Zona Gale Papers, 1838-1970

Summary Information
Title: Zona Gale Papers
Inclusive Dates: 1838-1970

  • Gale, Zona, 1874-1938
Call Number: Wis Mss MP

Quantity: 7.7 cubic feet (19 archives boxes and 1 oversize folder)

Archival Locations:
Wisconsin Historical Society (Map)

Papers of Zona Gale, a Wisconsin novelist and playwright who won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1921 for her play Miss Lulu Bett. Literary papers, including manuscript drafts and revisions of plays, novels, articles, and other writings, form the major portion of the collection. The correspondence includes letters to and from many literary figures. Gale's interests in many other activities are also reflected; among these are woman suffrage, pacifism, prohibition, mysticism, civil liberties, and support of Progressive politics in Wisconsin and the University of Wisconsin.

Language: English

URL to cite for this finding aid: http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/wiarchives.uw-whs-wis000mp
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Novelist, playwright, and short-story writer Zona Gale successfully used her background and experiences in small town Wisconsin to gain national acclaim. Gale was one of few fiction writers of her time to write contemporary stories emphasizing local color, customs, and the depiction of ordinary people. No matter if she called it Friendship Village, Prospect, or something else, Portage, Wisconsin, her hometown, was the setting and inspiration for nearly all of her work.

Zona Gale was born in Portage, Wisconsin, on August 26, 1874, and, with the exception of a brief time in Minnesota, lived there until she entered the University of Wisconsin. After receiving her A.B. degree in 1895, she worked as a Milwaukee newspaper reporter for the Evening Wisconsin and the Milwaukee Journal, while receiving her master's degree in literature from the University in 1899.

In 1901, she moved to New York. There she also did newspaper work, and in 1906 published her first novel, Romance Island. A visit to Portage in 1903 proved a turning point in her literary life, as seeing the sights and sounds of town life led her to comment that her “old world was full of new possibilities.”

In 1911, after receiving the two thousand dollar first prize in a short story contest conducted by the Delineator, she returned to Portage. There she spent the rest of her life except for annual trips to New York and, after her marriage to William Llewelyn Breese in 1928, a trip to Hawaii and Japan.

Gale first won attention for her short stories set in the fictional town of Friendship Village. Published in 1908, Friendship Village proved very popular and she went on to write a series of story collections set in the town. Gale is perhaps best known for her novel Miss Lulu Bett, which was published to wide acclaim in 1920. Her adaptation of the novel was equally successful and brought Gale in 1921 the first Pulitzer Prize for best drama to be won by a woman.

After the realism of Miss Lulu Bett, Gale's novels became more spiritual, creating a world where social ills could be solved through a kind of transcendentalist enlightenment.

Although she is best known as a novelist and dramatist, her interests outside the field of literature were many and varied. She wrote in behalf of such causes as woman's suffrage, pacifism end world peace, prohibition, civil liberties, racial equality, old-age security, and vegetarianism. She spoke out against literary censorship, capital punishment, and the trapping of animals. She was an active member of the National Woman's Party and she lobbied extensively for the 1921 Wisconsin Equal Rights Law. Gale's activism on behalf of women was her way to solve politically a problem she returned to repeatedly in her novels: women's frustration at their lack of opportunities.

Although at first indifferent to the reforms espoused by Robert M. La Follette, she soon became a staunch supporter of the La Follettes and at various times materially aided the Progressive Party, notably in 1924 when the senior La Follette was a candidate for the Presidency. This loyalty to the La Follettes survived even the dismissal from the presidency of the University of Wisconsin of Glenn Frank, whom she had been largely instrumental in bringing to the University. She served as a member of the University's Board of Regents from 1923 to 1929 and later of its Board of Visitors.

Showing from an early age a decidedly mystical strain, after the death of her mother in 1923 Gale became more end more interested in mystical end psychic phenomena and for a time gave her approval, if not her active support, to a group which established on a farm near Portage a community modeled after Gurdjieff's “Institute for the Harmonic Development of Man” at Fontainbleu.

Gale continued writing and publishing until her death in December of 1938.

