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Mary Oppen Papers
MSS 0125  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Biography
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Mary Oppen Papers
    Identifier/Call Number: MSS 0125
    Contributing Institution: Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego
    9500 Gilman Drive
    La Jolla, California, 92093-0175
    Languages: English
    Physical Description: 18.0 Linear feet (8 archives boxes, 16 flat boxes, 8 map case folders, and 14 art bin items)
    Date (inclusive): 1913-1990
    Abstract: Papers of Mary Oppen, writer, painter, and wife of poet George Oppen. The Mary Oppen Papers contain extensive photographic documentation of the Oppen family, along with artworks by George and Mary Oppen and a small file of papers. The artworks include wood carvings by George Oppen and paintings and collages by Mary. Included in the papers are drafts of Mary Oppen's autobiography Meaning A Life, journals (including a dream journal), and original writings by her and her husband.
    Creator: Oppen, Mary, 1908-1990

    Scope and Content of Collection

    Papers of Mary Oppen, writer, painter, and wife of poet George Oppen. The Mary Oppen Papers contain extensive photographic documentation of the Oppen family, along with artworks by George and Mary Oppen and a small file of papers. The artworks include wood carvings by George Oppen and paintings and collages by Mary. Included in the papers are drafts of Mary Oppen's autobiography Meaning A Life, journals (including a dream journal), and original writings by her and her husband.
    Mary Oppen's papers have research value in that they reflect the life and career of her husband. However, Mary Oppen was an artist and a writer herself, though of a lesser distinction and fame than her spouse. In addition, she maintained a vital, animated role in the community of poets, painters, and activists. Notes on the collection made by Linda Oppen Mourelatos and Geoffrey Wexler are kept in a seperate acquisition folder.
    Arranged in five series: 1) WRITINGS, 2) MISCELLANEOUS MATERIALS, 3) CORRESPONDENCE, 4) ARTWORKS and 5) PHOTOGRAPHS.
    Perhaps the most important series is the PHOTOGRAPHS. Several large family albums provide the record of a life shared, among writers and artists only now achieving recognition. The PHOTOGRAPHS series affords us glimpses into the world which George and Mary Oppen inhabited--one which was not officially recorded by the arbitrers of taste or by academics in a depoliticized postwar America.
    Included at the end of the Artwork series are several wood carvings done by George Oppen.

    Biography

    The story of Mary Oppen's life is told in an autobiography entitled Meaning A Life. Born Mary Colby in Kalispell, Montana, Oppen was raised in the Pacific Northwest. She met George Oppen in 1928 while both were students at Oregon State University. Together they travelled extensively and finally took up residence in New York City. There they joined a circle of artists and writers, among whom were the poets Charles Reznikoff and Louis Zukofsky. During the 1930s the Oppens involved themselves in leftist political movements and joined the Communist Party U.S.A in 1935 after the seventh World Congress of the Communist Parties called for intellectuals to join in a united front against fascism and war. After the second World War, in which George Oppen was wounded while serving in the European theater, the Oppens were persecuted by the US government for their leftist activities during the depression. Rather than testify against friends and associates, the Oppens decided to flee to Mexico in 1950, where they found their way to Mexico City's United States emigre and refugee circle. In the late 1950s George Oppen began writing again after a 25 year hiatus and the Oppens soon relocated to New York City. In the later part of the 1960s, the Oppens took up residence in the San Francisco Bay area, which is where George's family was largely located. For a time, they summered at Deer Isle, Maine, where they entertained a number of east coast writers such as Ted Enslin, Rachel DuPlessis, and John Taggart. George Oppen died in 1984; Mary died six years later, on 14 May 1990. Both are survived by a daughter, Linda Oppen Morelatos.

    Publication Rights

    Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.

    Preferred Citation

    Mary Oppen Papers, MSS 0125. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired, 1991-1992.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Booth, Philip, 1925-2007 -- Correspondence
    Bronk, William -- Correspondence
    Corman, Cid -- Correspondence
    Cuddihy, Michael -- Correspondence
    Dembo, L. S. -- Correspondence
    Fauchereau, Serge -- Correspondence
    Laughlin, James, 1914-1997 -- Correspondence
    Mourelatos, Linda Oppen, 1940- -- Correspondence
    Oppen, George
    Oppen, Mary, 1908-1990 -- Archives
    Shapiro, Harvey, 1924-2013 -- Correspondence
    Taggart, John, 1942- -- Correspondence
    Tomlinson, Charles, 1927- -- Correspondence
    Weinberger, Eliot -- Correspondence
    American poetry -- 20th century
    Diaries -- 20th century
    Photographic prints -- 20th century
    Women poets -- United States