M. Eleanor Fitzgerald Papers, 1915-1974


Mary Eleanor Fitzgerald was born in Deerfield, Wisconsin in 1877, the daughter of James and Ada Fitzgerald. She lived with her family, siblings Arthur and Cora, in Hancock, Wisconsin, teaching grade school there from 1893 to 1898 when she moved to Battle Creek, Michigan to work in the Sanitorium to prepare for missionary work for the Seventh Day Adventists.

Between 1901 and 1902, Fitzgerald became interested in the anarchist and labor movement. She joined a lecture circuit in about 1902, travelling around the country, speaking in behalf of imprisoned labor leaders. She formed friendships with two fellow speakers, Benjamin Reitman and Pauline Turkel. Pauline Turkel became her life-long friend. Through her involvement with the anarchist movement, she met Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman, joining them in the publication of the Mother Earth Bulletin around 1906. During World War I (1914-1918) she turned her attention to the "political prisoners"-the conscientious objectors. She raised money for their bail and defense and spoke in their behalf. She also co-edited The Blast: Revolutionary Labor Weekly at this time. She left the movement in 1918 when Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman were deported. It is often claimed that Fitzgerald gave up on political work after Berkman and Goldman were deported from the United States.

In 1918 George Cram Cook, founder of the Provincetown Players, an experimental theater group, asked Fitzgerald to join his theater company. She joined the Provincetown Players as a part-time secretary in October 1918, and consequently served as executive manager for the Players until it disbanded in 1929. Keeping the group together through financial difficulties and morale problems, she became acquainted with such playwrights as Eugene O'Neil, Paul Green, and E.E. Cummings, with whom she corresponded.

From 1929 to 1940 Fitzgerald managed various theatrical enterprises. In 1940 she joined the Dramatic Workshop of the New School for Social Research. During these years she corresponded with Erwin Piscator, Helen Deutsch, Susan Jenkins, Peggy Guggenheim and Stella Hanau.

In 1953 she retired to Hancock, Wisconsin where she remained until her death two years later from cancer. The bulk of the correspondence she produced in these last years are addressed to her friend Pauline Turkel.