The Realistic Regionalism of Iowa’s Ruth Suckow

Pictures of Ruth Suckow & the Iowa countryside she loved

The Realistic Regionalism of Iowa’s Ruth Suckow

by Cherie Dargan

This essay appeared in the Midwestern Moment: The Forgotten World of Early Twentieth Century Midwestern Regionalism, 1880-1940. Hastings College Press, 2017. Jon Lauck, editor. Pages 71-85.

Ruth Suckow (1892-1960) was an itinerant writer and realistic regionalist whose description of the people, small towns, and farms of Iowa was based on her keen observation of life in the early 1900s. Suckow’s portrayal of the lives of ordinary “folks” enables modern readers to empathize with her characters, many of whom were Midwesterners. Her poetic descriptions of the Iowa farmland evoke the artistic realism of Grant Wood paintings and place her squarely in the Midwestern regionalist milieu of the interwar years. Suckow was recognized during her lifetime as a gifted writer and she was widely anthologized from the 1920s through the 1950s.[1] Suckow’s nearly fifty short stories include “Midwestern Primitive,” “A Rural Community,” and “A Start in Life.” The latter focused on a young teen's first day as a hired girl and became Suckow’s most widely-anthologized story. Her nine novels include Country People (1924) and the best-selling The Folks (1934). Suckow’s prose was so descriptive that Allan Nevins called her “a painter of Iowa” in his review of The Bonney Family (1928) and he called her short stories “among the most authentic and veracious of all records of middle western life.”[2] Even Smart Set editor H. L. Mencken said Suckow was "unquestionably the most remarkable woman . . . writing stories in the republic."[3]

Suckow biographer Leedice Kissane observed that although Ruth Suckow was correctly classified as a literary realist and a regionalist, “she was something more. That 'something more' has never been adequately assessed.”[4] That “something more,” I argue, includes Suckow's remarkable story-telling abilities, her realistic portrayal of characters—especially women—and her contribution to the regionalism debate. These are the qualities that make Suckow an outstanding Midwestern writer and a key figure in the early twentieth Midwestern Moment in American literary history and a voice that deserves to be heard again.

Suckow grew up in Iowa, but also lived in New York, New Mexico, Colorado, and California, so she offers a particularly “mobile” view of Midwestern regionalism.[5] The daughter of a Congregational minister, Suckow’s family lived in eight Iowa towns as her father moved from one church to the next and this pattern of moving around continued throughout her life. Suckow attended college in Grinnell before enrolling in the Curry School of Expression in Boston in 1916. She then went to the University of Denver, earning both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She worked as a waitress in Yellowstone Park, and drew on all of these experiences to create her characters, such as Marjorie, the heroine of Odyssey of a Nice Girl (1925), who studies at a School of Expression in Boston. New Hope (1942) is set in Suckow’s birthplace of Hawarden, Iowa, while other stories unfold in a small college town like Grinnell, Iowa. Despite these literary allusions to her own life, Suckow resisted the idea that her fiction was merely autobiographical, although her many links to the Midwest, and Iowa especially, shine through.[6]

Suckow’s stories focused on daily life in Midwestern towns and farming communities, or on Midwesterners traveling elsewhere. Her extended German American family also provided her with material, as Clarence Andrews has noted.[7] While Suckow never lived on a farm, she frequently visited her grandparents’ farm in Hancock County, Iowa.[8] She also had opportunities to closely observe the Iowa countryside and rural and small town people when Rev. Suckow took her along on visits to his parishioners (her father became an important influence because her mother was ill during much of her childhood). As a result, her writing, especially New Hope, is filled with a love for the land, as well as specific details about the daily lives of the people living there.[9]

Suckow’s connections to the Iowa countryside were also deepened by her apiary interests. While attending the university in Denver, Suckow studied bee-keeping as a way to support herself as a writer once she returned to Iowa. She joined her father, who was now pastoring in Earlville, and from 1920 to 1926 she divided each year between keeping bees in Earlville, and writing stories in New York City. She kept 80 hives, selling her honey to Farmer’s Markets in Dubuque, and “was known ever afterward as the beekeeping author.”[10] This added to her reputation as a practical Midwestern writer.

