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Ruth Suckow Collection

Identifier: M061


Author Ruth Suckow (1892-1960) was born in Iowa and moved to Denver, Colorado to join her sister Emma (.d 1923) who had moved to Denver to seek relief from tuberculosis. Suckow graduated from the University of Denver, earning a B.A. degree (English) in 1917 and an M.A. in 1918. She worked as a graduate assistant for Dr. Ida Kruse McFarlane, head of the English Department at the University. Suckow's friend during these years was Amy Carlson (later Amy Buchanan). Suckow married Ferner Nuhn in 1929. She wrote 12 books of fiction, short stories, and non-fiction works between 1924 and 1960. She wrote The Folks, a novel, published in 1934. Suckow's papers include letters, notes and postcards from Suckow to her friend Amy Carlson Buchanan spanning 1918 to 1960, as well as photographs, poetry, and two biographical sketches written by Buchanan.


  • 1918-1991


Digital Repository

Ruth Suckow Collection

Biographical / Historical

Ruth Suckow was born in Hawarden, Iowa on August 6, 1892. She was the second of two daughters born to William John Suckow and Anna Mary (Kluckholm), children of German immigrants. William Suckow was a Congregationalist minister in various Iowa towns throughout his life. Anna Suckow was limited in her duties as a minister's wife due to a thyroid disorder, thus she focused her ambitions on her husband and daughters Emma and Ruth. As a child, Ruth accompanied her father on his calls throughout the Iowa countryside where she became acquainted with people who would later serve as models for characters in her writings. From an early age Ruth composed stories that she folded into small books that she decorated.

Suckow attended schools in Algona, Fort Dodge, Manchester, and Grinnell, Iowa, graduating from high school in Grinnell in 1910. She entered Grinnell College in 1910, where she specialized in English and appeared in many theatrical productions. While at Grinnell, Suckow worked for one summer as a waitress at Yellowstone National Park. She left Grinnell in 1913 to attend the Curry School of Expression in Boston, from which she graduated in 1915. Suckow then moved to Denver, where she joined her sister, Emma, who had recently moved from Iowa to seek relief from tuberculosis. Ruth Suckow enrolled at the University of Denver, where, as a student of English, she received a Bachelor of Arts in 1917 and a Master of Arts in 1918. As a graduate student, Suckow was an assistant to Dr. Ida Kruse McFarlane, head of the English Department at the University. Suckow spent the summer of 1918 employed as a waitress at Long's Peak Lodge in Estes Park, Colorado, accompanied by a friend and former student, Amy Carlson (later Mrs. Amy Buchanan).

While at the University of Denver, Ruth Suckow decided upon a writing career. Her first published writings were poems that appeared in 1918 in Touchstone and The Midland. She worked during the winter of 1918-1919 as a writer of automobile guide books for a Denver map company. At this time, Suckow decided to take up beekeeping as a steady source of income as she began to pursue her writing career. After a brief apprenticeship in beekeeping under Delia Watson, Suckow left Denver in 1919 to join her recently widowed father in Earlville, Iowa. There she established the Orchard Apiary at the edge of town. The venture was quite successful until sold by Suckow late in 1926. During this time, she lived in Earlville and McGregor, Iowa and spent winters in Chicago, Iowa City, and New York City.

The first story published by Ruth Suckow, ''Uprooted'', appeared in the February 1921 issue of The Midland. Suckow served as assistant editor of The Midland for a half year in 1921-1922. The editor of The Midland, John T. Frederick, urged her to send work to H. L. Mencken, who encouraged, criticized, and promoted Ruth Suckow as a writer. She frequently contributed to Mencken's publication, The Smart Set, between 1921 and 1923. In 1924, Suckow's novella, ''Country People,'' was serialized in The Century Magazine and was published by Alfred A. Knopf later that year. Knopf published The Odyssey of a Nice Girl in 1925, and a collection of her 1921-1926 stories under the title Iowa Interiors in 1926. Meanwhile, Suckow also contributed articles to The American Mercury (1924-1927, 1929).

After selling the Orchard Apiary in 1926, Suckow moved to New York City, where she lived until 1928. Knopf published The Bonney Family in 1928. Suckow contributed articles to Harper's Monthly Magazine (1927-1929, 1936, 1939), The Bookman (1927), The Saturday Review of Literature (1927), and The Outlook (1929).