Scope and Content Note

The Zona Gale Papers consist of her stories, novels, plays, poems, essays, and articles in manuscript form (both longhand end typed); correspondence between her and her parents and between her and many of the literary figures of her day; author's proofs and galley proofs of some of her writings; genealogical data about the Gale and Beers families; magazines containing articles and stories by her and articles about her; clippings about her and reviews of her works; notes on her adopted daughter, Leslyn; notes and letters about her trip to Hawaii and Japan; manuscripts and notebooks from grade school, high school, and university days; poems end writings of her mother, Eliza Beers Gale; reports on conversations with her father, Charles Franklin Gale; and autographed poems and inscriptions from Tagore, AE, Edwin Markham, Margaret Widdemer, and Ellen Terry.

Also included in the collection are the following: a typescript of the poems of Eben E. Rexford; correspondence between Mrs. Elizabeth Cushing of Portage and the New York Life Insurance Company; a notebook, probably Cushing's; and manuscripts sent to Zona Gale by unknown writers for her criticisms end suggestions.

In classifying the collection, it has been thought advisable--especially since many of the manuscripts are undated--to depart from the usual chronological classification. Correspondence between her and others outside her family is arranged alphabetically, therefore, although all correspondence between her and a particular person is arranged chronologically in so far as possible. Correspondence with the editors of magazines and with publishers is usually filed under the name of the magazine or publishing company and cross-indexed under the editor's or publisher's name. Correspondence pertaining to the University of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Legislature, the National Broadcasting Company, and the City of Portage is filed under those titles.

Literary correspondents include Louis Adamic, Sherwood Anderson, Heywood Broun, Pearl S. Buck, Willa Cather, Margaret Deland, August Derleth, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, Edna Ferber, Hamlin Garland, Joseph Hergesheimer, Fannie Hurst, James Weldon Johnson, Richard Le Gallienne, Meridel Le Sueur, Guthrie McClintic, Christopher Morley, Martha Ostenso, Vilhjalmur Stefansson, Carl Van Doren, Hendrik W. Van Loon, Edith Wharton, Margaret Widdemer, and Elinor Wylie. Among her correspondents on social, political, and educational matters are Jane Addams, John R. Commons, Richard T. Ely, John Haynes Holmes, and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Her letters to her parents, and theirs to her, form a separate file which is also chronologically arranged.

Gale's writings are organized in three categories: Elementary, high school, and University compositions and notes; Poems (arranged A-Z); and Manuscripts (arranged alphabetically by title). The titled manuscripts files include first drafts, revisions, end typed manuscripts of novels, plays, essays, articles, and reviews. Some of the manuscripts, however, are incomplete. In addition, there are reasonably complete but untitled manuscripts; among them is an incomplete manuscript labeled “My first novel. Published nowhere.” Many untitled fragments of manuscripts are filed at the end.

Genealogical files contain notes and numerous letters from her and to her on the subject of the Gale and Beers genealogies. A Miscellaneous category groups other files at the end of the collection.

Administrative/Restriction Information
Acquisition Information

Most presented by W.L. Breese, 1944. Additional letters and notes added to Box 1 presented by the Portage Free Library, 1974. Newspaper clippings in Box 19 presented by Jessie Gruner, Watertown, Wisconsin, 1978. Accession Number: M74-520, M78-54

