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"Belief is an action for the writer. The writer's action is full belief, from which follows a complete birth ... a creation of a new nucleus of a communal society in which at least the writer can act fully and not react equivocally. In a new and mature integrity."

Alma Foley and Meridel LeSueur

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Meridel LeSueur

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Meridel LeSueur

Well known in the 1930s for her political journalism and her prize-winning short stories, Meridel LeSueur produced a major body of literature work over a period of more than sixty years. Her work includes poetry, autobiography, biography, and history in addition to journalism and fiction.

Born in Murray, Iowa, in the first year of the century, she spent her childhood and adolescence in the care of her grandmother, a Texas and later Oklahoma pioneer, and her mother, a socialist and feminist who remained politically active until well over the age of seventy-five. Through her mother, Marian Wharton, and her step-father, the socialist lawyer Arthur LeSueur, she was introduced to such midwestern radical and reform movements as the Populists, the Farmer-Labor Party, and the Industrial Workers of the World. At her parents’ homes, in Ft. Scott, Kansas, and later in St. Paul, Minnesota, she met labor leaders and radical thinkers.

LeSueur became the chronicler of women’s lives, often overlooked in accounts of the Great Depression, writing of their experiences in relief agencies and on the breadlines. Her novel The Girl, based on stories of women with whom she lived, was written in 1939 but not published until 1978. It describes the harsh realities—poverty, starvation, and sexual abuse—of the lives of working-class women during the Depression and their survival by means of supportive friendships and a shared, communal life.

In the stories she published in the thirties in such literary magazines as Scribner’s and Partisan Review, LeSueur wrote treatments of both working- and middle-class women—their experiences of adolescence, marriage, sexuality, pregnancy, childbirth, motherhood, and widowhood—that were often ahead of their time.

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