Suckow’s pursuit of a literary career was also aided by her marriage to Ferner Nuhn. In 1929, at age 37, Suckow married Nuhn after a brief correspondence and courtship. A fellow Iowan, he was an artist, writer, and critic, and eleven years younger. They were together for over 30 years and shared a passion for writing, travel, and cats.[11] An observer described them: “Nuhn found an artist who could translate the Midwest, and in Nuhn, Suckow found a critic who could understand the translation.”[12] Above all, they supported each other’s work. After getting married in California, they spent time in several writers’ colonies, including Yaddo in New York. They lived in New Mexico and Washington, D. C. and passed a summer with Robert Frost in his Vermont home. They always returned to Iowa, however, where they twice lived in Cedar Falls until health problems forced them to move to Arizona and then California. Suckow died there in 1960: she was still writing, and left behind an unfinished novel.

Suckow’s literary legacy remains an impressive corpus of work deeply influenced by the Midwest and steeped in the traditions of realism and regionalism. Suckow is often called a realist because of her focus on portraying characters as real people, living the ordinary lives of common folks. Her vivid descriptions of the countryside made readers visualize Grant Wood’s paintings of Iowa farm fields. The Christian Science Monitor compared Wood’s 1936 painting “Spring Turning” to Suckow’s first novel, Country People (1924): “The farmer with his team of horses which accent the foreground of the painting might have been her fictional Iowa farmer, August Kaetterhenry, out early on a spring morning to plow his lush field.”[13] The writer and painter shared “an eye for the minutiae of everyday life as well as a deep love for the beauty of the Iowa farm land.”[14]

American Literary Realism gained traction in the 1860s and became associated with Mark Twain, Kate Chopin, and Henry James. Of that group, both Twain and Chopin were born in the Midwest. Literary Realism became linked with regional writing because authors captured their “local color” in setting and dialogue. Other components included a focus on the middle class, characters making complicated ethical choices, describing events that seemed possible, using the local slang and language, objectivity, and writing in a detailed, realistic way, according to Evan Luzi.[15] Suckow’s writing embodies all of those elements in her portrayal of her characters, especially women. Frank Mott, who helped edit the Iowa-based literary journal The Midland, said Suckow was “advantageously placed” to observe the realities of life in a small Midwestern town, given her proximity to the parsonage.[16]

Suckow consistently “shunned the critics’ term of regionalist as a misinterpretation of her intent” because she valued the common and universal.[17] She was reluctant to be labeled a regionalist, even though her writing fits the category. She was not merely a regionalist, however. As Kissane pointed out, Suckow’s books “are not period pieces or local-color oddities. Though they reflect their region and their era, they have universality” and thus great merit.[18] Suckow explained her perspective about regionalism in her Introduction to the book Carry-Over: “The writer has always believed that the matter of locality has been overemphasized in estimations of her fiction, and re-reading, she is happy to say, has confirmed that belief.”[19] Indeed, her fiction explored themes including farm couples retiring and moving into town, sacrificial daughters caring for aging parents, women striving for independence, and small town pastors struggling to lead their congregations. Although many of her stories are set in the Midwest, they explore universal conflicts.

Suckow explained her distinctive realistic regionalism in several essays. In the essay “The Folk Idea in American Life” (1930), she argued that to capture the life of the “folks” was to grasp the authentic American life. American identity rests on the principle of folk life, she insisted, and the folk spirit is the common element that could unite the nation: “If our artists do not include themselves . . . they are giving away their own heritage to the philistines.” [20] In her 1926 essay “Iowa,” she addressed her region more directly. She insisted that Iowa was forming its own culture, one “innocently ingenuous, fresh and sincere, unpretentious . . . strengthened by the simplicity and severity of its hard working farmer people.” These people, she wrote, are “the folk element and the very soil and bedrock.” If Iowa had a culture, it would be founded on that bedrock, where the state’s varying nationalities met. [21]

While Suckow was reluctant to be labeled a “regional” writer, she recognized a Midwestern canon, starting with Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, which “comes first, both as literature and sociology. It is the epic—delicate, sly, meandering, and grand—of the Mississippi, the great central life-stream of this region.”[22] Other selections included: Willa Cather’s My Antonia, Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street, Hamlin Garland’s Main-traveled roads, Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie, Harriet Connor Brown’s Grandmother Brown’s Hundred Years, Glenway Wescott’s The Grandmothers, and Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio. To that list she added the poetry of Vachel Lindsay and Carl Sandburg and Edgar Lee Masters’s The Spoon River Anthology.[23] Still, while Suckow embraced her Midwestern roots and a Midwestern literary canon, she did not want to be pigeonholed as “only” a Midwestern writer.

