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Louise Bryant papers

 Collection
Call Number: MS 1840

Scope and Contents

The papers document the life and work of Louise Bryant, American foreign correspondent and writer who knew many leading artistic and political figures in the United States, Europe, and Asia from the First World War and the decade that followed. The collection consists of correspondence, writings, books, visual artwork, photographs, printed matter, and other material created and collected by Bryant during the last twenty years of her life from 1916 to 1936. There is almost no material concerning Bryant's life before 1916.

The collection is a rich source on Bryant's career as a journalist reporting for American newspapers and the International News Service. Material relating to her reporting on the Russian Revolution and Civil War including her two books and 1919 speaking tour is found in the collection, as is material relating to her journalism on post-World War I Turkey. Small amounts of material concern her reporting on wartime France in 1917 and Fascist Italy. Of particular note are Bryant's journals and notebooks which detail some of what she witnessed and experienced during her time as a foreign correspondent in Russia, Turkey, France, Latvia, and Uzbekistan between 1917 and 1923.

Beyond her work as a journalist, the collection documents her literary and artistic endeavors through a substantial body of drafts, notes, and unpublished manuscripts of plays, poems, short stories, and drawings. Correspondence and other materials attest to her close relationships with a number of prominent writers and artists including Eugene O'Neill and Claude McKay as well as her involvement with the Provincetown Players theater group.

The papers provide substantive insight into Bryant's life outside of her career as a journalist and writer. Much information can be found on the years 1921 to 1923, a period thinly documented elsewhere and one in which Bryant both mourned the death of her second husband, John Reed, and wrote some of her most acclaimed journalism on Russia, Turkey, Italy, and Greece. A substantial amount of material concerns Bryant's social and family life and a small amount documents her support for women's rights and Irish independence. Bryant also had a number of gay or lesbian friends, including Claude McKay and Gwen Le Gallienne, whose correspondence is represented in the collection.

The collection also contains a small amount of material relating to the life of John Reed, some of it from the period before he had met Bryant. There are a few substantive letters between Reed and Bryant, some Reed correspondence with his family and others, and some printed matter.

The materials that comprise the Louise Bryant papers originally arrived at Yale in 2004 with the papers of William C. Bullitt as part of a deposit from Anne M. Bullitt, the daughter of Bryant and Bullitt. The bulk of the Bryant papers were separate from the Bullitt material. They had been stored in a single trunk, and they appeared to be papers originally collected and saved by Bryant, not her daughter or Bullitt. A small portion of the Bryant papers were intermingled with the Bullitt materials. An effort was made to separate this intermixed material, but some Bryant material may remain in the Bullitt papers and vice versa, particularly this might be the case for the Notes files in Series II and V and the printed matter in Series VI. Other material was less intermingled and easier to identify to whom it belonged. The William C. Bullitt Papers are maintained as a separate collection in Manuscripts and Archives at the Yale University Library. The correspondence between Bullitt and Bryant can be found in his papers. Photographs of him, which do not picture Bryant, have been removed from the Bryant papers and unified with other photographs of him in the Bullitt papers. Most of the Bryant papers were completely disorganized upon their deposit at Yale, and hence most of the arrangement has been imposed by archivists.

Dates

  • 1908-1938

Creator

Language

English

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by Louise Bryant are in the public domain. There are no restrictions on use. Copyright has been transferred to Yale University for unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by William Christian Bullitt and Anne Moen Bullitt. Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The materials previously deposited by Anne Moen Bullitt and her Estate were donated to Manuscripts and Archives by the William C. Bullitt Foundation, Inc., in 2008.

Arrangement

Arranged in six series and one addition: I. Correspondence, 1910-1935. II. Writings, 1913-1934. III. Visual Artwork, 1913-1934. IV. Photographs, 1909-1928. V. Personal Papers, 1917-1936. VI. Printed Matter, 1908-1935.

Associated Materials

William C. Bullitt Papers (MS 112). Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.

Extent

19.43 Linear Feet

Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL

http://hdl.handle.net/10079/fa/mssa.ms.1840

Overview

The papers consist of correspondence, writings, notebooks, artwork, photographs, and printed matter which document Louise Bryant's career as a journalist and her personal and family life. The papers contain only a small amount of material about John Reed.

Biographical / Historical

The journalist and writer more commonly known as Louise Bryant was born Anna Louise Mohan in San Francisco most likely on December 5, 1885, although the exact date remains uncertain. She was the third child of Anna Louisa and Hugh J. Mohan. Louise's parents divorced in 1889 and her mother married Sheridan Bryant. The family took the Bryant name and moved to Nevada where Louise attended Wadsworth High School, University High School in Reno, and the University of Nevada. She graduated from the University of Oregon in 1909.