In September 1928, Suckow moved to San Diego with her fiancée, Ferner Nuhn, a writer and critic also from Iowa. They were married on March 11, 1929 and moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico where they lived until November of the same year. While Suckow was in Santa Fe, Cora was published and her articles appeared not only in such literary publications as Harper's Monthly Magazine and The American Mercury, but also in popular publications such as Good Housekeeping (1929-1931, 1935) and Pictorial Review (1929). Suckow and Nuhn returned to Iowa in late 1929 and remained there through part of 1930. The Kramer Girls appeared serialized in Good Housekeeping from December 1929 through March 1930, and was published as a book by Knopf later in 1930. Suckow and her husband lived in Dorset, Vermont in 1930-1931, where their friends included Dorothy Canfield Fisher and her family. A collection of short stories first published in 1925-1929 appeared in 1931 as Children and Older People. Ruth and Ferner returned to Iowa in 1931 and resided in Cedar Falls (1931-1932) and in Des Moines (1932-1933). Suckow was a guest instructor at Iowa State Teacher's College, University of Iowa, and Indiana University during this time, and devoted considerable time to writing her most famous and ambitious novel, The Folks. In the latter half of 1933, Suckow and Nuhn lived at the MacDowell Memorial Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire and at Artists' Colony, Yaddo, Saratoga Springs, New York, and spent a portion of 1934 in Altadena, California.

The Folks was published by Farrar & Rinehart in 1934 and became one of the most popular books of the year. Around this time, Ferner Nuhn began writing pamphlets and other material for the Department of Agriculture, and the couple moved to Washington, D. C., where they lived for a year. Suckow wrote her first short stories in three years, which appeared in Good Housekeeping and Scribner's in 1935. Later in 1935, Ruth and Ferner moved to Fairfax, Virginia after spending the summer at Robert Frost's home in South Shaftsbury, Vermont. In 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Ruth Suckow to the Farm Tenancy Committee.

After a collection of Suckow's short stories was published by Farrar & Rinehart in 1936 under the title, Carry Over, she wrote less frequently. In late 1936, Suckow and Nuhn moved to Cedar Falls, Iowa, where they remained until 1948. Two stories by Suckow were published in 1939 and Farrar & Rinehart published the book New Hope in 1942. Nuhn devoted himself to writing, The Wind Blew from the East, also published in 1942. The couple also operated a rental agency and encouraged local interest in literature and the arts.

Ruth and Ferner were pacifists who supported conscientious objectors during World War II. Under the sponsorship of the American Friends Service Committee, Church of the Brethren, and the Mennonites, Suckow spoke, visited, and read manuscripts at civilian public service camps, units in mental hospitals, firefighting units, and starvation units. The couple later became active members of the Society of Friends (Quakers). Because Suckow began to develop arthritis, they moved to Tucson, Arizona in 1948. In 1952, they moved to Claremont, California, where they bought a home. The first Suckow book to appear in a decade, Some Others and Myself, was published by Rinehart & Company in 1952. Over the next few years, Suckow wrote stories which appeared in Midland Schools (1953), Friends Intelligencer (1955), and The Georgia Review (1955, 1958). Her last book, The John Wood Case, was published by The Viking Press in 1959. Ruth Suckow died in Claremont, California on January 23, 1960.


0.5 Linear Feet (1 half letter document box)

Scope and Contents

Ruth Suckow's papers primarily consists of letters, notes, and postcards from Suckow to Amy (Carlson) Buchanan written between 1918 and 1960. A small number of letters from Ruth Suckow to other individuals are also included, as are a few miscellaneous notes and handwritten poetry selections. The collection is augmented by an assortment of photographs and two biographical sketches of Suckow written by Amy Buchanan. This collection provides information about Ruth Suckow during her graduate year at the University of Denver and her early career (1917-1921), as well as during her years of major literary activity (1927-1936), though materials in this collection span her entire career.


This collection is arranged in four series:; 1.Ruth Suckow Papers, 1918-1960.; 2. Photographs, 1930, 1938, 1960, undated.; 3. Amy Buchanan Papers, 1934, 1961.; 4. Newsletter, 1991.;

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Aimee Buchanan, March 17, 1966.


No further accruals are expected.

Related Materials

Other Ruth Suckow collections are held by the Special Collections Department at the University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, and the Ruth Suckow Memorial Library at Earlville, Iowa.

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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and Archives Repository

2150 East Evans Avenue
Denver CO 80208
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