Midwestern Literature and Regionalism

Suckow’s concerns about regionalism limiting her audience were part of a growing debate in the first decades of the 1900s. During that era, John Albert Macy, author of The Spirit of American Literature (1913), argued that no one had explained what was uniquely American about American literature.[24] Macy called on novelists, in particular, to write about their regions: “the whole country is crying out for those who will record it, satirize it, chant it. As literary material, it is virgin land, ancient as life and fresh as a wilderness.”[25] John T. Frederick, Suckow’s first editor, read Macy’s book and went on to found The Midland, which H. L. Mencken called the most influential literary periodical ever set up in America. The Midland ran from 1915 until 1933. For 18 years Frederick published poetry, short stories, reviews, and essays written by Midwestern writers like Ruth Suckow, James Hearst, Paul Engle, and others.[26] A book profiling the magazine, The Midland: A Venture in Literary Regionalism, explained Frederick’s guiding philosophy for the literary magazine: “it’s better here, at home.”[27] Frederick believed that there was dignity in rural and small town life, wisdom in the older generation, and a “Thoreauvian rapture” to be discovered in the region’s outdoors.[28] Decades after the last issue rolled off the presses, Frederick “read one of those Midland stories by Ruth Suckow to an Iowa University class of eighty graduate students. When he finished, they applauded.”[29]

Frederick became Suckow’s mentor when he published one of her early poems in 1918, three stories in 1921, and another story in 1922. He saw a “vital sense of place” in her writing.”[30] Suckow also served as his editorial assistant during the winter of 1921-1922.[31] Frederick described Suckow as “…not hostile towards the Middle West, not a resentful critic. Miss Suckow loves the Middle West.”[32] Of Suckow’s female characters, he wrote: “Suckow’s women are not magazine cover heroines. They are human beings of terrible veracity.”[33] In the early 1920s, Frederick introduced Suckow to H. L. Mencken, editor of The Smart Set and The American Mercury, who went on to publish 21 of her short stories.[34] Mencken became an important mentor to Suckow: she called him “Uncle Henry” and said that he taught her to read things out loud because “you don’t know what you’ve written until you’ve heard it…. it’s like reading lyrics without music.”[35]

From Iowa Girl to Recognized National Writer

While The Midland was a regional publication, both of the magazines that Mencken edited were published in New York, moving Suckow into the national spotlight. Suckow’s work was soon appearing in Good Housekeeping, Scribner’s, Harper’s Magazine, and The Century. Her novel The Folks (1934) was a Literary Guild selection for October 1934. In addition, five of her novels and one volume of short stories were published outside of the United States, another indication of her success.[36]

Many critics praised Suckow during her lifetime. In the 1930s, George Jean Nathan felt that Suckow was “the most important short story writer that America has produced in the last decade.”[37] Carl van Doren said Suckow “...came nearer than any other writer has done to representing the whole of American life on farm and in small towns.[38] Kissane compared Suckow to Sarah Orne Jewett in Maine and Eudora Welty in Mississippi: “Readers…come to know Iowa as she knows it—the feel of its atmosphere, the lay of the landscape, and the intellectual climate and prevailing spirit of its people.”[39]

Most critics agree that Suckow’s best work was done with her short stories because they allowed her to focus on a single situation, character, and mood.[40] An example of a Suckow story that did well was “Just Him and Her,” which appeared in the anthology Contemporary Trends: American Literature since 1914 (1933), under the section entitled “The Renewed Interest in Regional Life,” along with selections by Willa Cather and Eugene O’Neill, signaling Suckow’s place as a regional writer of significance.[41]

