothy. “Ferner Nuhn: His Art and Writings.” The Ruth Suckow Newsletter, Summer 1998. Martin Mohr, editor. Published at Luther College, September 1998. Decorah, Iowa. • Grant, Dorothy. Self-published booklet, "History of The Cedar Falls Supper Club." June 1993.
  • Sources on Ruth Suckow, cont. • Grant, Dorothy. “Ruth and Ferner: Their Years Together in Cedar Falls.” The Ruth Suckow Newsletter, Summer 1998. Martin Mohr, editor. Published at Luther College, September 1998. Decorah, Iowa. • Nuhn, Ferner. Biographical note on the book jacket of The Wind Blew From the East. Harper & Brothers, 1940. New York & London. • Nuhn, Ferner. Biographical notes at the conclusion of a brochure written by Ferner, The Ice Wagon and Other Vanished Wonders, a booklet written for the Cedar Falls Historical Society, May 8, 1981.
  • Sources on Ruth Suckow, cont. • "Ruth Suckow." Wikipedia entry. Michael Dargan, editor. • The Ruth Suckow Memorial Association Website. Cherie Dargan, Webmaster. • White, Lee. Biography of Ruth Suckow Nuhn. y/Nuhn/Nuhn.htm