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Kansas locations associated with Author, include Oswego and Parsons
Photograph of Edythe Squier Draper, Kansas short story writer

Edythe Squier Draper


As Grass by Edithy Draper

 

 

 

 

 

 

Biography  
          

Edythe Squier Draper was born of missionary parents on July 25, 1882, in Hakodate, Japan. When she was five, her family moved from Japan to Ohio, then later to Minnesota. As the eldest of nine children (only seven survived to adulthood), the young Edythe had many responsibilities, often having to wash clothes and dishes and care for her siblings. Her childhood was not easy. She wrote later:

When I was fourteen my father - in Sinclair Lewis' old town, Sauk Centre, Minnesota - forsook the church and all her works. He wrote a book and we lived on - dreams, my mother and we were seven. My father took to insurance and we had a little food and some shoes.

Edythe often felt like an outsider, as the family moved constantly. In her autobiographical story "The Fruit at Singapore," she writes:

If in this town she said hain't and darsn't in just the right places she might be chosen for Run Sheep Run, and the girls might put their arms around her and the boys make faces at her. No, it was no good knowing Japanese. You must not say things, know things, the others didn't. You must be like the girls in any town you were in, if you wanted not to be alone all the time.

By the time Edythe graduated from high school she had lived in Browns Valley, Crookston and Sauk Centre, Minnesota; Steubenville and Westerville, Ohio; Asbury Park, New Jersey; and Greensburg, Pennsylvania.

After teaching at a mission school for blacks in South Carolina, attending the University of Pennsylvania for a time, and teaching high school in Ohio, Edythe Squier Draper came to Oswego, Kansas, in 1910 to join the faculty of the Oswego College for Young Ladies. She stayed in Kansas the rest of her life. In 1912, she married James B. Draper, whom she described as "the Man Across the Street," then had three children and began to write. Between 1924 and 1942 she published over two dozen stories, around 60 children's stories, and newspaper fictional short stories. Her best short story, "The Voice of the Turtle," was reprinted in Edward J. O'Brien's The Best Short Stories of 1930. In 1942, when almost sixty years old, she became the Oswego correspondent to the Parsons Sun. She wrote a daily column for the Parsons, Kansas, newspaper until her death at age 82 on September 25, 1964.


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Published Work  
 

Although Edythe Squier Draper never published her novel, and gave up writing short stories to become the Oswego correspondent to the Parsons Sun, she saw significant publication of her short stories in literary journals between 1924 and 1942. Here are some of those:

Flame Unseen, Double Dealer, (October 1924.)
As It Began to Dawn, Midland, (July 1927), Vol. 12, no. 7, pp. 192-98.*
The Fruit at Singapore, Midland, (November- December 1928.)
Saint, Household Magazine,( July 1929.)
Counted Out, Household Magazine, (December 1929.)
The Voice of the Turtle, Prairie Schooner, (Summer 1929; pp. 177-84.)* Reprinted in "The Best Short Stories of 1930" (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1930, pp. 46-53).
As Grass, Prairie Schooner, (Summer 1930), Vol. IV, no. 3, pp. 162-71.
Fourteen, Midland,( May-June 1930.) *
Dad and the Desert, Household Magazine, (March 1931.)
Farewell and Hail, Household Magazine, (March 1931.)
Earmark, Household Magazine, (August 1931.)
I Was Young, Prairie Schooner, (Winter 1931.)
In Washington Tonight, Household Magazine, (February 1932.)
February Idyl, Household Magazine, (February 1935.)
Quinine and Honey, Kansas Magazine, (February 1936, pp. 34-39.)*
Convert, Kansas Magazine, (1937.)
As Her Father Her Mother, University Review, (Summer 1938.)
L'il Boy, University Review,( October 6, 1939, pp. 29-32.) *
While the Little Flags Waved, Kansas Magazine, (1941.)
Maybe So, Kansas Magazine, (1942, pp. 81-84.) *
Parnells, Clay, No. 3.

* Stories in the Center for Kansas Studies edition of As Grass.


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Writing Samples  
 

The excerpts below are from the short stories collected in As Grass

“As Grass”

     It was only February, but the woman was in her garden. She was kneeling on the ground, her small body crouched low over it. To a casual eye she might have seemed to be working, but she was not pulling up the bent, black stalks of last year's vegetation; she was not planting anything; merely in contact with the ground were her hands. She peered closely at the earth beneath and about her, only raising her face a moment now and again to glance at the sky, at the leafless, conical pear trees beside the garden, or up into the maples embracing the steep roof of her small, brown house. But always her eyes came back to the ground, and her mouth moved in whispered question.
     "What's a-goin' on? What is it a-goin' on?"