In all, 16 of Suckow’s short stories appeared in 50 anthologies from 1924 through 1954, but few appeared after that in keeping with the broader diminishment of regionalist energies after World War II.[42] Most of Suckow’s books were out of print by the 1960s until Country People and Iowa Interiors were reprinted in 1977. Then A Ruth Suckow Omnibus was published in 1988, followed by a new edition of The Folks in 1992, giving a new generation of readers the opportunity to discover Suckow. A resurgence of interest in Suckow’s work occurred during the 1970s through the 1990s, with the reprinting of four books and several critical biographies. Scholars began looking at Suckow differently: one article called her “Iowa’s First Feminist Author.”[43]

Suckow’s Short Stories and Regionalism

Three short stories in particular showcase Suckow’s regional realism. The first story, “Midwestern Primitive,” (1928) explores the concept of what is “primitive” in Midwestern culture. As it opens, a woman named Bert has prepared a meal and set the table, using ideas from her women’s magazines. She wants to establish her home as the Hillside Inn: Bert is expecting her first paid guests and wants to please them. Her visitors are coming from quite a distance; she wants to make a good impression and worries about her mother, who is out digging in the garden. The guests arrive and Bert apologizes for not having an indoor bathroom but says they can freshen up in a bedroom with a wash bowl. Finally, they sit down and she serves them, trying to remember all of the little tips from her national magazines. Bert overhears little snatches of conversation and worries that her dinner is going too quickly.

Her mother comes in, wearing her old dress, and offers the guests dandelion wine and a tour of her garden. The group goes out and praises her flowers: one man says it is like going back 30 years. The old woman picks flowers for her guests, they drink from the old pump, and then the guests go back inside and look at old photo albums and listen to her mother’s stories. While Bert is cleaning up in the kitchen, she feels frustrated. But they praise her meal, pay her more than she asked, sign her guest book, and leave—after getting more flowers from her mother. As they drive away, Bert doesn’t understand why the guests seemed to like her mother so much more than her: “she didn’t yet see what their idea was.”[44]

Bert planned her table setting and menu based on the standards presented in the magazine articles; however, this group wanted a “real” meal, or authentic country cooking. This is why they were so pleased with her mother’s dandelion wine: it was memorable because it was something she made and valued. They enjoyed the garden tour and looking at the photos with Bert’s mother because she was just being herself—genuine and fresh. Suckow shows us the contrast of the mother and her daughter: both want to make their guests feel welcome, but they reveal their different values. Like many, Bert doesn’t value the genuine culture of her small Midwestern town, while Suckow uses Bert’s mother to examine the word “primitive.”

A second story, “Auntie Bissel,” appeared in 1935. An unnamed narrator tells us about her trip to California, where she looks up Auntie Bissel. Auntie Bissel had been married to the station agent at the railroad depot back in Woodside, Iowa. Everyone called him Uncle Harvey. The couple lost a child named Gracie, so their small town became their family. Children came to their home because Auntie Bissel baked biscuits and cakes, curled their hair, tied sashes on them, and called them her girlies; Uncle Harvey always had candy. However, Uncle Harvey died years ago and Auntie Bissel moved to California and the narrator had not seen her since.[45]

A woman, Alice, answers the door and welcomes her into a lovely Spanish style home. Auntie Bissell comes in and surprises the narrator with her bobbed hair and makeup, and they chat. They smell a cake and go to the kitchen. Auntie Bissell baked it for a neighbor girl’s birthday, an aspiring child actress. Auntie Bissell explains that she came to California to help her brother, who later remarried. She then met an older man, whose wife had died, and she cared for him; when he died, he provided for her in his will. Later, she met Alice, who had cared for her mother until her death: Alice moved in and became a surrogate daughter to Auntie Bissell—perhaps her lost Gracie.

The children arrive to claim the cake and Auntie Bissell shows them off, but Suckow’s narrator responds to the overly commercialized California culture. She sees the birthday girl “. . .as the most obnoxious infant on the earth” while recognizing that “all was glowing in the happy light of Auntie Bissel’s pure naiveté.”[46] The narrator recognizes that Alice and Auntie Bissel, in “coming to the land of eternal sunshine, both had reached the last stand of their tribe and race. They had come into its final flowering, whether real or unreal none could say.”[47] Again, Suckow asks us to decide what is real and unreal and what might become of the old Midwest that she knew so well.