Contents List
Series: Correspondence, 1910-1934
Box   1
Folder   1
Box   1
Folder   2
Box   1
Folder   3
Box   1
Folder   4
Box   1
Folder   5
Box   1
Folder   6
Jachowicz, Mary
Box   1
Folder   7
Box   1
Folder   8
Box   2
Folder   1
Box   2
Folder   2
Box   2
Folder   3
Box   2
Folder   4
Unidentified letters
Box   2
Folder   5
Correspondence & notes (copied from holdings of the Portage Free Library), circa 1900-1945
Correspondence with parents
Box   2
Folder   6
Box   2
Folder   7
Box   2
Folder   8
Letters & conversations of C. F. Gale
Box   2
Folder   9
Letters & poems by Eliza B. Gale
Box   3
Folder   1
Letters & papers about trip to Japan & Hawaii, 1936-1937
Note: Includes correspondence with Yone Noguchi and others.
Box   3
Folder   2-5
Japanese memorabilia
Series: Writings
Box   4
Folder   1-3
Elementary, High School, and University Compositions & Notes
Manuscripts of poems
Box   4
Folder   4-5
Box   5
Folder   1-2
Manuscripts (arranged alphabetically by title)
Box   5
Folder   7
Box   6
Folder   1-2
A (continued)
Box   6
Folder   3-4
Box   7
Folder   1-2
An-Bo (continued)
Box   7
Folder   3-5
Box   8
Folder   1-3
Box   8
Folder   4-5
Box   9
Folder   1
Fe-Ha (continued)
Box   9
Folder   2-4
Box   10
Folder   1-3
Box   10
Folder   4
Original manuscript of Miss Lulu Bett
Box   10
Folder   5
Box   11
Folder   1
Ma-Na (continued)
Box   11
Folder   2-4
Box   11
Folder   5
Box   12
Folder   1-2
O-Po (continued)
Box   12
Folder   3-5
Box   13
Folder   1-3
Box   13
Folder   4-5
Box   14
Folder   1
Sk-T (continued)
Box   14
Folder   2-4
Box   14
Folder   5
Box   15
Folder   1-5
Untitled (continued)
Box   16
Folder   1-6
Untitled (continued)
Box   17
Folder   1-5
Incomplete & unidentified articles, etc.
Box   18
Folder   1
Incomplete & unidentified articles, etc. (continued)
Series: Genealogy
Box   5
Folder   3
Gale genealogy & miscellaneous genealogical notes
Box   5
Folder   4
Beers genealogy & notes on William Llewelyn Breese family
Correspondence on Gale & Beers genealogy
Box   5
Folder   5
Box   5
Folder   6
Series: Miscellaneous
Box   18
Folder   2
Mystical aphorisms & spirit messages from her mother
Box   18
Folder   3
Lists of Zona Gale's publications
Box   18
Folder   4
Elizabeth Cushing's notebook (?)
Box   18
Folder   5
Manuscripts sent to Zona Gale by others
Box   18
Folder   6
Will of Zona Gale
Box   18
Folder   7
Letters about “Lights Out” (written for the American Association for Old Age Security) and radio broadcast “The Pioneer”
Box   18
Folder   8
Autographed poems & inscriptions to Zona Gale
Note: From Tagore, Edwin Markham, Margaret Widdemer, AE, and Ellen Terry.
Box   18
Folder   9
Notes about Zona Gale by various people
Box   18
Folder   10
Notes on Leslyn, adopted daughter of Zona Gale
Box   18
Folder   11
Miscellaneous papers
Box   18
Folder   12
Bibliography of articles about Zona Gale
Box   19
Folder   1
Christmas cards
Box   19
Folder   2
M.A. Thesis, 1899
Box   19
Folder   3
Newspaper clippings, 1938, 1942, 1970
Box   19
Folder   4
The Poems of Eben Rexford (1 volume)
Oversize Folder  
Appendix I: Letters in the Zona Gale Collection (Incomplete List)
  • Adamic, Louis (from)
  • F. P. A. [Adams?] (to)
  • Adams, Mary M. (from)
  • Addams, Jane (to and from)
  • Agard, Walter (from)
  • Alexander, Grand Duke of Russia (from)
  • Alpha Tau Sigma Fraternity, Ripon College (to)
  • Anderson, Sherwood (to)
  • Antnian, Mr. (to)
