MS-086: Kathrine Kressmann Taylor (Rood) Papers

MS-086:  Kathrine Kressmann Taylor (Rood) papers

Inclusive Dates: 1938-1978

Finding Aid - PDF

Processed by:  Catherine Perry

July 2007

Provenance: Donated to Special Collections by Kathrine Kressmann Taylor (Rood).


Kathrine Kressmann was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1903 to parents, Charles August Kressmann and Susan Starr Kressmann.  She exhibited her literary talents early, when at the age of nine she won her first writing contest.  At seventeen, she enrolled in courses at the University of Oregon and studied English literature and journalism.  She was on the staff of the college newspaper and wrote a one-act play that was put on by college amateurs. After graduating, Kathrine Kressmann moved to San Francisco to work as an advertising copy writer for the Emporium department store, while continuing to write and publish occasionally in small journals.  It was in San Francisco that Kathrine Kressmann met and married Elliot Taylor, a journalist and editor.

During the period of the Depression and not long after their marriage, the Taylors moved to a farm in Southern Oregon.  In this setting, Kathrine Kressmann Taylor continued her writing by completing book reviews and composing poetry for the journal, Controversy.   Her literary presence became known in 1938 when, after moving the family to New York, she published the epistolary novel, Address Unknown, in Story magazine.  It appeared under the literary pseudonym, Kressmann Taylor since, at the time, both her husband and her editor, Whit Burnett, advised that the story was “too strong to appear under the name of a woman.” Address Unknown won immediate acclaim and popularity in this country as one of the first published works to condemn Nazism.  On a deeper level, the work demonstrated how, as Kathrine Kressmann Taylor states in an article written about her for Pittsburgh’s This Week magazine, “violence and intolerance breed violence and intolerance” (“The Woman Who Jolted America" 14).  The story also appeared in Reader’s Digest, a journal that, until the appearance of Address Unknown, had printed only non-fiction.  Simon & Schuster then published the story in book form a year later, in 1939.  Kressmann Taylor would again expose the clandestine actions of the Hitler’s regime in Until That Day (Day of No Return, 2003) published in 1942, a novel based on the true story of Leopold Bernhard, a German cleric who sought asylum in the United States after having suffered religious persecution by the Nazis. 

With the desire to leave New York and raise their children in the country, Kathrine Kressmann Taylor and her husband moved in 1947 to an orchard farm in Adams County, Pennsylvania. Shortly thereafter, she took a guest lectureship position at Gettysburg College. After the death of her husband, Elliot, she went to work full-time and continued to teach composition, literature and creative writing – a career that would last until 1966. She would also be one of the first two women granted tenure by Gettysburg College in 1954. She continued to write as well, composing such notable works as “The Blown Rose” and “The Pale Green Fishes” that were published in magazines such as Woman’s Day, London Magazine, and Argosy.  In 1966 Kathrine Kressmann Taylor retired from Gettysburg College, and was later made Professor Emerita of English.   

Taylor’s experiences of Italy during a sabbatical prompted her to go to Florence upon her retirement with the intention of continuing her writing there.  The voyage brought an encounter John Rood, sculptor and professor at the University of Minnesota, who would later become her second husband.  Her sojourn in Italy allowed her to witness such catastrophic events as the flood of the Arno in 1966.  Taylor’s record of those days passed in Florence observing the events as they unfolded later became Diary of Florence in Flood, also published in England under the title Florence:  Ordeal by Water. 

Kathrine Kressmann Taylor (Rood) and her husband divided the year between Minnesota and a villa in Val di Pesa near Florence known as Il Palazzaccio.  She would continue to do so even after the death of John Rood in 1974.  In 1978 she completed Storm on a Rock, an unpublished work that deals with the aftermath of the German occupation and the Resistance.  For the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the World War II concentration camps, Story Press reissued Address Unknown.  Kathrine Kressmann Taylor (Rood) passed away in 1996 after a year that saw the rebirth of her first published work that gave such profound witness to the events of its time.

Scope and Content notes:

The Kathrine Kressmann Taylor (Rood) collection consists of materials relating to her writing career, 1938-1978.  These primarily include several versions of typed manuscripts, editions of the journals or magazines in which Taylor (Rood’s) stories appeared, several editions of her books, articles, and book reviews. Biographical material as well as photographs are also available.

Series Description:

The collection has been divided into five series.  Series I consists of manuscripts, notes, galleys and page proofs, published versions and correspondence relating to Kathrine Kressmann Taylor’s (Rood) writings.  These have been arranged into the subseries - Books, Poetry and Short Story.  All materials are listed in alphabetical order by title.  Series II contains biographical information arranged by date.  These include copies of press clippings and articles that Kathrine Kressmann Taylor (Rood) collected between 1936 and 1968, a copy of a tribute to Taylor (Rood) given at her retirement from Gettysburg College, transcripts from an oral history interview of Taylor (Rood) and biographical information about her second husband, John Rood.  Series III consists of one piece of correspondence from Charlotte Seitlin, editor from the publishing house, Simon & Schuster.  Series IV contains photographs of Florence in 1966 and of Kathrine Kressmann Taylor (Rood) in Florence, ca. 1967.  Series V includes a short story by a Gettysburg College student from the Class of 1953, a list of publications by Kathrine Kressmann Taylor (Rood) and a typescript poem in German.

Related Collections:

The papers of the Lutheran pastor Leopold W. Bernhard, the man upon whose life the character Karl Hoffman is based in Kathrine Taylor’s novel Until That Day/Day of No Return, are located in the archives at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg.

Finding Aid - PDF

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