They take the narrator to visit a mausoleum, making the narrator feel that they were entering the happy ending of the great American fairy tale.[48] The mausoleum was the ultimate sanctuary, “…wrought in marble and gold.” Auntie Bissel talks about having Gracie and Uncle Harvey transferred to this resting place, which makes the narrator think of the contrast between the simple cemetery back in Iowa and this place--where Auntie Bissel and Alice wish to be buried.

Afterward, they go back to Auntie Bissel’s house for lunch. The narrator lingers in the garden to admire the city lights and the ocean, and senses the mix of brand new and prehistoric old. She hears the women talking: Auntie Bissel’s voice seems more authentic than Alice’s, more naïve too, and fabulous. Auntie Bissell has arrived at her promised land and is living in her own happy ending. Even so, the narrator senses a threat of violence in the hills from possible fire and flood. The story ends with the narrator’s epiphany that she, too, could have her dream. However, “when destruction came to this “glittering mirage-land, when some Samson shook the pillars on some final day, she would have ‘passed on’ and her contented ashes be resting in a marble post office shrine inscribed in indestructible bronze…‘Auntie Bissel.’”[49]

Many people see California as a promised land: a place of sunshine, beaches, the movies, and a place to reinvent yourself, as Auntie Bissel has done, though only in part. However, the narrator thinks the state offers a happy ending at the price of a lost Midwestern culture. The reference to Samson shaking the pillars is from the Old Testament and may be a metaphor for judgment day. The marble post office box refers to the gaudy mausoleum where Auntie Bissel wants her ashes to be placed. Although Auntie Bissel worked hard all of her life and deserves her happiness, the narrator finds it ironic that she has so readily adopted California styles, while maintaining her old Midwestern caring ways. Indeed, Suckow suggests that Auntie Bissel has retained her Midwestern values and seems more authentic than Alice. Thus, her story probes the complexities of transplanted Midwestern culture. Although Suckow ended her days in California, she did not believe in fairy tale happy endings, and her fiction is marked by more realistic and, at times, even ambiguous, ironic, and challenging endings. As Kissane points out, Suckow was a very honest writer.[50]

A final story, “A Rural Community,” has long been a reader favorite. As the story begins, Ralph arrives on the morning train to Walnut, Iowa, and asks for directions to Luke Hockaday’s house. He has been away for 15 years, and in his absence, his adopted parents moved to town, retiring from the farm where he was raised. Ralph walks through town and sees things have changed in the old town. “Changes—even here!—you couldn’t escape them.” Later, however, he realizes the streets had scarcely changed at all. It was almost the same![51]

Ralph is a journalist and has flown all over the civilized world, where “change was the only thing he saw.”[52] He approaches his parents’ house on the outskirts of town, and sees his father; Ralph greets the old man and his father recognizes him and calls to his mother from inside the house. They go into the house to visit and Ralph thinks they should still be living in the little farmhouse. Ralph had been an orphan when he came to live with them—they were the only parents he has known. He left the farm at 16 to go to college and then he went into newspaper work. He came back just once, for a wedding for Jack, one of his brothers. However, he always sent a letter on Christmas day with a check to his adopted parents.

Ralph is now a successful man who travels a lot and thinks of himself as not needing a home, but he had an urge to see the old couple before he went off on his next assignment. His mother goes to make lunch and he offers to help but she turns him down. So he looks at the family photo album—full of several generations of pictures of couples and babies, and his mother’s treasures.

They say a blessing and eat lunch: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and lots of relishes and sides. He learns that all of the children and grandchildren come for lunch every Sunday. After the meal, Ralph calls his brother Jack, a farmer, on the telephone and they agree to visit that evening after milking. Ralph tries to explain to his mother why he cannot stay longer. He says, “I can’t settle yet, mother…. too many places to go. Too much to do.”[53] However, his parents ask when he’s going to settle down. His father mentions his old high school girlfriend and he is shocked, because he is seeing his life from a different point of view. His Mother brings out a scrapbook with many of his articles, which surprises him. “Ain’t you one of my boys? Sure you are.” Ralph sits back, smiles, and doesn’t trust himself to speak as he feels “…a kind of resurrection of his boyhood self.” “You was always a fine talker,” she said fondly. “better’n any of the boys. He was, wasn’t he, pa?”[54]