  • Applegate, Frank G. (from)
  • Atherton, Percy Lee (from)
  • Aylward, Mrs. J. A. (from)
  • Bailey, Mrs. Alice (to)
  • Balmer, Mrs. (to)
  • Beebe, Dr. Spencer (to)
  • Beers, Mrs. (to)
  • Bennett, Richard (to and from)
  • Berger, Meta (from)
  • Birge, E. A. (from)
  • Blackwood, Algernon (from)
  • Blaine, G. (from)
  • Bliss, Mrs. (to)
  • Bragdon, Claude (from)
  • Brainard, D. L. (from)
  • Branch, Ann Hempstead (from)
  • Breese, Mary and Elenor (to)
  • Brett, Mr. (to)
  • Bridgman, Helen Bartlett (to)
  • Brown, Heywood (from)
  • Brown, Lucy Preston (to)
  • Browne, Frances (to)
  • Brownell, Baker (to and from)
  • Bryan, John (from)
  • Bryan, Mary B. (from)
  • Buck, Pearl (to)
  • Burgess, Gelett (from)
  • Burt, Katherine Newlin (from)
  • Butler, Sheppard (from)
  • Cabell, [James Branch?] (to)
  • Cardinal, Editor of (to)
  • Castle, Mrs. Alfred (to)
  • Cather, Willa (from)
  • Chappel, Joe (to)
  • Chase, Laura (to)
  • Chichester, Jim (to)
  • Clark, Mrs. (to)
  • Cleghorn, Sarah (from)
  • Clewett, Naomi (to)
  • Colman, Edna M. (to)
  • Comfort, Will L. (from)
  • Commons, John R. (to and from)
  • Cosgrove, John O'Hare (from)
  • Courtney, Robert (to)
  • Crawford, Mrs.David (to)
  • Crosby, Arvia Bower's baby (to)
  • Darrow, Clarence and Ruby (to)
  • Davis, Jerome (from)
  • Davis, Katherine Bement (from)
  • Davison, Sarah (to)
  • Deland, Margaret (to and from)
  • Derleth, August (to)
  • Dickinson, Thomas H. (from)
  • Dickson, Janet (to)
  • Doubleday, Mr. (to)
  • Eddy, Mr. (to)
  • Edison, Mina M. [Mrs. Thomas A.] (from)
  • Elliott, Elizabeth Shippen Green, Mrs. Huger (from)
  • Ely, Dr. [Richard?] (to)
  • Fackenthal, Frank D. (from)
  • Fauset, Jessie (from)
  • Ferber, Edna (to)
  • Ficksdal, R. Alice (from)
  • Field, Sarah Bard (to)
  • Filene, E. A. (to and from)
  • Fisher, Dorothy Canfield (to and from)
  • Flanders, Mrs. (to)
  • Flower, Forrest (to)
  • Follett, Wilson (from)
  • Foreman, Henry James (from)
  • Frank, Glenn (from)
  • Frank, Mr. and Mrs. Glenn (to)
  • Frank, Mrs. Glenn (to)
  • Franklin, Lucy J. (from)
  • Friar, Kimon (from)
  • Friends of Debs Column (to)
  • Gabrielson, Mr. (to)
  • Garland, Hamlin (from)
  • Garner, L. Hamilton (to)
  • Gilman, Charlotte Perkins Stetson (from)
  • Gilmore, Mrs. (to)
  • Glaenzer, Richard B. (from)
  • Glasgow, Ellen (from)
  • Goodman, Prof. (to)
  • Goodrich, Bertha Hunt (from)
  • Gore, Russell (to and from)
  • Gould, Mrs. George M. (to)
  • Green, Mrs. Harrison (to)
  • Grierson, Frances (from)
  • Hackbarth, Daniel E. (from)
  • Hackett, Francis (from)
  • Hall, C. H. (to)
  • Hallinan, Mr. (to)
  • Hall-Quest, Alfred H. (to)
  • Hall-Quest, Alfred L. (from)
  • Hameda, Mr. (to)
  • Harcourt, Alfred (from)
  • Hard, William (to)
  • Harding, Mr. (to)
  • Harpers Bros. (to)
  • Hawthorne, Julian (copy) (from)
  • Heiliger, Elise (from)
  • Hergesheimer, Joseph (from)
  • Herzberg, Max (from)
  • Hibben, Paxton (from)
  • Hochstein, Irma B. (to)
  • Holmes, John Haynes (to and from)
  • Holmes, Mrs. Katherine (to)
  • Hood, Edgar (to)
  • Hopper, W. Earl (to)
  • Horner, Esther (to)
  • Howard, Clare E. (from)
  • Howe, Ward Allen (to)
  • Hoyt, Mrs. Frank (to)
  • Huebsch, B. W. (to)
  • Hughes, Mrs. (to)
  • Hunter, Allen A. (from)
  • Hunter, Irene Louise (from)
  • Hunter, Irene (to)
  • Hurley, Rev. James T. (from)
  • Hurst, Fannie (from)