After college, Bryant moved to Portland, Oregon, becoming an illustrator for the Spectator newspaper and later its society editor. She married Paul Trullinger, a dentist, in 1909. With the encouragement of her friend Sara Bard Field, she became active in 1912 in the women's suffrage movement in Oregon giving speeches around the state. An admirer of his reporting, Bryant met the politically-active journalist John Reed in 1914 or 1915 and moved to New York City to live with him in 1916, divorcing Trullinger later that year. Living in Greenwich Village at a time when it was a vibrant community of artists and political activists, Bryant began writing articles and poems for the radical journal The Masses. Bryant and Reed were early members of the Provincetown Players theater group which produced Bryant's play, "The Game," in its first season. Through the Provincetown Players, Bryant met the playwright Eugene O'Neill, and they briefly became lovers. Bryant married Reed in the fall of 1916, but they both advocated free love and each had a number of relationships outside their open marriage.

In the summer of 1917, Bryant obtained her first assignment as a foreign correspondent for the newly formed Bell Syndicate, traveling to France to report on the war in Europe. One of her articles on the war appeared in the New York American and another in The Masses. Her reporting on the Russian Revolution later that year brought her to the top of her field. Bryant and Reed arrived in Russia in late summer 1917, just two months before the Bolshevik Revolution toppled the short-lived Provisional Government under Aleksandr Kerensky. Bryant witnessed this upheaval from Petrograd and interviewed many of the leading participants including Kerensky, Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Alexandra Kollantai, Catherine Breshkovsky, and Marie Spiridonova.

Returning to the United States in early 1918, Bryant wrote a series of thirty-two articles on what she had witnessed in Russia which, by April, she had sold to the Philadelphia Public Ledger. The Ledger, in turn, syndicated the stories to hundreds of newspapers across the country making Bryant a star reporter and leading authority on revolutionary Russia. The articles appeared as the book Six Red Months in Russia later the same year. Bryant followed up with a speaking tour in 1919 that took her across the United States and presented a sympathetic view of Soviet Russia. When her tour took her to Washington in February, she participated in protests of the National Woman's Party for woman's suffrage and was briefly jailed. Shortly after her release, Bryant testified as the first unfriendly witness before the Senate Judiciary Committee which was then investigating Bolshevism and radicalism in the United States. During 1919, Bryant also wrote for the journal Soviet Russia about conditions in Russia and for The Masses on Irish independence, another cause which she supported.

In August 1920, Bryant left the United States to rejoin Reed in Russia and to report for the International News Service. Just weeks after reuniting with Reed, he died of typhus. With her loss, Bryant threw herself into her reporting, filing regular cables with the International News Service and traveling in early 1921 to Bukhara, Uzbekistan and other parts of the Central Asian territories of the former Russian empire. Over the next two years, Bryant traveled throughout Europe and the Middle East and produced a flood of reporting primarily on Russia and Turkey but also feature stories about Italy and Greece. For the King Features Syndicate, Bryant wrote another series of articles on Soviet Russia and its leaders under the title "Mirrors of Moscow." The articles appeared in the Hearst press in 1922 and were compiled into a book of the same name the following year. In addition to further reporting on Lenin, Trotsky, and Kollantai, "Mirrors of Moscow" offered treatments of other Soviet leaders such as Anatol Lunacharsky, Enver Pasha, Michael Kalinin, Gregory Chicherin, and Maxim Litvinov. Bryant wrote notable feature stories about Fascist Italy in 1923 including an interview of Benito Mussolini, the first by a non-Italian reporter, and a two-article-series on the Italian war hero and poet Gabriele D'Annunzio. The same year, the International News Service dispatched Bryant to Constantinople where she reported on the emergence of the new state of Turkey and its leader Kemal Atatürk. Bryant also gained a rare interview with King Constantine of Greece.

In late 1923, Bryant moved to Paris with the writer, and later ambassador, William C. Bullitt, and they soon married. The following year Bryant gave birth to their daughter Anne Moen Bullitt (Moen was a variant spelling of Bryant's family name Mohan). No longer reporting regularly for the International News Service, Bryant wrote several more articles on Kemal Ataturk and Turkey and wrote plays, short stories, and poems although little of her literary efforts from this period appear to have been published. By 1926, Bryant was suffering from Dercum's disease, a rare and painful condition, and had begun drinking heavily. In 1930, Bullitt divorced her and won sole custody of Anne by attesting to Bryant's drinking and a lesbian relationship she had formed with Gwen Le Gallienne. Bryant continued to live in Paris, working at one point with researchers from Harvard University to preserve John Reed's papers that she had kept. On January 6, 1936, Louise Bryant died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage. The story of Bryant's life began to be told in detail by Barbara Gelb's 1973 biography of John Reed and Louise Bryant, So Short a Time, and gained much wider attention in the 1981 feature film Reds. Since then, two biographies by Virginia Gardner and Mary V. Dearborn have focused solely on Bryant's life.

Additional sources:

Dearborn, Mary V. Queen of Bohemia: The Life of Louise Bryant (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996).

Gardner, Virginia. Friend and Lover: The Life of Louise Bryant (New York: Horizon, 1982).
Title
Guide to the Louise Bryant Papers
Author
compiled by Sahr Conway-Lanz
Date
January 2005
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.

Revision Statements

  • October 2009: Finding aid revision description not supplied.

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

Contact:
Yale University Library
P.O. Box 208240
New Haven CT 06520-8240 US
(203) 432-1735
(203) 432-7441 (Fax)