His father goes off to take a nap, while Ralph accompanies his mother to the nearby cemetery and watches her tend to the graves of friends and family. He jokes that “this wouldn’t be such a bad place to sleep in, some day.” She replied, “so ye can, my dear, but I hope it won’t be for a long while yet. You’re one of us, sure you are.”[55]

They have supper and then his siblings arrive with their families. They sit down and begin to visit. Ralph sits back, listening to them talk and feels a sense of satisfaction. It pleases him to think of how deeply rooted they are in the rich Iowa soil of their farms. By 9:30, the old couple is tired and his siblings become solemn and formal as they say goodbye; Ralph watches them leave. His train leaves at 11:30 and Ralph doesn’t want his parents to go with him to the train depot, so his father shakes hands and says, “Ralph, the Lord keep ye.” His mother has tears in her eyes: “Have a good safe journey.” He walks to the train station: the agent is the only one there. Ralph gets his ticket and waits. He gets onboard and settles down, but:

…he was aware that since he had stepped off the train in the morning, the current of his thoughts had changed. He felt steadied, deeply satisfied. He looked toward the dark pastures beyond the row of dusky willow trees. They widened slowly into the open country which lay silent, significant, motionless, immense, under the stars, with its sense of something abiding.[56]

This story showcases the elements that mark Suckow’s fiction as both regional and universal: the detailed description of the small town and surrounding farm fields evokes the country scenes in Grant Wood’s paintings; the depiction of Ralph’s mother caring for family and friends’ tombstones connects with many Midwesterners as a familiar ritual; dialogue with his extended family reflects the time period and farm community; and the description of the food at the meal he shares with his parents makes one’s mouth water with a familiar menu. Suckow uses the arrival and departure of a train to frame the story, and allows her readers’ insight into Ralph’s state of mind. The reflective, quiet story conveys deep emotion. Ralph, also an itinerant writer, reconnects with his family, and the small town, and leaves feeling more connected to both: his mother tells him that he’s one of their children several times, and finally, it connects with him and seems real.

In spite of the fact that “A Rural Community” was written in 1922, my community college literature students were able to relate to Suckow’s characters, setting, and the theme of returning home and finding it both changed and changeless. They feel there is something magical in the story’s concluding paragraph. I’ve read it to my students numerous times, at a presentation to librarians at the Iowa Library Association, and on Iowa Public Radio, with similar responses. As I read it out loud, I’m filled with wonder at the power of language to convey emotion, and my listeners seem to relate with Ralph’s experience and feel some of the same deep emotions—something “significant” and “abiding” as they reflect on their Midwestern legacy. Suckow retains her regionalist powers even after nearly a century since her work was first published.

The short story “A Rural Community” alone justifies Ruth Suckow’s designation as a prominent writer in Midwestern literary canon. Like Ralph, Suckow traveled the world as an itinerant writer—yet she came home to Iowa and her Midwestern roots. In fresh scenes and language, Suckow captured what is both sustaining and abiding in Midwestern life as well as the challenges that confront life in the region. Because of stories such as “A Rural Community” Suckow should be considered a combination of a regional writer, a realist, and a Midwesterner. She also transcended those labels, however, and found many new readers after her death, as scholars of the 1980s proclaimed her Iowa’s first feminist writer. She was recognized by her peers, critics, and editors alike for her realistic storytelling skills and her ability to capture the realities of life for people who lived on the Iowa farms and in the small towns of the early 1900s. Her work is worthy of being remembered and preserved for future generations of readers, especially those who want to understand an era of Midwestern regionalist enthusiasm that has long-faded from memory.


[1] Margaret Stewart Omrcanin, Ruth Suckow: A Critical Study of Her Fiction. Appendix II : “A Chronology of Writings of Ruth Suckow. 4. Anthologized Stories” (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Dorrance & Company, 1972), 208-211.

[2] Allan Nevins, “A Painter of Iowa: Review of the Bonney family,” The Saturday Review of Literature, March 10, 1928, (Feb. 14, 2016).

[3] Tom Longden, “Famous Iowans. Ruth Suckow: Writer, 1892-1960, Hawarden,” Des Moines Register, (April 5, 1992), (Feb. 6, 2016).

[4] Leedice McAnelly Kissane, Twayne’s United States Authors Series. Ruth Suckow. (New York, New York: Twayne, 1969), Preface.

[5] Kissane, 11-12.