  • Jahn, Henry R. (from)
  • Jansen, Roy (from)
  • Jastrow, Joseph (to)
  • Jastrow, Mrs. Joseph (to)
  • Johnson, Burgess (to)
  • Johnson, Charles S. (to)
  • Johnson, James Weldon (to and from)
  • Johnson, Wilhelmina (from)
  • Johnston, Mary (from)
  • Jones, Robert Esmond (from)
  • Jordan, Dr. (to)
  • Jordan, Elizabeth (to)
  • Kane, Mr.
  • Keppel, Charles (to and from)
  • King, C. Daly (from)
  • Korzybski, Alfred (from)
  • La Follette, Fola
  • La Follette, Isabel (from)
  • LaFarge, Mrs.
  • Latimer, Margery (to and from)
  • Le Gellienne, Richard (to and from)
  • Le Sueur, Meridel (to and from)
  • Lochner, Mrs. (to)
  • Lorenz, Dr. (to)
  • Lovett, Robert Morss (from)
  • Luedeman, Blanche (from)
  • Macgowan, Kenneth (from)
  • Martyn, Lawrence (to)
  • Matthias, Blanche (to)
  • Maxwell, William (to and from)
  • McClintic, Guthrie (from)
  • McCormick, Mabel (from)
  • McCrae, John (to)
  • McGovern, Francis E. (to and from)
  • McIntyre, E. R. (from)
  • Mears, Mary (from)
  • Meiklejohn, Alexander (from)
  • Meloney, Mrs. William (to)
  • Mencken, H. L. (to and from)
  • Merrill, Charles (to)
  • Meschi, Edward (to)
  • Mihara, Mr. (to)
  • Miller, F. A. (to)
  • Mitchell, Ruth Comfort (from)
  • Moody, Mrs. William Vaughan (to and from)
  • Moore, Samuel (to)
  • Morley, Christopher (to)
  • Nelson, Mr. (to)
  • Nielson, Mrs. Francis (to)
  • Nivven, Mrs. Thomas R. (to)
  • Noguchi, Yone (filed with material on trip to Japan) (to and from)
  • Nolen, John (from)
  • Northwood, Mrs. (to)
  • Ostenso, Martha (from)
  • Overton, Grant (to and from)
  • Pallard, Edith (to)
  • Parker, Cornelia S. (from)
  • Pemberton, Brock (to and from)
  • Pickford, Mary (from)
  • Pochmann, Henry (to)
  • Pond, Mrs. Sarah (to)
  • Pond, Sarah Elizabeth (from)
  • Poole, Ernest (from)
  • Portage, City of (re: cutting down of trees) (from)
  • Price, Mr. (to)
  • Rauschenbusch, Walter (to and from)
  • Rice, Elmer (to and from)
  • Robinson, Mr. (to)
  • Roosevelt, Eleanor B. [niece of first lady] (from)
  • Roosevelt, Franklin D. (to)
  • Rosenthal, Mary (to)
  • Ryan, [?] (to)
  • Saltus, Edgar (from)
  • Saxton, Eugene F. (from)
  • Scoville, Samuel, Jr. (from)
  • Scudder, Vida (to)
  • Sell, Henry (from)
  • Sergel, Mr. (to)
  • Shidahara, Baron (to)
  • Sinclair, May (to)
  • Smart Set, Editor of (to)
  • Smith, Ida B. Wise (to)
  • Squibbs, Mr. (to)
  • Stedman, Edmund Clarence (from)
  • Stedman, Laura [Mrs. Edmund C.] (from)
  • Stefansson, Vilhjalmur (from)
  • Stewart, Rosalie (to)
  • Strong, Sydney (from)
  • Summer, [?] (from)
  • Tenson, Mr. (to)
  • Think, Miss (to)
  • Tonkin, Linley Munson (from)
  • Torrence, Ridgley (to)
  • Tracy, Henry Chester (to and from)
  • Van Doren, Carl (to and from)
  • Van Loom, Henrik Willen (from)
  • Vollmer, Lula (to)
  • Voss, Ernst (from)
  • Voss, Ernst and Annie (from)
  • Walker, Dugald Stewart (to and from)
  • Wallace, J. W. (to)
  • Wallace, Mrs. Burpee (to)
  • Walrond, Eric (from)
  • Waters, Miss (to)
  • Wharton, Edith (to and from)
  • White, Jim (to)
  • Wickwire, Gale (to)
  • Widdemer, Margaret (from)
  • Wilkening, Cora C. (from)
  • Williams, John L. B. (to and from)
  • Wilson, Margaret Woodrow (from)
  • Wisconsin, legislature (from)
  • Wisconsin, University of (from)
  • Wylie, Elinor (to and from)
  • Yezierska, Anzia (from)
  • Young, Karl (from)
  • Zimmerman, Fred R. (from)