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Guide to the Ruth Comfort Mitchell Collection
Mss 84  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Ruth Comfort Mitchell Collection,
    Date (inclusive): ca. 1879-1961
    Date (bulk): (bulk 1930s-1940s)
    Collection Number: Mss 84
    Creator: Mitchell, Ruth Comfort, 1882-1954
    Extent: 1 linear foot (2 document boxes 1 thin oversize box)
    Repository: University of California, Santa Barbara. Library. Department of Special Collections
    Santa Barbara, California 93106-9010
    Physical Location: Del Sur and Del Sur Oversize
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information

    Access Restrictions


    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to the Department of Special Collections, UCSB. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Special Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Department of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which also must be obtained.

    Preferred Citation

    Ruth Comfort Mitchell Collection. Mss 84. Department of Special Collections, Davidson Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.

    Acquisition Information

    Gift from William Wreden, 1966.


    Ruth Comfort Mitchell, perhaps best known for her novel Of Human Kindness, which she wrote as a counterpoint to John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, had a long and successful career as a writer, producing numerous novels, poems, short stories, and one-act plays.
    Born on July 21, 1882 in San Francisco, Mitchell spent a good deal of time in Los Gatos, California, where her parents owned a summer home. It was here that her first poem was published in the local newspaper, when she was 14 years old. She pursued a literary career after her marriage to Sanborn Young in 1914, when the couple moved to New York City. Within two years, she had a play opening on Broadway and a published volume of poems, to be followed soon after by her first novel.
    The Youngs soon returned to Los Gatos and began building their elaborate Chinese-styled home, which they dubbed Yung See San Fong, on a hilltop ranch. In 1925, Sanborn Young was elected to the California State Senate, where he would serve until 1938, becoming a close friend to President Herbert Hoover. Ruth proved to be a tireless campaigner and was active in a number of conservative organizations, even serving twice as a delegate to the Republican National Convention.
    Sanborn Young returned to life as a cattle rancher after retiring from the Senate and, as such, he and his wife were upset by Steinbeck's novel The Grapes of Wrath, which appeared soon after, in 1939. Ruth Comfort Mitchell determined to tell their side of the story, the result being her novel Of Human Kindness, in which a gentleman farmer's family must overcome the tribulations brought by migrant workers, union organizers, liberal academics, and Communists.
    Ruth Comfort Mitchell continued to write throughout the 1940s and was an active member of the Christian Science Church of Los Gatos. She died at home on February 17, 1954 of heart failure.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The collection contains correspondence, typescripts of articles and speeches, research files, photographs, and ephemera of American author Ruth Comfort Mitchell. Correspondents include William C. Morrow, Robert W. Service, and Wendell Wilkie. Much of the collection relates to Mitchell's research and writing on the migrant question of the late 1930s, after the publication of The Grapes of Wrath, as seen from the perspective of the area farmers and ranchers.
    The collection also contains a number of books, including some by Ruth Comfort Mitchell, which have been cataloged separately and which may be searched on Pegasus, the UCSB Libraries online catalog.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Mitchell, Ruth Comfort, 1882-1954