[6] Rebecca Christian, “Just Suppose: the Story of Iowa Novelist Ruth Suckow, A One-Woman Show in Two Acts,” Commissioned by the Ruth Suckow Memorial Association for the Centennial of Ruth Suckow's birth, 15 (1992).

[7] Clarence Andrews, “Ruth Suckow: Introduction,” in A Ruth Suckow Omnibus (Iowa City, Iowa:

University of Iowa Press, 1988), ix.

[8] Rebecca Christian, “She Wrote of Iowa—and Life,” The Iowan, September 30, 1992, 61.

[9] Patricia Ellen Martin Daly, “Foreword” to New Hope, A Bur Oak Book, (Iowa City, Iowa: University of Iowa Press, 1998), xv.

[10] Christian, “She Wrote of Iowa and Life,” 60.

[11] Daly, “Foreward,” xvi.

[12] Christian, “She wrote of Iowa,” 61.

[13] “Evolving a Beauty Born of the Earth.” Christian Science Monitor, June 18, 1981, (February 10, 2016).

[14] Ibid.

[15] Evan Luzi, “On American Realism and Mark Twain’s ‘The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyberg.’ The (March 17, 2008), (February 8, 2016).

[16] Andrews, Intro to Omnibus, ix.

[17] Omrcanin, Preface.

[18] Kissane, 2.

[19] Ruth Suckow, “Comments and Addenda,” The Carry Over. Farrar & Rinehart, 1924, vii.

[20] Ruth Suckow. “The Folk Idea in American Life.” Scribners. (September 1930), 245-255.

[21] Ruth Suckow. “Iowa.” The American Mercury. (September 1926), 39-45.

[22] Ruth Suckow, “Middle Western Literature,” The English Journal XXI, no. 3 (March 1932) 176.

[23] Ibid.

[24] John Albert Macy, The Spirit of American Literature, (New York: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1913), 8.

[25] Ibid, 16.

[26] Clarence Andrews, A Literary History of Iowa: “Chapter 7 – Ruth Suckow: the poetry of place,” (Iowa City, Iowa: University of Iowa Press, 1972), 81-82.

[27] Brooke Workman. “Review of The Midland: A Venture in Literary Regionalism” by Dr. Milton Reigelman. The Annals of Iowa. The State Historical Society of Iowa. 43, no. 6 (Fall 1976), 477.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid, 478.

[30] John T. Frederick. “Ruth Suckow and the Middle Western Literary Movement.”

The English Journal. XX, no. 1, 1 (January 1931).

[31] Omrcanin, 6.

[32] Frederick, 5.

[33] Ibid, 7.

[34] Andrews, A Literary History of Iowa, 82.

[35] Christian, Just Suppose, 8.

[36] Omrcanin, 6.

[37] Daly, xiii.

[38] Omrcanin, 10.

[39] Kissane, 15-16.

[40] Omrcanin, 182-3.

[41] John Herbert Nelson, editor. Contemporary Trends: American Literature since 1914. The Macmillan Company, 1933. University of Texas for PDF of Table of Contents.

[42] Omrcanin, 208-211.

[43] Mary Jane Sweet, “Ruth Suckow: Iowa’s First Feminist Author,” Cedar Falls Record, (June 15, 1982).

[44] Ruth Suckow, “Midwestern Primitive,” Included in A Ruth Suckow Omnibus, (Iowa City, Iowa: University of Iowa Press, 1988), 270.

[45] Ruth Suckow, “Auntie Bissel,” Scribners, (August 1935), 84.

[46] Ibid, 88.

[47] Ibid, 90.

[48] Ibid, 90.

[49] Ibid, 92.

[50] Kissane, 18.

[51] Ruth Suckow, “A Rural Community,” The Midland, July 1922, 1. PDF available at

[52] Ibid, 2.

[53] Ibid,10.

[54] Ibid,12-13.

[55] Ibid,15.

[56] Ibid, 19-20.

"The Realistic Regionalism of Iowa’s Ruth Suckow" by Cherie Dargan. This essay appeared in the Midwestern Moment: The Forgotten World of Early Twentieth Century Midwestern Regionalism, 1880-1940. Hastings College Press, 2017. Jon Lauck, editor. Pages 71-85.

Last Updated March 5, 2021

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