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Strunsky-Walling Collection

 Collection
Identifier: MSN/MN 0509

Scope and Content Note

The collection includes over five hundred letters, two diaries, miscellaneous manuscripts, printed ephemera, and photographs. Among the letters are 120 written by Leonard Dalton Abbott to Anna Strunsky Walling, 1933-1937; 90 written between Anna and William English Walling, 1926-1935; 49 written between Anna and Rosamond Walling Tirana, 1931-1936; and 54 written between William English Walling and Rosamond, 1932-1935. In addition to family letters the correspondence also includes a number of letters to Anna from notable literary and political figures, among them Gelett Burgess, Charmian London, Mary White Ovington, Ellery Sedgwich, Charles Edward Russell, Elizabeth Gladys Echlin, and Robert Ely. Also notable are two diaries of Anna Strunsky Walling (1934 and 1936).

Dates

  • 1906-1967
  • Majority of material found in ( 1925-1937)

Creator

Language of Materials

Collection material in English

Restrictions

There are no access restrictions on this collection.

Biographical Note

Anna Strunsky Walling, author and social activist, was born to a Jewish family in Babinots, Russia on 21 March 1879. She emigrated to the United States in 1893 with her parents, Elias Strunsky and Anna Horowitz Strunsky, her four older brothers, Albert, Max, Morris, and Hyman and her younger sister Rose. The Strunskys first settled in New York City, but later relocated to San Francisco where her father began a successful liquor business. She went on to attend Stanford University where she became active in socialist causes and joined the Socialist Labor Party. It was during her time at Stanford that she met the literati of the Bay Area known as "The Crowd," which included Jack London, with whom she co-authored her first book, The Kempton-Wace Letters, in 1903.

Anna met William English Walling in 1905. English asked Anna to help him report on dissent in Russia for his Revolutionary News Bureau. Anna, who had already established a branch of the Friends of Russian Freedom in San Francisco, was eager to assist. By the spring of 1906 Anna and English were married. Born into an affluent Indianapolis family in 1877, English graduated from the University of Chicago before pursuing a career in law. Although he never earned his law degree from Harvard, he became a well-known socialist leader, writer, and advocate for labor reform. He later denounced socialist politics and in 1924 ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for the congressional seat in southwest Connecticut. He is perhaps best known for providing the intitial spark that led to the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The creation of the NAACP grew out of English's investigation of the 1908 Springfield (Illinois) riot and the highly influential article that he wrote for the Independent, a widely circulated newspaper. Titled "The Race War in the North," his article implored "a large and powerful body of citizens to come to their [black Americans'] aid." Mary White Ovington was stirred to action by the essay and invited English and other activists to her New York apartment to coordinate this type of aid, and form the NAACP.

Anna and English had four children: Rosamond, Anna, Georgia, and Hayden. Their family life, as well as their personal relationship and political collaboration, grew strained in the years just before to World War I. As "millionaire socialists" the Wallings reveled in American socialism's political ascent during the first years of the twentieth century, but grew increasingly divided and uncertain when the movement began faltering in the early 1910s. By the onset of war, English became wary of socialist teachings and increasingly supportive of Woodrow Wilson's Democratic politics. Anna remained steadfast in her socialism, and more committed than ever to her community of radical thinkers. Because of her domestic duties, including child rearing, Anna found it difficult to complete her second book and carry on her political activism. Violette of Père Lachaise would eventually be published (1915), but not until Anna had grown exceedingly frustrated with the limitations of household management, and her marriage. Serious financial strains only added to Anna and English's troubles. During the 1920s the situation continued to deteriorate, resulting in the sale of the family home in Greenwich, Connecticut. Finally, in 1932, English travelled to Mexico to obtain a divorce from Anna; Anna never recognized the dissolution of her marriage. English died alone in Amsterdam on 12 September 1936. Anna rushed to collect his remains, and ensure their burial together in Indiana.

Despite a determination to maintain her marriage to English, Anna was always close to another man, Leonard Dalton Abbott, whom she met in the spring of 1903. Likely never intimate, the two nonetheless shared a deep and lasting personal bond. Abbott was a leading figure in the Socialist Democratic Party of America and influential in the Modern School movement. Abbott's extensive correspondence with Anna in the years following the failure of her marriage reveals the depth of their friendship. At the same time, her diary entries of 1934-36 indicate the degree to which she remained torn between Abbott and her ex-husband. Anna would remain close to Abbott until his death in 1953. Anna Strunsky Walling died on 25 February 1964. She was interred next to her husband, William English Walling, at Crown Point Cemetery in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Also figuring significantly in the collection's correspondence is Anna and English's daughter, Rosamond Walling Tirana, who was born in 1910. Rosamond attended Swarthmore College and later studied at the London School of Economics. She travelled as a journalist to Geneva, where in 1932 she met and married Rifat Tirana, an Albanian diplomat working for the United Nations. Rosamond's lengthy and colorful letters to her parents detail her social life in Europe, and chart her thoughts and observations on world events during that time. They also reveal a close bond between the two estranged parents and their eldest daughter. Rosamond Walling Tirana died on 27 June 1999.

The following are less frequently encountered Walling family members who figure in the collection:

Anna Walling (1912-2002), daughter of Anna Strunsky Walling and William English Walling.

Georgia Walling (1914-1990), daughter of Anna Strunsky Walling and William English Walling.

Christopher Hayden Walling (1916-1981), son of Anna Strunsky Walling and William English Walling.

Rosalind English Walling (1847-1930), mother of William English Walling.

Willoughby Walling (1879-1938), brother of William English Walling.

Rose Strunsky Lorwin (1884-1964), sister of Anna Strunsky Walling.

Extent

117 folders; (4 containers; 2 linear feet)

Overview

A collection of personal papers of the "millionaire socialists" Anna Strunsky Walling and William English Walling and their family, mostly dating from the 1920s and 30s. Included are more than 500 letters to, from, and between Strunsky-Walling family members, and two diaries of Anna Strunsky Walling.

Arrangement Note

The collection is arranged in six series: 1. Correspondence; 2. Diaries; 3. Manuscripts; 4. Printed Ephemera; 5. Records; 6. Photographs.

Acquisition and Processing Note

The Strunsky-Walling Collection was acquired by the Hesburgh Libraries in 2015, from Michael Brown Rare Books of Philadelphia (List 127, Item 21). Arranged and described 2015, by Debra Dochuk and George Rugg. Finding aid 2015, by Debra Dochuk and George Rugg.

Related Material

Related materials include the Anna Strunsky Walling Papers at Yale University Library in New Haven, Connecticut (MS 1111); the Anna Strunsky Walling Papers in the Huntington Library in San Marino, California (MSS AW Boxes 1-7); and the William English Walling Papers in the State Historical Society of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin (U.S. Mss AH; Micro 653). See also James R. Boylan, Revolutionary Lives: Anna Strunsky & William English Walling. Amherst MA: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1998.
Status
Completed
Author
Debra Dochuk and George Rugg
Date
January 2016
Language of description
Undetermined
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
English

Repository Details

Part of the University of Notre Dame Rare Books & Special Collections Repository

Contact:
102 Hesburgh Library
Notre Dame IN 46556
574-631-0290