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Suckow, Ruth



  • Existence: 1892-1960


Ruth Suckow (1892-1960) was born to William S. and Anna (Kluckhohn) Suckow in Hawarden, Iowa. William Suckow was a Congregationalist minister. He and the family (Anna, Ruth, and elder daughter Emma) lived in a number of Iowa towns including LeMars, Algona, Fort Dodge, and Manchester as he moved from one pastorate to another. Ruth attended Grinnell College (her sister's alma mater) for three years, leaving without a degree. She next attended the Curry School of Expression in Boston. When she graduated in 1915, she returned to Iowa to keep house for her father who now had a church in Manchester. Emma, who was married with a family, was living in Denver, Colorado. She had contracted tuberculosis and their mother was there helping with the household while attending to her own health problems. Ruth opened a school in Manchester where she taught public speaking, but she was not happy and the school was not a success. The following year, she and her mother traded places. Ruth went to Denver to help Emma and enrolled in the University of Denver to complete her college degree. She received her B.A. in 1917. In 1918 she completed her M.A. and published her first poetry.   Anna Suckow died suddenly the following year. Once more Ruth returned to Iowa to live near her father. This time it was to Earlville, where she set up the "Orchard Apiary" and began beekeeping. The business flourished and she tended her hives for six years. However, these were not years of uneventful solitude. Saving her money for half of each year allowed her to spend her winters writing and traveling. Her first short story was published in 1921 in John T. Frederick's The Midland. He in turn introduced her work to H.L. Mencken who published her stories in The Smart Set and encouraged her to write a novel. "Country People" was published in 1924 in serialized form in The Century Magazine. Ruth Suckow had established herself as an important new voice in regional literature.   While her writing career was blossoming, it was also a period of change in her personal life. In 1923 her sister Emma Hunting died. Her father was remarried and moved away, leaving Ruth alone. It was also during this time in Earlville that she met Ferner Nuhn (1908-1989). He visited her at the Orchard Apiary after becoming an admirer of her writing. They were married in 1929 and spent the next seven years living in different places around the country. She and Ferner moved back to Cedar Falls, Iowa, in the 1930s to take charge of his family's business. In 1952 they moved to Claremont, California.   The 1920s were the most successful years of Ruth's career. But she continued to write all of her life, leaving a new novel unfinished at the time of her death in 1960. But writing was never her only activity. She had been a pacifist since the First World War. Later in her life she became a Quaker, like her husband, and devoted much of her time and energy to the conscientious objectors camps during WWII.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Papers of Ruth Suckow

Identifier: MsC0706

This collection is comprised of photographs, letters, paintings, and manuscripts of Ruth Suckow, family, and friends.

Dates: 1887-1988