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Mary Oppen Papers
MSS 0125  
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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.
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.
18.0 Linear feet (8 archives boxes, 16 flat boxes, 8 map case folders, and 14 art bin items)
Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.