“The Voice of the Turtle”

     "Ten cents! Only ten cents! One dime! Balloon for one dime. Only
one dime. Ten cents. Get your girl a balloon."
       Ten cents! Forrest knew where ten cents was - more than ten cents. Poppy had money he was going to buy another cow with because old Moll's udder had got half-caked. Pop kept the money in the old coffee-pot right there in the kitchen above the stove. He'd go home, get the money, and come back, find the girl, and buy a balloon, a sack of candy, everything.
     He ran out of the town on roads. He turned in at a rutted lane.
     It was getting evening. The steam piano was going up and down in the town. Voicelessly he laughed and called back, "I'm a-comin'!"
     He neared the small, sagging unporched house there beside the river, things lying about in the yard, a wheelbarrow without its wheel, a piece of harness, the handle and the tooth part of a rake, overturned coops, buckets. A man, a small man such as Forrest was getting to be, stood on the town side of the barn. His head was stretched forward. His fingers moved, and his knees. His brown eyes - like a hungry dog's - were open and fixed. He laughed aloud, once, and then he became still - listening.
     Two little girls with pigtails sat on a hen-coop; an elder swung in a boardless loop of rope hanging from a small tree. The girls were not
talking, not playing. Their mouths were open, their eyes turned toward town. "I'll git the money. I'll git the money, go on back. I'll git the money."


“L'il Boy”

     "She a white snake, Sam. Don' go! Don' go, Sam!"
     She had got down on the floor, lips against his feet, and had prayed to him. Now he was gone. And she was lying in the dust, dust in her matted hair, ground into the cuts, caking the swollen bruises on every inch of her black body. He had chased her all around the cabin, would never have enough of beating her. He had latched the door and beat and beat.
     And then he had got himself washed, scrubbed all over his straight body, put on the white shirt with the tall, stiff collar she had ironed, Doc Liddell's black trousers she had brought home and darned and washed and pressed, Postmaster Cadwallader's coat she had ironed curtains all one day for, the fine black shoes he had bought yesterday with the money she had put away for the insurance. From the corner where he had at last left her, she had heard him splash the water, swish the towel over him, fasten on crackling shirt and collar, snap the laces in and out of the holes of the new shoes. He had even sung a little of one of the ritual songs, feeling fine and cool after exercise and bath, and then he had unlatched the door and gone squeaking out.
     She had done no good telling him not to go. She was crazy.
     She was crazy. Crazy fool.
     She bit the back of her hand, making pain to lessen her other pain. Her crying was all done. She was dry of tears.


As Grass, by Edythe Squire Draper, is available to read online.


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Art and Life

 
  The major themes of Draper's life are paralleled in her fiction. A person who suffered hardship as a child, a person who felt like an outsider through much of her adult life, she sympathized with and wrote most strongly about just such people. And her strength becomes theirs: an ability to transcend suffering both through the use of the imagination and through contact with the natural world. Appropriately, manyof her stories are set in the spring, a time of natural renewal.
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Primary Documents  
 

Most primary documents below are from Edythe Squier Draper (1882-1964), Papers, 1865, 1907-1974 Pittsburg State Univeristy, Special Collections.

1961 Letter to daughter, Lucy

1928 Letter from Simon and Schuster

1931 Letter to son, Jim

Telephone interview with Edythe's daughter, Peg

Biographical Sketch from The Best Short Stories of 1928

1937 Letter from Margaret Widdemer

Fourteen

1921 "The Courier", Outlook

The Fruit at Singapore manuscript

Letter to her mother

Letter to Edythe's daughter, Peg from Edyth's sister, Margaret

1909 Letter accepting a job

Letter to Edward J. O'Brien

1931 Letter from Thomas H. Uzzell

Letter from Thomas H. Uzzell

1937 Letter to Hollywood agent

1938 Houghton Mifflin Letter

1929 Letter from John T. Frederick

1931 Letter from John T. Frederick

Letter from John T. Frederick

1932 Letter from Scribner's Magazine

Letter from Jacques Chambrun

Letter from Jacques Chambrun

1937 Letter from Nelson Antrim Crawford

1937 Letter from Nelson Antrim Crawford

1941 Letter from Margaret E. Dowst

Letter from Nelson Antrim Crawford

Letter from Nelson Antrim Crawford

Letter from Jacques Chambrun

1935 Letter from Simon and Schuster

1938 Letter from Houghton Mifflin

1979 Memo written by Jim Davis

1964 Edythe's son-in-law writes newspaper column

A complete list of Pittsburg State University's Axe Library can be found here.


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Other
 

Six of Draper's Kansas stories were collected by the Center for Kansas Studies and published with an introduction by Jeffrey Ann Goudie in a volume titled As Grass.

The book is available from the Center through: Tom Averill, MO 300, English Department, Washburn University, 1700 College, Topeka, KS 66621, for $ 6.00.

A piece written by Edythe Squier Draper's daughter about Edyth Squier Draper

Master's Thesis on Edythe Squier Draper by Aubrey R. Streit Krug from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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