Meridel Le Sueur

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Meridel Le Sueur (center) with Audre Lorde (left) and Adrienne Rich (right), in 1980

Meridel Le Sueur (February 22, 1900, Murray, Iowa – November 14, 1996, Hudson, Wisconsin) was an writer associated with the proletarian literature movement of the 1930s and 1940s in the USA.


  • the women's movement is great in the Twin Cities, I think.
  • I'd always identified myself with the people's struggles. I think I began writing more about it and having an audience for writing it. But we wrote as partisans, we call it. You're on the side and like I was marching. I don't say anything about the troubles of the manufacturers association, or any sympathy for them. I just identified with the strikers.

"Freethinker Meridel Le Sueur" by Annie Laurie Gaylor (1982)[edit]

  • For the first time, Meridel says "I am writing what I want to write. I don't know if anyone is going to read it," she adds with the pragmatism of someone whose work was virtually banned for years. "I don't even think about it. I just love it. It's a wonderful gift to have a passion like that."
  • Emma Goldman lived at the Anarchist's House too. Describe Emma Goldman? Her interest to Meridel was as "the first sexually 'free' woman" she met. "The women and feminists of that period never dealt with sex. They were Puritans."
  • It's really hard to describe how you can fill a city with terror. When you look at it chronologically, it's terrifying to see how close you are to fascism.
  • Meridel has enjoyed being "rediscovered" by the feminist press, particularly because of her chance to work with women editors. Her male editors typically had "such a superior attitude-even in punctuation." Whereas, she contrasts, "The Feminist Press wouldn't even change a comma without asking." The format of Ripening, with its biography, commentary and scrapbook photos, "would never have been conceived in male printing," she notes. Trashing the women writers has resulted in the neglect of twenty midwest women writers-"some as good as Sandburg or Lewis"-now out of print, Meridel says unhappily. She cites as an example her friend and Wisconsin author Zona Gale, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1921 ("for a feminist story"), yet is virtually forgotten and unread today. Meridel "repudiates categories of male literature." She politely answered all questions about times and dates, but mildly remarked, "Linear thinking is patriarchal."
  • some of the best poetry is being written by three American Indian women
  • The whole temper of the world is in a much higher consciousness than I've even seen it-there's a global consciousness. I think we're on the verge of a new humanity if we don't blow it up!
  • Her advice to the women's movement is to avoid male prototypes: "It has to be a collective vision. The time is over entirely for private vision, or private greed. We're entering a new era of the same fate for all."

Quotes about Meridel Le Sueur[edit]

  • Meridel Le Sueur, whose work I cite and discuss, has been an inspiration to generations of women writers. Having known her since I was a child, it is with a special gratitude that I thank her both personally and professionally for her labors.
    • Bettina Aptheker Tapestries of Life: Women's Work, Women's Consciousness, and the Meaning of Daily Experience (1989)
  • Perhaps Meridel Le Sueur's wisest and most comforting words to women of the world are found in a line of a poem of solidarity she composed for the North Vietnamese Women's Union: "It was the bumble bee and the butterfly who survived, not the dinosaur,"
    • Annie Laurie Gaylor, "Freethinker Meridel Le Sueur" (1982)
  • Feminist writer Patricia Hampl once said of Meridel: "Bedecked with Indian turquoise bracelets and rings, a string of large ominous teeth around her neck, a bright multicolored serape covering her body-this walking heap of archetypal images is not your idea of somebody's grandmother. A grandmother, no; a wise and maybe occasionally avenging ancient goddess, yes."
  • In "Freethinker Meridel Le Sueur" by Annie Laurie Gaylor, 1982.
  • We've gone on-this progression is a very straight line progression into total destruction (Meridel LeSueur says this also), and we're just on the border now. Like the earth is square again and we stand on her edge. I guess I feel, if I'm going to be killed and if my family is going to be killed, at least I don't want to go quietly. I want to feel as if I have done something and not just passively accepted it.
  • Meridel le Sueur, the Minnesota writer, interviewed her grandmother, who said, "I've lived all my life trying to suppress these stories of what happened to me, and now you're going to write them." And she did
    • 1986 interview in Conversations with Maxine Hong Kingston edited by Paul Skenazy & Tera Martin (1998)
  • Muriel Rukeyser and somebody like Meridel Le Sueur were doubly wounded. They were wounded as women by their own political men-something like black women are-and wounded again by the literary elite, who were for the birds.
    • 1992 interview in Conversations with Grace Paley edited by Gerhard Bach and Blaine Hall (1997)
  • The writer Meridel Le Sueur was blacklisted, hounded by the FBI, her books banned; she was dismissed from job after job-teaching, waitressing because the FBI intimidated her students and employers.
    • Adrienne Rich Blood, Bread, and Poetry: Selected Prose 1979-1985 (1986)
  • Meridel LeSueur's documentary novel of the depression, The Girl, is arresting as a study of female double life... Sex is thus equated with attention from the male, who is charismatic though brutal, infantile, or unreliable. Yet it is the women who make life endurable for each other, give physical affection without causing pain, share, advise, and stick by each other. (I am trying to find my strength through women-without my friends, I could not survive)...The Girl and Sula are both novels which examine what I am calling the lesbian continuum, in contrast to the shallow or sensational "lesbian scenes" in recent commercial fiction. Each shows us woman identification untarnished (till the end of LeSueur's novel) by romanticism; each depicts the competition of heterosexual compulsion for women's attention, the diffusion and frustration of female bonding that might, in a more conscious form, reintegrate love and power.
    • Adrienne Rich Blood, Bread, and Poetry: Selected Prose 1979-1985 (1986)
  • she was a poet. She was an activist. She was a writer. And she was a bold believer in a different world. And, you know, she was a poet. She was a writer of poetry books. But she also, you know, fought for the women’s right to vote. She was an organizer in the labor movement, big sacrificer for some of the rights that we have today and sort of—not sort of. She’s a legend, I guess, beyond our family and did a lot of—did a lot of things that helped shape this country. And to me, you know, as—to me and our generation, I think we still derive a lot of courage from the courage that she had.
    • Nick Tilson interview with Democracy Now (2017)

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